quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur


Language has played a multidimensional role in human history. Ever since Babel, confusion and cultural divisions have reigned. Today’s whole field of cross-cultural communications has expanded to indispensable proportions. Language has both united us and divided us every bit as much as ideology. In our day we have the convenience of instant written and vocal translation devices. Yet in Western culture we oft fall back on our mother tongue, Latin, to accentuate a point.

Acta non verba– Action, not words; the motto of the U.S Merchant Marine Academy is used across the English speaking world. From Aesop we received alterius non sit qui suus esse potest– Let no man be another’s who can be his own. Author John Steinbeck, told he would be a writer when pigs flew, tagged all his subsequent works with Ad astra per alas porci- to the stars on the wings of a pig. And of course, amor vincit amnia– love conquers all. [Ah, FTL. (That’s yet another language.)]

The English language is steeped in Latin roots. –dict- to say, as in dictation; -ject- to throw, as in project or eject; -port- to carry, as in import or support. Then there are the myriad of prefixes and suffixes. Latin all! Words just sound more, well, correct, in Latin.

But seriously, erudition aside, what is the point? Unless you are presenting a paper at a medical college, or lecturing at an international theological or ornithology gathering, Latin may otherwise be out-of-place. The issues at stake in any human intercourse are clear communication, with personal integrity and individual trustworthiness. If these three elements are not present, phrasing a thought in another language will do little to give it legitimacy.

Of all the parts language has played in human history, no role is more important than clear, honest, communication. Thus, for what it’s worth, in Latin or English, this challenge remains for each of us— Do we mean what we say? Or do we use words to conceal a part of the truth? Do we twist what is true, what is wholly true? Or do we use words to shield us from reprimand for wrong-doing? In Truth, are we being at least honest? Latin erudition can disguise our fear only so far.

Oh, the title of this emPulse translates “whatever has been said in Latin seems deep.”




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