Sunday, July 24, 2005


Latin in Buffy and Angel

In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, episode 137 (Get It Done), Willow says, "Screw it! Mighty forces, I suck at Latin, OK?" The use of Latin was apparently quite common on the television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff Angel. The following bit of dialogue occurred in Angel episode 37 (Reprise):
ANGEL: What are you praying to?
2.MAN: We don't know!
ANGEL: How can you not know?
1.MAN: The ritual - it's, it's all in Latin. They said - we should just - sort of, you know, sound it out.
Transcripts of many of the episodes exist on the Web, but these transcripts usually omit the Latin. For example, in Buffy episode 126 (Help) we read: "Seven people clothed in floor-length, hooded red robes are chanting softly in Latin in a circle, each holding a lit white candle." Inquiring minds want to know -- what exactly are they chanting in Latin?

In a transcript for Angel episode 22 (To Shanshu in L.A.), we do find some Latin, or some words resembling Latin:
LINDSEY: Et illi quinque sacrificum est et illi que est mortuus vivet.
HOLLAND: (to Lilah) Get the movers in here.
LILAH: Yes, sir. (exits)
LINDSEY: Dum vita et mors non duas res sed unas sunt. In tenebris lux est, in luge tenebrae sunt. Serge! Serge! Serge! Serge! Serge! Serge!
The English translation (by someone named RayneFire) in the transcript is better than the Latin:
And the five shall be a sacrifice and the one who is dead shall live .... Even as life and death are not two things but one. In darkness is the light, in light is the darkness. Arise! Arise! Arise!
If you're a Latin teacher, it might be a fun exercise for your students to find and fix the Latin mistakes in the transcript just quoted. I tentatively emend the transcript as follows:
LINDSEY: Et illi quinque sacrificium est et ille qui est mortuus vivet.
HOLLAND: (to Lilah) Get the movers in here.
LILAH: Yes, sir. (exits)
LINDSEY: Dum vita et mors non duae res sed una sunt. In tenebris lux est, in luce tenebrae sunt. Surge! Surge! Surge! Surge! Surge! Surge!
Problems remaining:It's difficult in a case like this to assign blame for Latin errors. It could be the fault of the the writer, the speaker, the transcriber, or some combination of the three.

Buffy and Angel are no longer in production. If Joss Whedon creates another television series that's heavy on the Latin, I hereby apply for a job as a consultant. "Mighty forces, I suck at almost everything else, but not at Latin, OK?"

Angelo Mercado, aka Sauvage Noble, writes in an email:
The Buffy people called UCLA Classics for their Latin, and for a while a grad student colleague/friend rendered their English to Latin, and later a couple of advanced undergrads did. Since transactions were over the phone, I imagine some corruptions were inevitable. I remember one day in the TA office when my friend Bryan did a phone consult with "Giles"! All we got for our troubles was a mass-produced "autographed" cast photo.

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