LATIN FOR ALL OCCASIONS. By Henry Beard. Villard. 91 pages. $12.95.
SUBTITLE this delightful little book Lingua Latina Occasionibus. Its 12 succinct chapters will tempt you to try out some clever comments in Latin that are conversational, informational, occupational or recreational.
If that is not your aim, then try some phrases that are practical, tactical, cultural, social, sensual, familial or gastronomical -- even downright comical. The English translations, along with a fail-proof pronunciation guide, are also given.
Who said that Latin was a dead language? Certainly not I, who sang with my middle schoolers at McDonogh School to the tune of "Yankee Doddle": "Latin is a language as alive as it can be/I came, I saw, I conquered it -- Veni, Vidi, Vici!"
This easy-to-use handbook is filled with hundreds of everyday English expressions rendered into grammatically accurate, idiomatically correct and tantalizingly titillating classical Latin. Today old Cicero, with all his penchant for propriety and precise prose, would certainly chuckle over some of these phrases.
He might have interspersed his oratorical prowess with a remark like, "Credo Catilinam (Elvem) ipsum etiam vivere." (I believe Catiline (Elvis) is still alive.) Or, "Scis quod dicunt, hodie adsit, cras absit." (You know what they say: Here today, gone tomorrow.)
Any Baltimorean could say, "Non calor sed umor est qui nobis incommodat." (It's not the heat; it's the humidity.") At a cocktail party, a dedicated doctor might be interrupted and say, "Heu! Tintinnuntius meus sonat." (Darn! There goes my beeper.) Then, "Abeo!" (I'm outta here!) We have all seen signs thanking others for not smoking. How much more effective it might be if rendered in italic calligraphy as "Tibi GRATIAS agimus quod NIHIL FUMAS."
In this computer age it's so easy to blame poor programming with the expression "Purgamentum init, exit purgamentum." (Garbage in, garbage out.)
"Latin for All Occasions" provides the perfect phrase for every contemporary situation. With Clint Eastwood you can say, "Diem meam fac!" (Make my day!) or mimic our president -- "Labra lege." (Read my lips.) Or try a little Bart Simpson: "Radicitus, comes!" (Really rad, dude!) Have difficulty remembering names? There are some Latin medical terms for non-existent but useful disorders. Here is one for a mental block: "impedimentum memoriae."
At your next dog show, impress the judges by saying to your clever canine, "Sede! Volve! Ecce, Latine scit." (Sit! Roll over! You see he understands Latin.) Try this one on your lawyer: "Quantum in una hora imputas?!" (You charge how much?!) When the IRS agent wants an explanation, say, "Scio cur summae inter se dissentiant. Numeris Romanis utor!" (I know why the numbers don't agree. I used Roman numerals.)
Would I expect you to go around spouting such erudite expressions? Of course not! However, picking up this book and comparing the bilingual expresions will convince you that one of the best ways to improve your English vocabulary is through the portals of lingua Latina. One doesn't have to be a language expert to read and enjoy this little book which has "multum in parvo" (much in a package). But you may qualify to appear on "Periculum" ("Jeopardy").
By the way, can you guess these major-league teams that will start the 1991 baseball season this week: Angeli, Gemini, Nautae, Gigantes, Rubri, Indi, Tigres? Here in Baltimore this afternoon, it's the home team, Icteri Galguli, versus those villains from Chicago, the Tibialia Alba.
Iti, Icteri Galguli!
Marie C. Bemkey, a former teacher at McDonogh School, still
tutors Latin in her Baltimore home.
And two for the season: "The Baseball Chronicles" (edited by David Gallen, Carroll & Graf, 388 pages, $21.95) is a collection of essays about the most colorful characters in baseball by some of the sport's most talented writers. Among the former: Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Ty Cobb. Among the latter: John Updike, Roger jTC Kahn, Ring Lardner.
"Baseball & the Game of Life" (edited by Peter C. Bjarkman, Vintage Books, 212 pages, soft cover, $10) is another anthology of baseball essays, this one intended to bring the national pastime home to the "thinking fan" who appreciates the game's "chivalry and furious competitiveness," its "otherworldly timelessness."