Friday, June 29, 2007

Latin for all

One evening, going home from the Institute, I picked up an old copy of Omnibus, magazine for teachers and students of Latin and Greek, to read after dinner. Omnibus is a curious word: being the dative plural of Latin omnis, all, everyone, literally it means 'for all'. By the way, the English bus derives, via French, from omnibus.

My acquaintance with the word comes not only from Latin lessons, but from a funny Latvian song about omnibuss that destroys kitchen gardens with all the vegetables -- I like the song but have no idea about its deep meaning. (The final double s in omnibuss is not a typo: in Latvian, all masculine nouns have to end on s, even if they are foreign borrowings that already have one s. In this case, you just add another s. For example, James Bond becomes Dzeimss Bonds.)

In my copy of Omnibus, a tiny article caught my attention. It contained excerpts from a Latin glossary, allegedly composed by Vatican authorities to help Latin speakers to cope with essential modern phenomena. I cannot help but reproduce some of its entries here. Lambrusco: acre vinum Aemilianum. Merlot: vinum rubrum Burdigalense. Sangria: potio mixta Hispanica. Scotch: vischium Scoticum. Vodka: valida potio Slavica. It made me smile, and think how an ordinary wine list becomes, by a mere fact of being translated into a different language, a source of laughter.

2 comments:

Bettina said...

Actually, I'm the acre vinum Aemilianum's greatest fan ever!!!!
Delicious sparkling taste!

Baltic Polyglottic said...

I wonder how those Vatican linguists call coffee, tequila, and champagne :)