Breviaria Latina

Assorted Latin excerpts and tidbits …

The Seattle PI had a nice feature on the resurgence of Latin … including this incipit:

The old men in togas. The mindless verbal recitation. The archaic prose. No wonder Latin gets such a bad rap.

Latin and ancient Greek once were considered part of a basic education, but in the 1960s and ’70s Latin saw a sharp decline in participants; once a mainstay of academia, many students balked at Latin study once it was no longer required.

Now, what was old is new again. Spurred by academic pressures, students are returning to Latin studies, hoping to increase their standardized test scores and their chances of being accepted to top colleges.

Teachers like Brian Tibbets, the 2008 Farrand Baker Illinois Latin Teacher of the Year, say this ancient language has modern applicability.

He said he understands the notion that studying Latin is highbrow — “a stigma that’s carried over from when you were forced to take Latin and Greek as a part of a ‘classical’ education.”

In the past decade, studies have shown Latin to have practical academic benefits. High school students who study Latin attain higher verbal SAT scores than students who study more commonly taught languages such as Spanish, French and German, according to the National Committee for Latin and Greek.

In 2002, the mean verbal SAT score for Latin students was 666. French, German and Spanish students, meanwhile, achieved a mean score of 637, 622 and 581, respectively. This benefit, says Tibbets, can often entice students to pursue the language.

“I took the language because I thought it would help me in English, (and) I also knew it would increase my SAT scores,” said Ali VanCleef, a consul with the Illinois Junior Classic League.

When VanCleef signed up for Latin, she said, other students warned her that the classes would be challenging and perhaps too difficult for her. But now, she said, “I actually love the language.”

A youth choir is singing in Latin in Detroit:

The classical sounds of the Latin language are to echo inside a Detroit cathedral today as children from across the region gather for a special mass featuring area Catholic youth choirs. Advertisement It’s a sign of the growing interest in the Latin language among Catholics who are yearning for tradition. About 100 children from parishes in Michigan and London, Ontario, are to practice and then perform during the mass with Archbishop Allen Vigneron at Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the seat of the Archdiocese of Detroit. After the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, greater emphasis was placed on using English in masses so singing in Latin increasingly fell out of favor, said local Catholics. “When I was young, we only sang in Latin,” recalled Cindy Stempin, music director at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Livonia. “Latin was the universal language of the church,” she added. “They are going back to their roots.”

Latin’s on the rise in upstate New York:

“Surgite!”

At the sound of the word, the 21 students in Todd Hutson’s eighth-grade class at Gowana Middle School leap to their feet. They turn and face the American flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance. In Latin.

The language may be dead, but its pulse still beats. From the titles we give our doctors to a lawyer seeking a writ of habeas corpus, Latin is everywhere.

And surgo, which means to stand up or rise, is the root word for surge, which describes what has happened to interest in the tongue in recent years. Statewide, the number of students studying it leaped from 12,140 in 2003-04 to 15,299 last year.

The largest local group of Latin learners is at Shenendehowa, where district officials say 420 are studying the tongue this year.

“It really helps with English,” said Marcelino Christie, 13, one of Hutson’s students. “Now I am using words I didn’t even know.”

Some of his family members are doctors, he said, and he has learned the names pediatrician, optometrist and others come from Latin.

“It’s really cool how many of our words come from Latin,” said his classmate, Megan Kluball, 14.

In Hutson’s class, students get their vocabulary words and use gestures to connect each word to its meaning. They pretend to bite an apple for cibus, meaning to eat, and fake flipping burgers for coquo, meaning to cook.

Although probably not strictly Latin, Taunton High’s Latin club marks the Ides in a fun way:

Blaring horns and beating drums echoed in the hallways of Taunton High School Friday, as a crowd of toga-clad students re-enacted Julius Caesar’s funeral procession with their annual Ides of March event.

“Caesar mortuus est” students yelled, as they carried the motionless body of junior Paul Lantieri, who portrayed the slain Roman leader, through the school on a stretcher.

The Ides of March commemorates the day when Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 B.C.

Assuming the role of historian, junior Andrew Morehouse hushed the raucous crowd — which consisted of participants and onlookers — as he opened his scroll and read aloud an account of events that led to Caesar’s untimely death.

Dressed all in black, Danielle Waldron, Rachel Stetkis, and Alex Simpson made an appearance as ominous characters Lacheses, Atrophos, and Clotho — the three fates.

Christopher Scully, Latin Club advisor, said the Taunton High Latin Club has carried on the Ides of March tradition for close to five decades. Nearly 70 students were involved this year, Scully said, making it the largest procession the school has ever had.

Retired Taunton High Latin teacher Paul Ponte helped make the event extra special by donning a toga and joining the crowd as “Pontifex Maximus,” a high religious leader.

“I love it,” said Ponte, who has returned for the Ides of March procession every year since he retired.

According to Scully, the annual Ides of March presentation serves two purposes.

“It gives the school a chance to think a little bit about the ancient world,” said Scully, who gave teachers background material to share with their students prior to viewing the presentation.

“It’s also a chance to have a little fun too,” he added. “To mix things up, and add to the festive atmosphere of foreign languages week.”

Last, but not least, an item mentioned on the Latinteach list, but I may be bringing it up too late … NPR’s Car Talk program of March 14 included a little Latin quiz at the beginning; it doesn’t seem to be available from iTunes any more but is available from the Car Talk website (for a small fee, apparently).

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