The Death Of Latin

A couple of thousand years ago we British were invaded by some extremely civilized conquerors - the Romans. They built our roads, our cities - like Londinium, and left us - after several hundred years - with a rich sense of culture and a great deal of their own language.

In fact using Latin phrases is still the, er, 'status quo'. There are hundreds of, er, 'bona fide' English sayings which owe everything to Julius Caesar and his legions.

But now the use of Latin is to be banned - on the orders of England's most interfering busybodies, our local town councils. And that's an irony because the very word council was first coined by the Romans.

I have, er, 'prima facie' evidence. Bournemouth, a sleepy place on the English south coast, has just issued orders to stop all staff using any popular Latin. So now they are forced to say 'impromptu', when they actually mean 'ad lib', and it's a permanent ban - not just 'pro tem'. Now, the, er, 'quid pro quo' for this draconian new rule is supposed to be that everyone will be able to understand everbody else without any risk of confusion in future.

But lovers of Latin regard the ruling as the linguistic equivalent of ethnic cleansing. It is they say, stark staring bonkers, etcetera, etcetera -- except they mustn't ever say 'etcetera' because that particular phrase actually started life in ancient Rome.

If the council officials ever have to write you a letter, there must be nothing 'ad hoc', and absolutely no 'vice versa', 'pro rata', or 'per se'. They must always use the words "for example" rather than 'eg' just in case some poor idiot thinks it's got anything to do with an egg.

These bans may go nationwide. The logic of the policy - sorry logic and policy both have roots in French, Latin and Greek - is a complete mystery. All the words and phrases already appear in English dictionaries.

Some people blame it on the egos of town hall officials - except 'ego' is a banned Latin word too. Still, there's always the old verse we used to recite at school -- 'Latin is a language, as dead as dead can be; it killed the Ancient Romans, and now it's killing me'.
By Ed Boyle
  • CBSNews

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