Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Poor Latin

Warning: For hardcore Latinists only.

From the Association for Latin Teaching blog:
According to reports, only one synod participant spoke Latin every time he took the microphone: Latvian Cardinal Janis Pujats, the Archbishop of Riga. He did the same at the previous synod in 2001, when a disconsolate Pope John Paul II commented: "Paupera lingua latina, ultimum refugium habet in Riga" (Poor Latin, it has its last refuge in Riga).
Lewis and Short, A Latin Dictionary, s.v. pauper, say:
fem. paupera, Plaut. Fragm. ap. Serv. Verg. A. 12, 519, called obsolete by Varr. L.L. 8, § 77 Müll.
If one can judge from online texts, Lewis and Short are incorrect. Varro doesn't call paupera obsolete; Servius does.

Varro, De Lingua Latina 8.39.77:
praeterea si dicerentur similiter, cum similia essent macer tener et macerrimus tenerrimus, non discreparet in his macrior tenerior, neque alia trisyllaba alia quadrisyllaba fierent; et si in his dominaretur similitudo, diceremus ut candidissimus candidissima, pauperrumus pauperrima, sic candidus candida, pauper paupera; et ut dicimus doctus docta, doctissimus doctissima, sic diceremus frugalissumus frugalissima, frugalus et frugala.
Servius on Vergil, Aeneid 12.519 (pauperque domus):
'hic' et 'haec pauper' dicimus: nam 'paupera' usurpatum est. sic Plautus paupera est haec mulier. sed hoc hodie non utimur.
The Plautine fragment is XLVI in W.M. Lindsay's edition under Fabularum Incertarum Fragmenta. Lindsay in his apparatus ad loc. says "cf. Aul. 174, Vid. fr. 3."

Paupera doesn't occur at Aulularia 174 (scio quid dictura es: hanc esse pauperem. haec pauper placet, with no variants listed by Lindsay), but it does at Vidularia, fragment 3 (paupera res est, known from Priscian 1.152).

In conclusion, nominative feminine singular paupera is rare and archaic in Latin. The normal form is simply pauper, and the Pope probably should have said, "Pauper lingua latina, ultimum refugium habet in Riga." Some have also complained about the prepositional phrase in Riga, arguing that the locative Rigae is proper. But Rigae would destroy the rhyming pun.

Pope John Paul II, faced with this nit-picking, could have said with an earlier pope (St. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, at Patrologia Latina 75.516 B, tr. E.K. Rand):
Wherefore I have scorned to observe all art of style, in which pupils are drilled in schools of the outer [i.e., lower] training. For, as the tenor of the present letter makes evident, I shun not the collision of m's; I avoid not the disorder of barbarisms; I despise a conformity to constructions and moods and cases of prepositions. For I deem it exceedingly inept to fetter the words of the Heavenly Oracle to the rules of Donatus.

Unde et ipsam loquendi artem, quam magisteria disciplinae exterioris insinuant, servare despexi. Nam sicut hujus quoque epistolae tenor enuntiat, non metacismi collisionem fugio, non barbarismi confusionem devito, situs motusque et praepositionum casus servare contemno, quia indignum vehementer existimo, ut verba coelestis oraculi restringam sub regulis Donati.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?