Monday, June 2, 2003

The NYTimes on the Vatican's new Latin dictionary

The Vatican Latin Foundation (Fondatum Latinitas), which put the book together, is already working on a new edition, due out in a few years, according to Pietro Villa, an official with the foundation. "There are so many new words to add, mainly technological words or those dealing with information," Mr. Villa said.

Indeed, the dictionary gives Latin words for every aspect of life. You can order a meal in Latin. Want lasagna? Ask for "pasta segmentata." A hamburger? Grill an "isicium Hamburgense." A hot dog? "Pastillum botello fartum."

Or you can talk politics: A "conformitatis osor" (hippie) and a "communista" (communist) butt heads with a "novi Hitleriani motus assecla" (neo-Nazi).

Hitleriani? What kind of Latin is that? Call it made-up Latin, just like "iazensis musica" ("music of the jazz variety"). "Iazensis" may look Latin, but "i" is the "j" of Latin.

"This is essentially an admission of defeat," said R. J. Tarrant, a professor of Latin language and literature at Harvard. "When all else fails, stick a Latin ending on a word and move on."