Latin IS English!

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

washington-monument2

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.]
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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  

3.0 MB

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.

 

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

“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.

active-and-passive-voice-diagram

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!

 

 

 

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