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Burt's Eye View
Other than husbandese, I do not speak a foreign language.
(I hadn’t considered husbandese a foreign language until I saw the consternation that crossed my wife’s face whenever I tried to explain a simple concept — such as how my socks ended up next to cheese in the refrigerator.)
I studied Latin, but that hardly counts. It’s not like French or Italian or Klingon or any of those languages in which you can carry on a decent conversation about who should quarterback the Cleveland Browns.
It was my high school Latin teacher who taught us this poem:
“Latin is a dead, dead language / As dead as dead can be / First it killed the Romans / And now it’s killing me.”
I studied Latin because I wanted to appear smart. It didn’t work. “Nobody speaks Latin,” schoolmates chortled. “How stupid can you get?”
I declined to answer.
But the joke was on them. We absolutely DO use Latin every day. Words such as agenda, census, via, affidavit and vice versa all are full-on, good old-fashioned Latin.
So let’s turn Latin into a fully spoken language again. I’ll get us started with this primer of common Latin phrases.
(It’s been a few decades since high school, so I might be a little fuzzy on the exact translations. I’m pretty sure I’m close. I’d hate to think I wasted two good years of my life studying Latin.)
Carpe noctem– My goldfish bumped into me.
Carpe diem — My goldfish died.
Per se — A Latin typo. It either means purse or peruse. The original meaning has been lost over the centuries.
Ad nauseam — What happens when the same commercial plays for the 37th time while you’re watching the football telecast.
E pluribus unum — Many buses came but the East Londoner, ‘e could only ride one, guv.
Veni, vidi, vici (pronounced “wenny, weedy, weechi”) — Willy Wonka’s cousin, who invented grass trimmers.
Sic semper tyrranis — My dinosaur is running a fever.
Pecunia nervus belli — Not knowing who sent the flowers tied my tummy in knots.
Caveat emptor — The emperor is wearing a new necktie. (Yeah, I know you can’t see it. Funny thing about the emperor’s clothing.)
Et cetera — Brother of former Chicago lead singer Peter Cetera. Et is the guy who scheduled catering for the band.
Amor vincit omnia — Sir Vince performed yoga chants while wearing his knight garb.
Bona fide — Fido found the bone he buried.
Et tu, Brute? — You realize, don’t you, that it was uncouth to eat both pieces of pie, you cad?
Quid pro quo — If you’re only going to pay him one pound sterling, the speaker you hired isn’t going to finish the sentence. You just get half a quote.
Alter ego — Newspaper reporter. (I know this because the comic books always said that Superman changed into the guise of his alter ego, Clark Kent, a reporter of the Daily Planet.)
Alma mater — Tow Mater’s sister. (I think she’s scheduled to appear in the eighth or ninth sequel of Pixar’s “Cars.”)
— Speak to Burt in Latin at at firstname.lastname@example.org, on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or @BurtonWCole on Twitter.