Latin IS English!

July 17, 2009

“Now, once and for all: It’s time to get on the bus!”

Word of the Day Image

The Word of the Day for July 17, 2009 is:

omnibus \AHM-nih-bus\ • adjective

1 : of, relating to, or providing for many things at once
2 : containing or including many items

Example Sentence:

At the beginning of the school year, teachers held an omnibus meeting to tie up many of the loose ends that were left unaddressed over the summer.

Did you know?

The adjective omnibus may not have much to do with public transportation, but the noun omnibus certainly does — it not only means “bus,”but it’s also the word English speakers shortened to form “bus.” The noun “omnibus” originated in the 1820s as a French word for long, horse-drawn vehicles that transported people along the main thoroughfares of Paris. Shortly thereafter, omnibuses— and the noun “omnibus” —arrived in New York. But in Latin, omnibus simply means for all.” Our adjective omnibus, which arrived in the mid-1800s, seems to hark back to that Latin omnibus, though it may also have been at least partially influenced by the English noun. An “omnibus bill” containing numerous provisions, for example, could be likened to a bus loaded with people.

July 15, 2009

More “Troublesome” Latin Coming into English (but only a fractional part)

The Word of the Day for July 15, 2009 is:

Word of the Day Image

fractious • \FRAK-shus\  • adjective

1 : tending to be troublesome : unruly
2 : quarrelsome, irritable

Example Sentence:

The class was fractious and uncontrollable when Mr. Douglas first took over as teacher, but he now has the students disciplined, focused, and ready to learn.

Did you know?

The Latin verb frangere (“to break or shatter) has many modern English relations. Dishes that are fragile can break easily. A person whose health is easily broken might be described as frail. A fraction is one of the many pieces into which a whole can be broken. But fraction also once meant “disharmony” or “discord” — that is, a “rupture in relations.” From this noun sense came the adjective fractious, meaning “unruly” or “quarrelsome.” Though the “disharmony” sense of the noun is now obsolete, fractious is still common today.

May 16, 2009

The States of Being of the Latin “State of Being” Verb: “sum” (6 Tenses)

As with all languages, there are a handful of verbs that, not being “active” (transitive) toward a “direct object” in their meanings and usage, they therefore fall into a category of verbs commonly known as “state of being” verbs, also referred to as “linking” or “intransitive” verbs.  Also, in each of the languages I’ve studied (and surely in many more), the “to be” verb always falls into an “irregular” category of verb structures.  The Latin verb sum = I am . . . is no exception.  Not to worry though, because there are still patterns of “constants” that may be observed among the variables, making this irregular verb more manageable for memorization. So, let’s observe the chart of “The Six (6) tenses of the Latin Verb sum” (PDF also available from sidebar) followed by some comments (below)—

The Six Tenses of the Latin Verb sum

First, it is helpful to notice—via the aid of color—that all but one of the six tenses of sum utilize the same “personal endings” (with the frequent alternation of –o / –m in the 1st person singular).  The Latin “Perfect” tense is the only tense revealing a unique grouping of verb endings (i.e.— ī, isti, it, imus, istis, ērunt). Meanwhile, it stays easy. The “Imperfect,” being a past time tense, conveniently throws us back into that former “era” (verb stem) when things were quite different.  Put the personal endings on, and it’s a done deal! Similarly with the “Future” tense, with a verb stem “eri,” which shows all through the conjugation except in the 1st person singular where, like Jonah inside the whale, the “i” gets swallowed up by the “o” ending.  It’s there (like Jonah); you just can’t see it (him)!

On to the “Perfect system,” which includes all three: the “Perfect,” the “Pluperfect” and the “Future Perfect”—all noticeably formed off the third principal part of this verb . . . Let’s see . . . uh . . . that would be . . . uh . . . Oh, “phooey!” — I can never remember it!  Wait! That’s it! The third principal part isfuī (pronounced “foo-ee”).  So then, the stem used is simply:fu-.  As noted about, the “Perfect” adds to this stem the uniquely used endings: ī, isti, it, imus, istis, ērunt, leaving you with two clues or “flags” to tell you what tense it is.  And finally, utilizing the same fu- stem, the “Pluperfect” and the “Future Perfect” simply add on the “Imperfect” conjugation of sum: eram . . . and the “Future” conjugation of sum: ero . . . , respectively.

So, observe; use discernment; think logically; look for structural patterns and consistencies. If you do, the irregularities of this “irregular” verb will seem less ominous to you.

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

May 15, 2009

“Nothing personal, but this is gonna have to get ‘Personal’ (Pronouns)!”

Okay, this is really going to get “personal.” Personal Pronouns, that is. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd “Personal Pronouns” (PDF, also available from the sidebar) in Latin. For us English folks, that would be “I, you, and he, she, it with all their translated variations as they are used in “objective” (oblique) cases, and go through changes as they become plural as well.

And, these can be made simpler to learn (memorize), if you’ll simply pay attention to many of the consistent, repetitious “patterns” that also occur elsewhere within the whole system of Latin declensions. Also, you can easily observe the self-evident constructional patterns existing between the pronouns themselves, particularly between the structures of the 1st and 2nd personal pronouns.

Latin 1st, 2nd, 3rd Personal PronounsWhen observing the 3rd personal pronoun (is, ea, id = he, she, it . . .), what seems overwhelming at first, doesn’t have to be.  First, learn the triad as a “vocabulary” unit.  Then, looking at the chart, notice that both the Genitive case singular and the Dative case singular forms are identical for all three genders within each respective case.  So, learn each of those once, then use it three times!

Then, remember that a Latin “neuter” declension always repeats its Nominative form in the Accusative. The rest of the cases— with an e prefixed — are simply the “masculine,” “feminine,” and “neuter” case endings already learned when studying the 1st & 2nd declensions.  Pretty straightforward afterall, huh?  So, if you want, you may take it “personally.”  Not a bad idea!

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!


April 18, 2009

“Elucidating on the Interesting, Discerning, and Diligent Labors of a Master Photographer!” (Or, More Simply Stated [for the non-Latin student]: “How to Take Great Photos!”)

[The following composition is also from one of my current 9th grade Latin 1 students.  Once again, this student has written about something she loves and with which she has some level of expertise.  Notice the significant, clear relationships between the triad of colored word patterns that represent the Latin (root word), it’s corresponding English derivative (similar spelling and meaning), and the definition of the original Latin word—all within the proximate context.]


hot-air-balloons-640x480pxl_edited hot-air-ripples-embossed


Photography can be described as being able to take an image and present it in an artful manner on a photograph.  The photographer can take an image and present it truthfully or he can twist it to make it artful and based on his own perspective and interpretation.  Much like art, the viewer can interpret it differently because the photographer does not verify (veritas) the purpose of the photograph.  In other photographs the meaning is very clear.

Photography starts with the kind of equipment the photographer uses. There are many books that instruct (instruo) new photographers on the correct equipment to use for different kinds of pictures.  The basic kinds of cameras include film cameras, digital fixed-lens cameras, and digital SLR cameras.  SLR stands for single-lens reflex, and they have different removable lenses.  Most professionals use SLR cameras.

A good picture is made up of many key parts (pars).  The components of a good picture are the exposure of light, balance, and most important, a love for photography.  In order for a picture to become a masterpiece, the photographer must be diligent (diligo) in his work.  The light that the picture is exposed to determines the clearness of the picture, the depth of field (focus), and how lucid (lux . . . lucis) the picture is.  The exposure of light is determined by three things, the aperture, the shutter speed, and the ISO setting.

The aperture (aperio) is how much light the photographer allows to enter the camera through the lens.  The aperture is an opening in the cameras lens that lets in only a certain amount of light; it is similar to the pupil of the eye in function.  The size of the hole is called the F-stop.  The larger the F-stop number, the less light is allowed into the picture.  A good photographer must be able to distinguish the correct F-stop to use.  Being able to discern (cerno) the correct F-stop to use is key in having the correct light exposure in the picture.  The shutter speed also plays a large role in the light exposure.  The shutter speed is how long the shutter stays open; this decides how long light will be exposed to the picture.  The ISO is how sensitive the camera is to light.  All of these are usually set to automatic on digital cameras, but sometimes the photographer must adjust things manually (manus) to change the picture to look how he wants it to look.  Although the camera works just as efficiently when the photographer adjusts the setting by hand, it is more convenient (convenio) for all the settings to assemble themselves to fit together to make the perfect light exposure automatically.  Depending on what the photographer wants in his picture, he must prioritize (prior) which part of the scene he would like to put in front and exalt in the picture.  The photographer must also take proper care of his camera and not neglect (nego) protecting the lens from scratches and the rest of the camera from water and dirt.  If the photographer decides to deny proper care of his camera, the camera could suffer serious damage.

In order for a photographer to be great, he or she must be sure that the picture is unique (unicus) in what it portrays.  If the picture is one of a kind, then it will be magnificent (magnus).  That is why there are so many different kinds of pictures out there.  They have different things to say, and there are many opposites out there.  The different photographer’s views on things are what make all the kinds of pictures so diverse.   There are many contradictory (contra + dico . . . dictus) photographs that can be found anywhere.  Sometimes the pictures that focus on the smallest things in life speak the loudest.  There is no minimum (minimus) or maximum in photography.  The photographer has a limitless boundary of images he can capture.  However, the photographer cannot be timid (timeo) when he is taking pictures.  If the photographer is afraid to present a picture because the picture is too discriminated compared to average pictures, he may miss a great opportunity.

If a photographer ever wants to become magisterial (magister) in what he does, he must show great interest (intersum, interesse . . .) in photography.  When a photographer really wants to be among what he loves to do, he is more likely to put more labor into his work.  When the photographer greatly elaborates (laboro) detail and perfection in his picture, he is sure to become a master photographer if he keeps on striving to become better.

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

March 11, 2009

Latin Words Racing into English (9th grade composition)

The following composition is from one of my 9th grade Latin 1 students.  While he was not at “the head of the class” academically, this focused student took a topic that he cares a lot about and created a very worthwhile “Latin IS English” composition that would rival many, if not most, 9th grade level writings.  See if you don’t agree.  The colored words represent his Latin root definitions that flow into English as “derivatives.”  The “grey” words are other words that we, as a class, discovered as having their foundations in Latin.  For a PDF of the same, click here, or from one of the three sidebar locations where this post is filed.

WRC: World Rally Championship

As three time rally champion Ken Block stepped into his Subaru Impreza WRX STi, he knew that today’s racing was going to be magnificent (magnus), although he was unaware of how great a challenge this particular course would present.  Ken situated himself into the bucket seat of his Impreza, a car that meets all safety laws, and is therefore street legal (lex, legis).  The Impreza is what is known as a homologation, that is, a car sold in limited quantities to the public for the sole purpose of qualifying it for the production class of rally racing.  The bucket seats in the said car utilize (utilis) a five-point harness, much like what would be seen in a jet, practical for keeping the driver safe and secure during intense racing and the inevitable (in + evito) rollovers associated (socius) with such racing.  To those not familiar with rally racing, the Subaru Impreza WRX STi’s name may seem to be random, jumbled letters; a closer look reveals what these designations (de + signum) denote (de + noto).  The WRX part of the Impreza’s name (nomen) is based upon its nomenclature as a rally vehicle, WRX being a slight distortion (de + torqueo…tortus) of WRC (World Rally Championship).  STi stands for Subaru Technical International, a sort of in-house tuning and racing team run by Subaru.

Anyway, back to the moment at hand.  Ken Block started the Impreza, heard the engine sputter as it attempted to fire, and was then rewarded with the blasting, guttural sound of the 307HP, turbocharged boxster engine roaring to life.  As the engine settled to an idle, the noise subsided (sub + sido) to a smooth, droning thrum.  All around him engines started adding their exhaust (ex + haurio…haustus) note to the clamor (clamor), the noise growing to the point that technicians had to shout to be heard.  As his spotter climbed into the passenger seat, Ken knew it was about time to start the race.  A spotter sits in the passenger seat and calls out the type of turn that is coming up, and how to best go about it (whether that means executing a heel-and-toe maneuver or any number of other techniques).  The spotter also monitors (moneo…monitus) the road, warning the driver of any peril (periculum) that could put him in danger.

Ken was suddenly brought back to reality, he had been preoccupied (occupo) again, but now his attention (teneo…tentus) was seized by the timer, counting down until the race started.  He glanced over and scoffed at the Ford Cosworth next to him.  Although the driver of the Cosworth did not show any signs of fear, Ken liked to imagine he intimidated (timeo) the driver.  On his other side was a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, slightly more distinguished, nonetheless something of very little concern (cerno).  He smiled as he grabbed hold of the shifter, confident (cum + fido) in both his driving prowess and the car he had the honor of driving.  The seconds counted down, and Ken tuned out the other engines humming and revving around him.  When the timer hit zero, he accelerated (celer) the vehicle, swiftly working his way through the gears.  As Ken secured a comfortable third place position, he noticed amusedly that he was sending a spray of gravel onto the hood of the god-awful Cosworth behind him.

As with most rallies, this one started off on an earthen road covered with gravel, but would quickly progress into multiple types of terrain (terra).  Ken’s spotter called out an upcoming turn, vocalizing (voco) what Ken was already preparing for in his mind.  It was a long, sweeping left turn that was difficult to carry speed through, that is while going straight.  Ken counted his heart beats as he approached the turn, seemingly in slow motion.  Then, with refined skill, he quickly goosed the brake pedal, downshifted into fourth gear, and smashed the gas pedal into the floor.  This pitched the car sideways, allowing Ken to position (pono…positus) the car in such a way that all he had to do was keep the engine redlining and the front tires counter (contra)-steering heavily to carry the most possible speed through the turn.  The engine gurgled in protest to the complicated (cum + plico) maneuver, threatening to bog down from the improper balance of its fuel to air ratio.  Just when it seemed it would stall, the reassuring whistle of the turbocharger spooling up, followed by the considerably more reassuring rush of the turbo (turbo) roaring to life, brought the engine back to a safe RPM, enabling Ken to complete (compleo…completus) the run with an over-confident application (ab + plico) of the throttle upon exiting the turn.  He noted with a smirk that, so well executed was his pendulum (pendulum) turn he was now able to make the Citroen in front of him give away its second place position.  As the comical-looking, European car receded (cedocedere) behind him, Ken set his sights on the last car he would need to overtake: a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.  Ken could barely see the Lancer, but it was just visible (videovisi) disappearing around corners ahead of him.  The Lancer in front of him, recklessly flying into turns and taking the chicanes dangerously fast, was attempting desperately (de + spero) to guard the gap between itself and Ken.  Ken knew with some careful driving the Lancer would not be able to preserve (servo) its lead, for they were approaching a section of the track primarily composed (cum + pono…positus) of mud; a section where the Impreza’s superior (supero), triple differential all wheel drive system would easily surpass the Lancer’s.  Ken was thrown against his harness as his car quickly decelerated in the mud.  A quick downshift got the car moving along at a decent clip, although the engine chugged apprehensively ( ab + prehendo…prehensus) under the toil of spinning all four tires in the thick mud.  Ken realized how much heat such a laborious (laboro) task would generate (genero . . . generatus), but the engine was intercooled, and would hold out at least till the end of the race.  Glancing ahead, Ken noticed the Lancer’s driver had, most likely out of desperation, gone down to second gear-maybe even first-and as a consequence (cum + sequor), was doing nothing but spinning his tires in the thick mire.  Ken knew this was quite possibly the only chance he would get to gain the lead, so he got on the throttle and let the boxer engine sing its song.  The Lancer drew nearer as the taste of victory grew sweeter in Ken’s mouth.  He would pass him any second.

Well, sorry about the brevity (brevis) of this paper, but I had to cut it short. You see, with that last word, I am now at twenty Latin derivatives (de + rivo), and it just so happens to be 9:30 at night.  Want to know the rest of the story?  That, my friend, is a job for the SPEED channel.

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

March 7, 2009

“Let’s Be Level-Headed about This Thing, Okay?!”


Word of the Day Image




Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for March 07, 2009 is:

equanimity • \ee-kwuh-NIM-uh-tee\  • noun
*1 : evenness of mind especially under stress 2 : right disposition : balance

Example sentence:
Carol’s famous
equanimity didn’t desert her, even in the midst of the crisis.

Did you know?
If you think
“equanimity” looks like it has something to do with “equal,” you’ve guessed correctly. Both “equanimity” and “equal” are derived from “aequus,” a Latin adjective meaning “level” or “equal.” “Equanimity” comes from the combination of “aequus” and “animus” (“soul” or “mind”) in the Latin phrase “aequo animo,” which means “with even mind.” English speakers began using “equanimity” early in the 17th century with the now obsolete sense “fairness or justness of judgment,” which was in keeping with the meaning of the Latin phrase. “Equanimity” quickly came to suggest keeping a cool head under any sort of pressure, not merely when presented with a problem, and eventually it developed an extended sense for general balance and harmony.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

February 22, 2009

I’ll Not Be “Exorbitant” with Words Here

Word of the Day Image

exorbitant • \ig-ZOR-buh-tunt\ adjective

1 : not coming within the scope of the law
2 : exceeding the customary or appropriate limits in intensity, quality, amount, or size

Example Sentence:

I asked what the rent was for the apartment, and my jaw dropped open when they quoted me an exorbitant sum.

Did you know?

The first use of “exorbitant” in English was “wandering or deviating from the normal or ordinary course.” That sense is now archaic, but it provides a hint as to the origins of “exorbitant”: the word derives from Late Latin “exorbitans,” the present participle of the verb “exorbitare,” meaning “to deviate.” “Exorbitare” in turn was formed by combining the prefix “ex-,” meaning “out of,” with the noun “orbita,” meaning “track of a wheel” or “rut.” (“Orbita” itself traces back to “orbis,” the Latin word for “disk” or hoop.”) In the 15th century “exorbitant” came to refer to something which fell outside of the normal or intended scope of the law. Eventually, it developed an extended sense as a synonym of “excessive.”

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

January 17, 2009

“Significant within a Latin sentence is word order.”

“Significant within a Latin sentence is word order.” That’s right. Just look at the title of this post. What are the most significant words in that sentence? If you said “Significant” and “order,” you are correct. Simply from their positioning, the words on at the extremities (beginning and end) hold a greater degree of prominence. Once you’ve studied Latin long enough to be able to translate your first sentence, you’ll immediately notice (as we’ve discussed previously further down within this blog) that the word order of a typical “basic” Latin sentence follows the pattern of (1) Subject at the beginning, (2) Verb at the end, and (3) Direct Object behind (near) the subject within the sentence. And, while many if not most sentences will have more than three words representing these three basic parts of speech—in the example below an “indirect object” has been included— this is the basic word order pattern.

When Latin sentences are more complex in parts of speech used or kinds of phrases occurring, there are still—as in English—normal word order placement patterns that may be observed.  An “indirect object,” for example, would normally occur after a subject and just before the direct object:

Deus Christianīs salutem dat.

(Subj./Indir. Obj./Dir. Obj./Verb)

God to Christians salvation gives.

You will also remember that “Genitive” case possessive-descriptive words normally follow the words they modify:

Christus Filius Deī est = (literally) “Christ the Son of God (he) is.” —or— “Christ is the Son of God.
Christus Deī Filius est = (literally) “Christ the of God Son (he) is.” —or— “Christ is the Son of God. (positionally stronger)

But, what about sentences where the words appear in an atypical order from those examples presented above? What implications, if any, does a different word placement order have on the translation of a Latin sentence? Well, the answer is—quite a lot. As is true in English as well. Already the Latin subject and verb placement at the beginning and end of the sentence gives them, as—stand out” words—special significance. So, when re-ordering occurs, we should pay attention to the significance. For example, here is a paraphrase of Mary’s great doxological prayer, commonly know as “The Magnificat,” from Luke 1:46-49:

Magnificat anima mea Dominum . . . quia fecit mihi magna . . . et sanctum nomen ejus (est).

My soul magnifies the Lord . . . because he has done great things for me . . . and holy (is) his name.

The simple movement of the Latin verb (Magnificat) from its normal ending position in the sentence (phrase) to the beginning draws extra attention to it, giving it a heightened importance or stress in this famous and widely utilized prayer of Mary after she learns that she will be the earthly mother of Jesus. Also, with the relocation of the verb to the beginning of the sentence, the “direct object” (Dominum) now holds a greater prominence as the last word within its clause. As a result, the main thrust of this part of the passage—for Mary and for us—is magnifying the Lord! Paying attention to word order, therefore, will help the Latin student draw out these special nuances in emphasis that are reflected within a given Latin sentence.

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

November 25, 2008

The Washington Monument & “Laus Deō!”

The following was emailed to me by the mother of one of my Latin 1 students
at the Pillar Foundation in greater St. Louis.

Laus Deō


One detail that is never mentioned is that in Washington , D.C. there can never be a building of greater height than the Washington Monument.

With all the uproar about removing the ten commandments, etc., this is worth a moment or two of your time.  I was not aware of this amazing historical information.

On the aluminum cap, atop the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., are displayed two words: “Laus Deō.”

No one can see these words.  In fact, most visitors to the monument are totally unaware they are even there and for that matter, probably couldn’t care less.

Once you know the history of “Laus Deō” you will want to share this with everyone you know. These words have been there for many years; they are 555 feet, 5.125 inches high, perched atop the monument, facing skyward to the Father of our nation, overlooking the 69 square miles which comprise the District of Columbia , capital of the United States of America.

“Laus Deō!”  Two seemingly insignificant, unnoticed words. Out of sight and, one might think, out of mind, but very meaningfully placed at the highest point over what is the most powerful city in the most successful nation in the world.

So, what do those two words, in Latin, composed of just four syllables and only seven letters, possibly mean?  Very simply, they say “Praise be to God!”

Though construction of this giant obelisk began in 1848, when James Polk was President of the United States , it was not until 1888 that the monument was inaugurated and opened to the public.  It took twenty-five years to finally cap the memorial with a tribute to the Father of our nation, “Laus Deō, Praise be to God!”

From atop this magnificent granite and marble structure, visitors may take in the beautiful panoramic view of the city with its division into four major segments.  From that vantage point, one can also easily see the original plan of the designer, Pierre Charles l’Enfant—a perfect cross imposed upon the landscape, with the White House to the north.  The Jefferson Memorial is to the south, the Capitol to the east and the Lincoln Memorial to the west.

A cross you ask?  Why a cross?  What about separation of church and state? Yes, a cross; separation of church and state was not, is not, in the Constitution.  So, read on. How interesting and, no doubt, intended to carry a profound meaning for those who bother to notice.

Praise be to God!  Within the monument itself are 898 steps and 50 landings.  As one climbs the steps and pauses at the landings the memorial stones share a message.

a. On the 12th Landing is a prayer offered by the City of Baltimore ;

b. on the 20th is a memorial presented by some Chinese Christians;

c. on the 24th a presentation made by Sunday School children from New York and Philadelphia quoting Proverbs 10:7 (“The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot”), Luke 18:16 (“But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God”), and Proverbs 22:6 (“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”). Praise be to God!

When the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on July 4th, 1848 deposited within it were many items including the Holy Bible presented by the Bible Society. Praise be to God! Such was the discipline, the moral direction, and the spiritual mood given by the founder and first President of our unique democracy: “One Nation, Under God.”

I am awed by Washington ‘s prayer for America. Have you ever read it? Well, now is your unique opportunity, so read on!

“Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

Laus Deō!

When one stops to observe the inscriptions found in public places all over our nation’s capitol, he or she will easily find the signature of God, as it is unmistakably inscribed everywhere you look. You may forget the width and height of “Laus Deō,” its location, or the architects but no one who reads this will be able to forget its meaning, or these words: “Unless the Lord builds the house its builders labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (Psalm 127: 1).

[It is hoped you will send this to every child you know; to every sister, brother, father, mother or friend.  They will not find offense, because you have given them a lesson in history that they probably never learned in school.]

November 19, 2008

“Better Personal ‘Deportment,’ Please . . . or You May Be ‘Deported!'”

Word of the Day Image

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for November 19, 2008 is:

deportment • \dih-PORT-munt\  • noun
: the manner in which one conducts oneself : behavior

Example sentence:
The school expects students to dress in proper attire and maintain a respectful level of
deportment throughout the day.

Did you know?
Deportment evolved from the verb
“deport,” meaning “to behave especially in accord with a code,” which in turn came to us through Middle French from Latin “deportare,” meaning “to carry away.” (You may also know “deport” as a verb meaning “to send out of the country;” that sense is newer and is derived directly from Latin “deportare.”) “Deportment” can simply refer to one’s demeanor, or it can refer to behavior formed by breeding or training and often conforming to conventional rules of propriety: “Are you not gratified that I am so rapidly gaining correct ideas of female propriety and sedate deportment?” wrote 17-year-old Emily Dickinson to her brother Austin.


November 16, 2008

Putting Our Fingers on the Word “Effigy”

Word of the Day Image
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for November 16, 2008 is:

effigy • \EFF-uh-jee\  • noun

: an image or representation especially of a person; especially : a crude figure representing a hated person.

Example sentence:
A giant effigy is set ablaze at the climax of the annual Burning Man festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada.

Did you know?
An earlier sense of
effigy is “a likeness of a person shaped out of stone or other materials,” so it’s not surprising to learn that “effigy” derives from the Latin verb fingere,” which means to shape.” “Fingere” is the common ancestor of a number of other English nouns that name things you can shape. A “fiction” is a story you shape with your imagination. “Figments” are shaped by the imagination, too; they’re something you imagine or make up. A “figure” can be a numeral, a shape, or a picture that you shape as you draw or write.


Play effigy.mp3  

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November 13, 2008

The Latin VERB & Its “Principal Parts”

When beginning to formally study Latin verbs, not simply for vocabulary purposes but also for their grammatical structures (i.e., Tense, Voice, Mode, Person and Number), it’s important to pay attention to, even memorize the various “principal parts” or appearances of the the verb. There are generally four principal parts of a given Latin verb. These four principal parts are the four basic structures of the verb from which all of its various forms are derived.

By way of example, let’s look at the four “principal parts” of a normal 1st conjugation Latin verb like laudo—


1st Prin. Part (Present Act.) 2nd Prin. Part (Infinitive) 3rd Prin. Part (Perfect Act.) 4th Prin. Part (Participle)

         laudo                  laudare                 laudavī          laudatus, –a, –um


Since the first Latin tense studied is normally the Present tense (1st principal part, above), it’s important to know that this tense of the Latin verb actually derives its base or “stem” from the “Infinitive” form (2nd principal part) by removing the Infinitive’s ending (-re). So, 1st Conjugation Latin verbs are also known as “a-stems,” since the stem is lauda|… ending with an “a” (see above).

You might say, “But I don’t see the “a” on the end of the Present tense (1st principal part) of the verb!” True enough.  It’s actually hidden, superceded by the addition of the verb’s 1st person singular personal ending (“o“). Or, as I like to say, it’s been “swallowed up like Jonah inside the whale.” However, the “a-stem” immediately reappears as the verb proceeds through its conjugation:

laudo          =  I praise

laudas =  you praise

laudat =  he/she/it praises


laudamus    =  we praise

laudatis =  you (pl.) praise

laudant =  they praise        


While there are four (4) main conjugations of Latin verbs, with some “irregularities” or variations from the above paradigm that occur, this is the “model” or norm for how Latin verbs derive their various forms.


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“TV Makes People Nauseas” —OR— How to “Parse” a Latin Verb

One of the most important considerations in studying the foundational elements of Latin must be given to the verb, that part of speech which affirms either action or state of being. The component elements of a verb are collectively referred to as its “parsing” (from the Latin noun pars, partis = part, piece, function). These components are:

1. Tense

2. Voice

3. Mode (or Mood)

4. Person

5. Number

Or, as my beginning Greek professor used to wisely proclaim (to our era of declining quality television programming viewers) via the acronym of the first letters of each of the above words:  TV Makes People Nauseas!”

The “parsing” of a Latin “model” 1st conjugation verb laudo (“I praise…am praising…do praise”) is: Present, Active, Indicative, 1st Person, Singular. Now, let’s take a closer look at what these “parsing” components represent—

1. Tense conveys “kind” of action and generally, in the Indicative Mode only, the “time” of the action. So, for the above verb, Present tense would mean both present time and continuous “action” (that is, activity in real, present time). Of course, from your additional study elsewhere, you’ll know that the Latin tenses are the Present, Imperfect (continuous “action” in past time), Future, the Pluperfect (equivalent to the English Past Perfect), and the Future Perfect.

2. Voice (”active” or “passive”) tells how the action of the verb is related to the subject. With the active “voice,” the subject of the verb is “active” through the verb, most often with a direct object.  For example, Deum laudo = “I am praising God.” With passive voice, the subject is being acted upon.  For example, God is being praised.” Observe the diagram below. Even the direction of the arrows will help you remember what is happening with “active” and “passive” voice verbs.


3.  Mode (or Mood) tells what the verb is affirming, its relation to “reality.”

Indicative — declaratives, simple assertions, interrogations.
Subjunctive — mildly contingent, hesitating affirmation; mode of probability.
Imperative — commands or entreaties; mode of “volition.” 

4.  Person denotes who is acting as the subject.  In Latin the 1st, 2nd and 3rd personal pronouns (i.e., I, you, he, she, itwe, you, and they) are included in the endings of the verb form.

5.  Number is the “singularity” or “plurality” of the person or persons represented by the verb form, included in the verb’s personal endings.

One final word about a Latin verb’s “parsing.”  Since a verb’s parsing contains all the information needed to translate the word—providing you know its original root meaning, of course—whether it’s Present Active Indicative 1st person singular or Future Active Indicative 2nd person plural or Imperfect Passive Indicative 3 person singular; no matter what it is:


“If you can parse it, you can translate it!” 

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!




October 6, 2008

“Let the Vocabulary Bell RING!”

As a Latin student begins to make progress through the five (5) Latin noun declensions, he or she will soon begin to notice—maybe with some degree of consternation—that there are some noun endings that repeat themselves in different “cases” even within the same declension (e.g, the –ae ending used in three different locations [cases] within the 1st declension).  As well, there may be repetition of the same case ending from one declension to the next, even involving different genders and different cases (e.g., the ī ending that occurs as twice within the 2nd declension masculine [genitive sing. and nom. pl.] and once in the neuter [genitive sing.], and then again in the 3rd declension as a dative singular).  Even the 2nd declension -us masculine nominative singular ending is repeated elsewhere—four times—within the 4th declension noun structures!

But, do not fear and tremble unnecessarily, even over something as seemingly ominous as this!  “Let the vocabulary bell ring inside your head:  when you think about how you first wrote, saw, and said the original form of the word, it will help significantly in directing your brain (the most sophisticated “computer” on the planet) first to the appropriate declension, and then to the appropriate case usage for the context which you are observing.

So, remember:  “Let the vocabulary bell RING!”

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

August 26, 2008

“Aggregate” – Another in a “flock” of Latin Words into English


  Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for August 24, 2008 



aggregate • \AG-rih-gut\  • noun
1 : a mass or body of units or parts somewhat loosely associated with one another *2 : the whole sum or amount : sum total

Example sentence:
“The aggregate of incriminating details unmistakably points towards a conviction,” said the prosecuting attorney.

Did you know?
We added “aggregate” to our flock of Latin borrowings in the 15th century. It descends from “aggregare” (“to add to”), a Latin verb made up of the prefix “ad-” (which means “to,” and which usually changes to “ag-” before a “g”) and “greg-“ or “grex” (meaning “flock”). “Greg-” also gave us “congregate,” “gregarious,” and “segregate.” “Aggregate” is commonly employed in the phrase “in the aggregate,” which means “considered as a whole” (as in the sentence “In the aggregate, the student’s various achievements were sufficiently impressive to merit a scholarship”). “Aggregate” also has some specialized senses. For example, it is used for a mass of minerals formed into a rock and for a material, such as sand or gravel, used to form concrete, mortar, or plaster.

August 14, 2008

A Christian Perspective: “Why Learn Latin?”

Is Latin a “dead” language?  People usually study Spanish or German or Italian or French. These languages belong to a land or people who use them to communicate every day. But, who communicates with Latin every day? What land or people does it belong to?  If no one speaks Latin then WHY do we bother to learn it?

1. Learning Latin makes it easier to learn other languages. Many languages have their roots in Latin. The 5 Romance Languages are direct descendants of Latin and one can learn them more easily once you know Latin.

Italian (Italy)

Spanish (Spain, Mexico)

French (France, Canada)

Romanian (Romania)

Portuguese (Portugal, Brazil)

2. Learning Latin increases our English vocabulary. The more Latin words you know, the more English words you know! More than 60% of our words derive from Latin.

3. Learning Latin improves our accurate and effective use of English. Not only will we have access to more words, but we will also have a better understanding of the meaning of words! We will use them more intelligently. We will be better thinkers, writers and speakers! Latin makes you smarter!!!

4. Learning Latin helps us bear/reflect God’s image. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit communicate with one another through words, language. The very first conversation in the Scriptures takes place between Father, Son & Holy Spirit: ”Let Us make man in Our image . . .”  Because we are created in His image, we are to be communicators after His image.

God communicates with us through words/language. He spoke to Adam & Eve using words, not feelings or telepathy! God continues to speak to us by means of words…the written Word of God and the Living Word, Christ.

God commanded us to subdue all of creation. He told Adam & Eve to serve and guard the garden and to take dominion over all the earth. We are to take dominion over invisible parts of creation (such as words, language, thoughts and ideas) as well as physical creation.

So, in summary, learning Latin helps us achieve the understanding needed to use words in a meaningful and glorious way, so that we may reflect God’s image more truly.

— The above information is gleaned from my sister-in-law’s Latin classroom instruction, which I couldn’t have said better myself! —

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

August 8, 2008

“The sailor land (he) sees.” (. . . Huh?!) — THE WORD ORDER OF A LATIN SENTENCE

When translating Latin sentences, identify and translate in the following order whenever possible: (1) Subject (Nominative case), then (2) Verb and (3) Direct Object (Accusative case). However, remember, the normal Latin word order in a sentence with a transitive verb (i.e., a verb of “action”) will appear in a different order:

Subject (Nominative case) . . . then Direct Object (Accusative case) . . . then Verb.

—OR, in Latin

Nauta (Nominative for sailor)…terram (Accusative for land)…videt (he sees3rd person sing. of video)


(Literally) The sailor land (he) sees.OR— (English flow) The sailor sees land.

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

August 2, 2008

“Is everyone getting on your ‘case’ a lot lately?”

To get started learning an “inflected” language—that is, the nouns, pronouns, and adjectives having different “endings” depending on what grammatical function they have in a given sentence—the initial hurdle one must face and soon overcome is to become “friends” with the terminology of these various functions—called “cases”—and to learn their corresponding functions, and therefore how a given Latin word is translated within those respective case functions.

So, there’s no better time than now for everyoneto start getting on your case(s)! Below is a fairly simplified summary overview of the five (5) basic Latin “cases” (excluding the relatively infrequent “Vocative” case) which the beginning Latin student must acquire early on (right-click on the chart image to download to your computer, or for a PowerPoint of the same, click here).  You should become as comfortable with the grammatical concepts shown here as you are with pizza . . . or burgers and fries . . . or ice cream on a hot summer day! (Hint:  Make this part of your regular diet, too!)

To download a PowerPoint presentation on the above chart, including the five (5) Latin noun declensions—click by click—click here. The same is also *permanently available for downloading from the sidebar.  For a PowerPoint presentation of the declension of the 1st Declension Latin noun, terra, click here. For a PDF click here, or go to the sidebar for either.

*(Note: our English word permanentcomes straight from a Latin compound of per = through and maneo = (I) remain. So, the Latin permaneo = last, continue, remain, endure. Hey, it happens all the time: “Latin IS English!”)

July 31, 2008

“You ain’t nothin’ but a noun dog, declining all the time!” . . . OR . . . “The ‘Satellite View’ of the 5 Latin Noun Declensions”

The Latin Nouns Declensions chart below (also available here as a downloadable PowerPoint presentation), details the 5 declensions of Latin nouns with their respective “genders” that the Latin student will encounter. I know of no other paradigm in existence that condenses—in this fashion—all of these case endings into a single, concise chart of all Latin noun declensions. I call it the “satellite view” of all Latin noun endings. Apart from this, the value of this particular chart is found mainly in the horizontal relationships existing between nouns that can be clearly seen in this layout. Assisting in the memorization of these endings are the use of arrows showing either identical or similar continuity, and yellow highlights denoting 3rd declension stem qualities. Click here to view the JPEG image, then right click the image to download.

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

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