Posted by Dennis » 2 Comments »
In the news: The Boston Marathon gives a professor a chance to repeat an oft-repeated absurdity:
“As my old Latin professor used to say, ‘If it weren’t for Marathon, it’s highly likely we’d all be speaking Farsi,”‘ said Matthew Gonzales, a classics professor at Saint Anselm College and contributor to a History Channel feature on the battle.
Then why are we not speaking Greek?
But here’s what I really think of this tired claim:
Moving along, that bastion of uncritical thought, the HuffPo (see headlines like ‘How Scientific is Modern Medicine Really?’), gives us the dynamic mind of ‘omnifaith spiritual expert’ (?!) Susan Corso, who has this to say:
“Generosity is the habit of giving.” Philanthropy is the habit of giving to others. The OED says that generosity comes from the Latin word genus which means kind, as in ilk not nicety. Thus, giving to our own kind. Any one of us could be in need at any time. Generosity means that we reach out to those we recognize as of our own kind.
So what is our kind? Everyone. In the whole world. No exceptions.
Actually, no. Latin generosus comes from genus in the sense of descent or ‘stock.’ There’s an implied epithet, like ‘good’. It’s perfectly analogous to the English word ‘breeding’ as it was once used, e.g., ‘he’s a man of breeding.’ A person of breeding or a generosus person is supposed to have certain favored qualities lacking in others. They do not give to their own kind, but giving may be one of those favored qualities. Very little thought is required to see that there is not ‘giving’ in the root, and evidently even less thought went into Corso’s explanation.
That’s all for now.