Posted by Dennis » 5 Comments »
As I wrote to the colleague who forwarded a link to Harry Mount’s op-ed piece in the NYT on Latin, this is painfully unreadable and barely Latin, which defeats for the most part its author’s argument.
Aside from the countless errors (e.g., at age 9 Jefferson ‘started learning’ Latin and Greek, according to the English version, but in the Latin he ‘docere coepit’, which would be quite a feat), the style is virtually absent, by which I mean to say that he has written not Latin but simplified English with very little regard for Latin idiom.
Let’s take briefly the opening line. Is there any student of Latin composition who would not be ashamed to write this:
‘Primum, duces nostros linguam Latinam non iam studere triste non videtur.’
When he means to say this?
‘At first glance, it doesn’t seem tragic that our leaders don’t study Latin anymore.’
Let’s just ignore the awkwardness of the English. One could at least make an effort in the Latin to be readable or accurate or both. For example, why primum and not primo (or a more explicit phrase)? Why this clumsy and ambiguous construction with the impersonal verb when any number of more elegant constructions present themselves readily (e.g., a conditional sounds nice to my ear)? Why triste at all when a dozen other words are more suitable (e.g., clades)?
I won’t waste any more time on this, but I would like to encourage others out there to make a genuine effort to promote good Latinity and reject bad.