Whatever Became of Latin?

(N.B.: This is my 50th post on this blog, so I thought I should do something a little different today).

Isn’t it something the way we all begin to sound more and more like our parents? You know, starting sentences by saying things like, “Back when I was in high school…”. Well here I go again, sounding more and more like my dad: Back when I was in high school, if you planned on going to college you were expected to take Latin as your foreign language. Even then, some people were saying that it was a “dead language” and that no one spoke it. Still, you were expected to take at least a couple of years of high school Latin to give you a bit of a “classical education” and a firm foundation for most romance languages. Also because obviously you wanted to become a Renaissance man (sorry, Renaissance person).

Fast forward to the present time, and fewer and fewer high schools even offer Latin as a choice. Hey, there’s an idea for me- are there any high schools out there that are looking for a part-time Latin teacher? It’s incredible to me how much Latin I’ve retained after all these years. It was in high school Latin that I finally learned some grammar. Sorry, high school English teachers- even when my children attended middle school and high school, they didn’t learn English grammar very well. Something about not enough time to teach it because of the “core curriculum” that was required by the state.

If you don’t know what it means to decline a noun or to conjugate a verb you probably didn’t learn grammar very well yourself. Likewise if you don’t know when to use an adverb and when to use an adjective. I can still remember Mr. Loveland, my first year high school Latin teacher, reminding us that all adjectives must agree with nouns in gender, number and case. How about prepositions? We used to be taught to never end a sentence with a preposition. How many 18 year olds now can even tell you what a preposition is? Or have heard of Winston Churchill’s famous phrase, “up with which I shall not put”? (To any Grammar Police who read this blog, I won’t be upset if you point out the grammatical errors that I make when I write these posts).

Now what does any of this have to do with real estate? Not a whole lot, I guess. Still, I must confess that it sometimes bothers me when I write “condominiums” when I think Mr. Loveland would’ve had me write “condominia”. Or when I read real estate or stock analysts talk about “indexes”, when they should be saying “indices”. You know what the worst thing is to me? It’s the use of a double nominative in a sentence. Years ago only sports commentators would say something like, “Hank Aaron he was…”; now it’s heard all the time. Arrragghh!

Seriously, I was a chemistry major in college, and you’d think that knowing Latin wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference. Oh, but how much it did! Unlike today, when many colleges let you “build your own major”, most colleges used to have lots and lots of required courses: so many years of English composition, so many years of history, and so forth. Rutgers University (where I received my undergraduate degree) even used to have a requirement to pass a “Humanities Exam” in order to graduate. I wonder if Rutgers still gives A.B. degrees to chemistry majors, or whether every science major now gets a B.S. because he/she didn’t have to take anything but science courses?

This post has turned out to be longer than I thought it would be- sort of a stream of consciousness; some would say logorrhea (diarrhea of the mouth: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/logorrhea). Fortunately little bits and pieces of Latin still remain in mainstream American English. Lawyers use words such as “ipso facto” and “ad hominem”; physicians and nurses use “p.o.” and “b.i.d”; some older journalists still sneak in an “i.e.” or an “e.g.” Some college students even know how to translate the Latin motto on their school’s seal. “Sol iustitiae et occidentum illustra” is still used on the Rutgers school crest.

I started out by saying how much I’m sounding more and more like my dad, but I wonder, does this post sound more like the late Andy Rooney? Does anyone else really care about this? These are my thoughts- let me know what YOU think. Does anyone out there think that knowledge of Latin should be one of the things you consider when you choose your real estate agent?


Leonard “Len” Dunikoski
Realtor Associate
Diane Turton Realtors – Rumson Office
8 West River Road
Rumson, NJ 07760
(732) 239-0739 (cell)

This entry was posted in Fair Haven NJ Real Estate, Real Estate, Real Estate agent, Rumson NJ Real Estate, Rumson-Fair Haven and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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