Tuesday, November 07, 2023


Speaking Latin

Anthony Kenny, A Path from Rome (1985; rpt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 46:
The Latin spoken by most examinees was halting and incorrect; that of the lecturers and examiners was fluent but far from classical. The accent of an Englishman, an American, a Spaniard, a Frenchman and a German differed so much from each other that it took some time to realize that the lecturers were not all speaking different languages. Lecturers did not scruple to translate the idioms of their own tongue literally into Latin, leaving foreigners to make what they could of them. Thus a Frenchman would speak of a far-fetched interpretation of a Scripture text as being 'ad usum delphini', while an American would drawl 'haec theoria non tenet aquam'.


Though Latin was the official language of communication at the Gregorian, it was hardly ever used for spontaneous conversation between students of different nationalities. The ten-minute breaks between the lectures gave, instead, a great opportunity for would-be linguists ('spekkers') to practise foreign languages. But most remained resolutely Anglophone.

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