Monday, November 21, 2011


My adolescent goal (and preliminary education) was to teach Greek and Latin. After an hour chat with the Director of Social Services in our town, he told me I would make a cracker jack Social Worker. 42 years later I ended a very productive and successful career as a Social Work Supervisor. And yes, Kenneth was correct. I once kept stats on my productivity. I had a 95 percent show rate to interviews and workshops/trainings where as the rest of the workers were averaging about 50 percent. (Don't tell anyone. That is a big secret.)  There is no big secret to success however. People are not dumb. They can tell in a few seconds whether you are interested in them/and really listening to them or whether you are interested in "doing your job". (That also is a big secret, but you can spread that one around all you like.)

Since I retired a few months ago, I have been thinking about Greek and Latin again. Ancient Greek is a pretty language. Homer's Illiad was first sung before writing and reading was available. Ancient Greek has not survived as well as Latin however. Latin is the universal medical language and the universal language of botany (thanks to the Swede Linnaeus). While Greek is poetic, Latin has a simplicity and purity. I have a genetic disorder called "osteogenesis imperfecta". OI for short. That means "bones from the beginning imperfect". Beginning means actual DNA is screwed up. I recently found the best paper on OI on the internet. It was written by Reed Jobs, Steve Job's son, for his BioChem class at Stanford. Don't understand how it got posted on the internet. Thanks Reed, I am going to print it out and ask my physician to have it scanned into my medical record.  (photo is a bust of Catullus)

Back to Latin. My thought today was wondering who ever suggested that high school students should read Caesar's Gallic Wars must be have been nuts. Talk about irrelevant to the life of a teenager!

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres. . All Gaul is divided into 3 parts. Did that really grab you and want to read more? It puts me to sleep and I can actually read it. Who today would teach English using the autobiogrphy of General MacArthur or Colin Powell? Now check this out.

Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis!
da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum,
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,

Let us live, my Lesbia, let us love,
and all the talk of the stern old men,
may it be worth a penny!
Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,
then another thousand, and then another hundred,
and, when we've counted up the many thousands,
let us confuse them so as not to know them all,


I guarantee you that if we started Latin off in schools (preferably 7th grade) with Catullus' love poems, we would need to hire an entire army of Latin teachers to keep up with the junior high and high school enrollment. Teenagers think they invented sex and love. Would it not be a surprise to them to find out it has been around a long long time and that the old guys had a thousand new "one liners to use with girls".  I made the mistake when buying my Oxford English-Latin dictionary many eons ago to get the one marked 'for schools".  Catullus has a little poem about his girl friend's bird. Birds peck. Birds are peckers. Yes, for some reason, pecker is a very old slang term. I had to use my friend Carmina's dictionary all the way through the Catullus class to get all his double meanings. ;-)

Who do you vote for? Caesar or Catullus?


Jono said...

Maybe you could teach Latin in an evening Community Education class. Once the teenage boys figured out they can use it to further their exploits with teenage girls they would flock to the class!

Anonymous said...

Catullus! My husband and I have "Vivamus atque amemus," enscribed on our wedding bands. (He teaches Latin at the Univ. of Bergen, Norway).

Nina Ø said...

to Jono:
Good idea. This little SF community I live in could well do with a Latin class.

to Jenaconti: OMG, on your wedding bands? That is so awesome.

Kelli Nørgaard said...

I love this post! The students at the gymnasium get a full semester of Latin and that helps SO much with their grammar understanding... I SO WISH we did this in the US !