Monday, 17 August 2015

Ueading Uatin

Buogista: Saturday, having got an energetically buzzy little bee in m'bonnet about all things Roman...
Ueaders: *Sigh* wonder how we didn't notice.
Bluuustu: ...anyhows I bought Reading Latin (a teaching manual for the more - ahem - mature student) and rushed it home, only to find...
Ruudurs: What? What did you find? Pssst... could be some laughs to be had here at long last, mateys!
Uuuuuuuu: ...that the authors are slaves to that persuasion that changes all Latin "v"s to "u"s. What might once have been carved nobly as "servvs" becomes not sensible "servus" but risible "seruus".
Readers: Don't tell me th'bugger's still sober.

At least a couple of good things came out of this. I was reminded of the brilliant A P Herbert and his story from Uncommon Law Rex v. Venables and Others (1935, and note the "v"s there).

The advocate (!) Mr Wicks is showing off his 'modern' pronunciation: neesee of kairtiorahree; day yooray; pahree pahsoo; preemah fakiay and so forth.

The Lord Chief Justice pulls him up short (and quite rightly in my opinion):
Mr. Wick: My Lord, I pronounce the Latin tongue as I was taught at school.

The Lord Chief Justice: Exactly. You are not to be blamed, Mr. Wick. But I am bound to make it clear to you, to the rest of your gallant generation and to the generations that come after, that His Majesty's judges will not permit the speaking of the Latin tongue after that fashion in the King's Courts. I cannot hear you, Mr. Wick, for the very good reason that I cannot understand you.
We have taken these words from Rome, as we have taken much of her law, and made them English. I do not believe that the wisest scholars can surely say how Julius Caesar pronounced his name, and I care nothing if they can. For if I had abundant proof that the general answered to Yooliooss Kayzar I should not say that an act of the Chimney Magna justices was ooltrah weerayze. It is safe to prophesy that these hateful sounds will never proceed from the lips of an English judge, however many innocent boys are instructed to make them at school.

The same may be said of all the professions in which the 'dead' languages are not merely the toys of pedagogues but the constant tools of practical men. I suffer from lumbago; I grow geraniums; I go to the cinema. And when my doctor diagnoses loombahgo, my gardiner cultivates gerahniooms, or my cook enjoys herself at the kyneemah I shall begin to think that the pedagogues are making headway.

And in fact the pedagogues did lose out for a while post-1935. In my day (early Seventies) we were solidly back with the Lord Chief Justice.

A fuller account can be found here and the second good thing to have come out of this is the discovery of Laudator Temporis Acti, a blog after my own heart.

No comments: