Latin – It’s Not Dead Yet

Another transcript — not the one you’re thinking of — shows that lack of knowledge of Latin may be what ends up bringing down Trump.

The news coming from the White House seems to be getting crazier by the day. This has been especially true since we heard about the “perfect” call that President Trump had with the president of Ukraine and the quid pro quo firestorm that ensued. That is when I decided it was time to contact my friend at the White House. He agreed to speak to me on the condition of anonymity. Here is a transcript of our discussion:

Discussing Latin at the White HouseMe: Hi, Bob it’s me. Can you tell me what is going on at the White House? Things seem to be more out of control than usual.

Anonymous: Yes, the problems are popping up ad nauseam. The president has been particularly unhinged lately, as a result of the Ukraine situation and the threat of impeachment.

Me: Oh yeah. The Democrats have been going on about Mick Mulvaney’s quid pro quo admission ad infinitum.

Anonymous: Yes, and it’s particularly unfair. Mulvaney thought they were saying quid pro no. The acting White House Chief of Staff was just confused. Despite being Roman Catholic, he doesn’t know Latin. President Trump recently said that the U.S. and Italy have been allies since the era of ancient Rome. And, of course, the president admires some of the great Roman emperors such as Caligula, Nero, Tiberius et al. But none of us in his administration have a working knowledge of that ancient language. I don’t believe it is even spoken anymore except in Latin America.

Me: You should probably learn some Latin phrases. They come up from time to time especially in science, religion, law et cetera. Just the other day Nancy Pelosi used the phrase “alea iacta est,” which means the die is cast.

Anonymous: She must have been referring to a game of craps.

Me: Also, we just found out that Mitt Romney has been tweeting under the alias Pierre Delecto, which some say is a pun based on the Latin phrase in pari delicto. There are a lot of Latin words and phrases being bantered about these days.

Anonymous: I guess you are right.

Me: Trump’s alma mater is the University of Pennsylvania which is a great school and he graduated cum laude. Ergo, he must have come in contact with some Latin.

Anonymous: Not really. And, I wouldn’t say that he is terrible with languages per se, but even in English he seems to be only quasi knowledgeable.

Me: I have gathered as much from his tweets. But I know one Latin based word that he knows. It’s “subpoena.”

Anonymous: That’s for sure. Anyway, we are thinking of forming an ad hoc committee to start learning some of that ancient language since it apparently is not completely dead.

Me: Perhaps I could teach you some phrases. I took three years of Latin in high school and used to be an altar boy.

Anonymous: That would be great. What phrases do you think would be helpful for us to know?

Me: Well, when the House Democrats ask for a document, try saying, “canis meus id comedit” which means “my dog ate it.” Alternatively you could say, “te audine no possum. Musa sapientum fix est in aure” which means “I can’t hear you. I have a banana in my ear.” If nothing else, these phrases will buy you time while the Democrats try to figure out their meaning.

Anonymous: That’s great. Any other Latin phrases which are pertinent these days?

Me: Well, every time my wife sees “you know who” on T.V. she says, “calvo turpuis est nihil comato” which translates to, “Nothing is uglier than a bald man with hair.” I like that one.

Anonymous: If I say that, I will be persona non grata at the White House. Any others?

Me: Well, when I read Trump’s tweets, I always think, “Caesar non supra grammaticos” which in English is, “The emperor is not above the grammarians.” That’s more relevant today than it was in Caesar’s day.

Anonymous: I agree, but that too would be a bona fide career ending thing for me to say. I’m afraid you are not helping. The White House is loco and if the status quo continues, I don’t know how I will be able to cope with it.

Me: Try doing what I do. Every time the president says, does or tweets something silly, I mutter “stultus est sicut stultus facit” (stupid is as stupid does) and then I carpe vinum (SEIZE THE WINE).

Anonymous: That is great advice. I’ll try that. Thanks.

Me: Ok and good luck with your Latin studies.

So, there you have it, straight from a White House insider. Things at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have become unhinged since the Ukraine phone call debacle and it’s due in part to a lack of knowledge of Latin, et al.

Veritas Omnia Vincit.

John C. Wade
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