When Pope Benedict announced his resignation yesterday, the first reporter to break the story was Giovanna Chirri. The Pope gave his statement in Latin, and while Chirri's French colleagues knew something was up when they saw the sad look on Benedict's face and caught a few words like "incapability," Chirri got the scoop because she understood Latin.
Classics majors everywhere swelled with pride and emailed the story to their parents. "See, Mom? It is useful!" While the opportunities to prove your mettle on the world stage through Latin might be few and far between, Latin is not just a fossilized church language. It is alive in the modern world, doing lively modern things. Here are VII ways to keep up your Latin, and be ready when the next chance to be a Latin superstar presents itself.
1. READ CHILDREN'S BOOKS IN LATIN
Non mi placent, O Pincerna, Virent ova! Viret perna!
They do not please me, O waiter, Eggs that are green! Ham that is green!
You can find the Doctore Seuss classics Virent ova! Viret perna! (Green Eggs and Ham), or Cattus Pettasatus (The Cat in the Hat), or even Quomodo Invidiosulus nomine Grinchus Christi Natalem Abrogaverit (How the Grinch Stole Christmas). There's also Winnie Ille Pu, Harry Potter et Philosophi Lapis, Hobbitus Ille, and many others. Get your kids started early!
2. LEARN YOUR LATIN COMPUTER TERMS
spreadsheet — tabula computativa
joystick — manipulus
download — extrahere
RAM — memoria volatilis
the program has crashed the system — systema a programmate dirutum est
World Wide Web — Tela Totius Terrae
Konrad Kokoszkiewicz put together a list of the all the terms you need.
3. ROCK OUT TO BLACK SABBATH IN LATIN
"War Pigs (Verres Militares)"
The Estonian musical group Rondellus did a cover album of Black Sabbath songs sung in Latin, 14th century style.
4. DO YOUR SOCIAL NETWORKING IN LATIN
You could join the social networking site Schola, where all the fun takes place in Latin. Or, if you're not quite ready for that, switch your Facebook language to Latin. Instead of the rather casual and insouciant "How's it going?" it will ask you, with great dignity, "Quid cogitas?" or "What are your thoughts?"
5. LISTEN TO THE RADIO IN LATIN
Radio Bremen in Germany does a weekly roundup of the news in Latin, as does Radio YLE in Finland.
6. LEARN SOMETHING FROM LATIN WIKIPEDIA
Sure, the Latin Wikipedia, or Vikipædia, has lots of articles on church history and ancient battles, but it also has articles on baseball (basipila), The Simpsons, and Doctor Who.
7. READ A LATIN NEWSPAPER
Since 2004, Ephemeris has been bringing the news of the world to the Latin reading public. Yesterday's headline? "Benedictus XVI a munere se abdicat." The article ends:
"Joanna Chirri, diurnaria agenturae Italicae ANSA, prima inter collegas praesentes intellexit verba Benedicti XVI Latine pronuntiata, quibus ipse a munere discessit."
"Joanna Chirri, journalist with the Italian agency ANSA, was the first of the colleagues present to understand Pope Benedict's Latin announcement, with which he left office."
More from Mental Floss...
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- Are there too many good shows on television?
- The weird obsession that's ruining the GOP
- The forgotten victims of the war in Ukraine
- How to trim $500 from your monthly spending
- Comic-Con 2014: Everything we learned about Avengers 2, Batman v. Superman, and more
Subscribe to the Week