All The More Reason

Operor vos narro latin?
February 2, 2007, 12:05 am
Filed under: Language

Latin I know none. I had to even use an english–latin translator to create this title.

In order to stoke the fires of curiosity for latin, I give here a quote from a great book to read at a coffee shop or train station: The Book of Tells by Peter Collett.

The ancient Romans used the term super cilium, literally ‘raised eyebrows’, to refer to the facial expression where the eyebrows are raised and the eyes are slightly closed. This is, of course, not the gesture of submission – it’s the exact opposite, an expression of haughtiness or, to borrow from the Latin, superciliousness. The fact that this gesture and the facial gesture for submission are distinguished on the basis of whether the eyes are in repose or slightly closed shows how very complex facial expressions can be (p.61 – 62).

I understand how someone could make the argument that knowing how to speak Latin is too demanding. However, after reading a paragraph like the previous one, a rudimentary understanding of Latin strikes me as not a supercilious undertaking in the slightest.

I’ve included a link below to an extremely smug looking “roman”. Also, compare these two images to see how subtle the difference is between the offensive and defensive.

Jonathan Smith


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I learnt more about English grammar in my Latin class than I ever did in my English lessons: nominatives, accusatives, datives; the role of the subject, verb and object in a sentence. Even though I would struggle to recall any of the vocabulary, let alone conjugate or decline it, it has somehow managed to engrave itself on my subconscious in a way that allows me to at least grasp at the meaning of some English words without having to look them up.

People often talk, superciliously, about Latin being a ‘dead’ language- if you are going to accuse something of being ‘deceased’, you ought, at the very least, to acknowledge that your use of that word is an act of grave-robbing.

Comment by Michael P

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