MY PRIVATE ITALY: ITALIAN BUT, BEFORE IT, LATIN – PART 1

Tuesday, 10 January 2017 10:57 Written by
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Romans, what a people. They conquered half of Europe, the Middle East and the northern coasts of Africa, so to call the Mediterranean Sea “Mare Nostrum”, Our Sea. Here they imposed their civilization, their laws but first of all their language: Latin.

Latin was spoken from the marshes of England to the deserts of Lybia, as a sign of a united world. Laws were written in Latin, Justice was administered in Latin, trade was managed in Latin.

And Latin is still alive, all around us, even if we do not see it: Italians and other nations which speak neo-latin languages like French or Spanish, but also English.

 

Well, sometimes you would like to use some Latin purposedly, to turn your simple sentence into something “wise”. But be careful. After all, even good screenwriters can make mistakes. “Roma Victor” as General Maximus shouts in “the Gladiator”, is very powerful but it is wrong: Rome is feminine, so a Roman would have shouted “Roma Victrix” (but, you know, when it comes to history, and particularly to roman history, Hollywood takes much liberty).

 

So, when I travel around Italy, as a guide in my private tour of italy or with friends and family, I like to go back to the Latin origin of the Italian language, as well as to some of the most popular words and sentences which have passed on to other languages.

 

And my intent in this part of my blog is to unveil words, phrases, proverbs, famous sayings that most often return in our everyday speech. It will be a “vademecum” (so as not to abandon the Latin lexicon) that explains the origins of these Latin loans specifying, if possible, when and why they came into use.

 

Many locutions come from the Christian culture, of which we are all tributaries linguistically, believers and not. Many more are derived from Roman law, solemn monuments of a legal culture that we admire as well as amphitheatres and aqueducts, made by architects who had the ambition to build for eternity.

 

This is not meant to teach Latin, it is meant to invite to Latin: an appetizer for the mind. Let’s explore together the secrets and surprising connections that still after so many centuries combine Latin, the mother tongue, with Italian, the daughter language, and with English, the nephew. When a Latin word enters our family vocabulary, it should be welcomed with joy. It is an ancestor who returns, with many stories to tell: it may be nice to listen to him.

 

To end with this introduction, a tip about something you use every day, Italians and foreigners. We are all very busy so we all help ourselves with our agenda. It used to be on paper, almost a book, large or small, now it's digital. Well, agenda is a form of the verb “agere”, which means “to do”, and this particular form, the gerundium, means “the things you must do”. So, your latin helped you today in organizing your life.

 

Vale (see you soon).

Read 5362 times Last modified on Tuesday, 06 August 2019 08:50
Marcello Cordovani

Marcello Cordovani is the founder and co-owner of VITORITALY. He is also the Tour Manager of the private tour of Italy

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