Saturday, October 15, 2005

Latin Doll.

Aemilia woman beautiful is. Syra not is woman beautiful, neither beautiful is nose hers, but ugly is. Syra, while good maid is, nose large and ugly have.

Ooh, Lingua Latina has taken a turn for the mean. Not that punching your sibling or threatening a servant with a cane is going to win you sainthood, but this seems an unnecessarily personal way to learn adjectives. Couldn’t we just talk about shoddy workmanship in plumbing and unfortunate sweater choices?

Julius is man Aemilia, woman beautiful. Julius Aemilia loves, because she beautiful and good woman is.

No, if my memory of upper-class Rome serves me, Julius didn’t see Aemilia until the day of the wedding. He loved Aemilia because her dowry included a vineyard outside of Ostia and a few dozen servants, possibly including the nasally endowed Syra. Also, Aemilia rarely complains when Julius wants to go to the Coliseum and watch Christians get eaten, and he appreciates that.

For the moment, we have stopped slandering Syra, and move on to a thorough, and I mean, thorough, description of the house:

In house are two doors, door big and door small. House two doors and many windows have. In Villa Julius big atrium is with pool.

Which is entirely different than being with child, until that last month, when even a pregnant Roman woman suspects she is carrying around a lap pool in each ankle.

What is in pool? In there is water.

Really, water? Because in my pool, we keep goat’s blood and Post-its.

Have peristylum large and beautiful in house is.

I can describe a peristylum but cannot find its English equivalent. It seems to translate as “Between pencils”.

Peristylum is vocabulary Greek.

Oh, of course. We’re not drowning deeply enough in Latin, the writer thought it would be funny to watch us flail in Greek at the same time. Was Syra’s sobbing over his cruel nose comment not enough for this guy?

In houses Greek and Roman large and beautiful peristylums are.

Yes, I bet all those Greek and Roman rich people go on peristylum tours of one another’s houses, oohing and aahing as they stroll between the pencils.

Is not pool in peristylum? Is not in peristylum, but in atrium is. In peristylum small garden is.

You couldn’t have a pool in the peristylum. It would get the giant pencils wet and moldy.

In house are many rooms. Quintus in room small sleep. Is not large room Marcus? It also small is.

But they each have their own DSL line.

Julius and Aemilia in room large sleep. Where sleeps servants? They also in rooms sleep. Do they not big go rooms?

Sorry about that last sentence. I kept to my vow and translated it exactly, as I am not clever enough yet to translate for tone. So it looks like something my cat types when she runs across the keyboard.

It not large is, and many servants in one cubicle sleep. Even maids many in one cubicle sleep, nor they large room have.

And don’t you just know that while Syra comes to bed, all the other maids stop talking suddenly? Like she doesn’t know they’re talking about her nose; as if she doesn’t know a Latin book would immortalize her nose to teach the words “Large” and “Ugly”.

Aemilia in peristylum is. Is not she alone? Aemilia alone not is: children with her in peristylum present.

The pencils look lovely this time of year.

Julius absent. Aemilia without man who is Julius in house is. Where is Julius?

Perhaps admiring the pencils of another?

In town Tusculo is without Aemilia, but with servants four.

(I frantically read ahead, to make sure Lingua Latina isn’t about to take me into NC-17 territory. Or the WB. But we’re safe; whatever Julius is doing, our writer is keeping us safely in the peristylum.)

Aemilia with Marcus, Quintus and Julia in peristylum is. Julia roses beautiful in garden live and away from Aemilia goes. Now she with Aemilia not is. Aemilia her not sees. Girl in garden is.

Daughter does this all the time. We’ll be walking through our house with the two doors and the many windows and, all of a sudden, she’ll hide in the peristylum. It irritates me so much that I want to marry her off to the next elderly Senator who passes by.

Aemilia commands: Marcus and Quintus! Julia call!

Marcus and Quintus Julia call: Julia! Come! But Julia neither them hears nor comes.

Julia sons call: Marcus and Quintus! Come! Here many roses are.

Quintus: Seize the roses, Julia!

He actually says “Carpe rosas”, like “Seize the day”, only with thorns. And baby’s breath, depending on from where you received the roses.

Julia roses plucks and with five roses leaves the garden.

Julia: Look, mother! Look, brothers! Look you at roses mine! Julia happy is, roses she likes.

Aemilia: This girl beautiful with roses beautiful!

I think we have all come to know this family well enough to know that happiness must not stand.

Marcus: Roses beautiful are: girl without roses beautiful not is! Words of Marcus Julia does not like!

Marcus, a word to the wise. You might resent the attention she gets now, being the only girl and the baby of the family. But later, when Julius and Aemilia are old and someone has to take the elderly parents into their house with two doors and many windows, you’re going to want to get Julia on your side so she will tend to them. Admire her roses now, and thirty years from now, she’ll be pulverizing their stewed eels for them and not you.

Aemilia (Irate): Quiet, improper boy! Julia girl beautiful is-with roses or without roses!

Julia: Listen, Marcus and Quintus!

Hey, what did Quintus do?

Marcus: Mother not see nose yours ugly!

Okay, what is with the nose fetish? Did these people have no other interests?

Marcus and Quintus laugh: Hahahahae!

(They laughed in a plural, present-tense, Latin way)

Julia: Listen, Momma: boys are me laugh!

(In a plural, present-tense, Latin way)

Julia cries and with one rose away she goes.

Aemilia: Quiet, improper boys! Nose Julia ugly not is.

And yet her eyelashes are sparse, and neither brother thought to mock her about that.

Aemilia: Leave outside the peristylum! Take you them roses and put them in water!

Boys take four roses and with them leave.

Nothing spoils an afternoon among the giant pencils quite like a fight among your children.
So, what have we learned today?

We have learned that Syra is ugly, and that it’s okay to talk about that.

We have learned that it’s good to have two doors in your house, as long as you have plenty of windows.

We have learned that this book is now going to start sliding Greek words in on occasion, to see if I will cry.

But mostly we have learned that when Julius and Aemilia are old and infirm, Julia will take them in to her home and treat them with all the love and respect they deserve.

And then she’ll convince them to write Marcus out of the will.


Blogger Caroline Davoust said...

Oh Quinn, this made me laugh so much. Thank you for your witty appraisal of Roman families. I wish French books had some drama in them.

10:38 PM  

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