Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Latin in Lake Wobegon

Garrison Keillor, Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts from the Heart of America (New York: Viking, 2004), pp. 88-89 (on studying Latin at the University of Minnesota):
My Latin teacher, Margaret Forbes, was an auntly lady, cheery and kind, who ran us through daily translations and sniped at us with questions about the anticipatory subjunctive -- subjunctive denotes an act that is expected -- Expectabum dum frater redirect -- I was waiting for my brother to return -- and we responded to her aequo animo -- without anxiety, as she lay open the folded language -- patefacio, patefacere, patefeci, patefactum -- O pace in perpetuum, Margaret, felicitas aeternas!
Either Keillor's Latin is rusty after forty years, or Bill Gates' spelling checker has gone haywire again:Also, in English the preterite of the transitive verb lay is laid.

Some have criticized Keillor's book for its supposedly intemperate attacks on Republicans. But he ridicules the silliness of doctrinaire Democrats as well, e.g. on p. 100:
Once, at a party in St. Paul, I heard a woman talk at some length about diversity and how persons of "noncolor" should not impose their majority culture on others and the phrase persons of noncolor -- the idea of being colorless -- made me reach for my coat and hat. Goodbye, I'm out of here. Call me when you get over it.
I enjoyed the book.

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