Tuesday, 4 October 2011

epershand: Photo of AE Housman (Housman)
This morning in the shower I was wondering about the history of Latin scholarship. Presumably folks were running around ancient Rome using the ablative because it felt right and being innovative and playful with it for the heck of it. That's certainly the vibe I get from, say, Catullus or Ovid.

What, then, was the point when people decided it all needed to be codified into ridiculously elaborate rules to memorize, with distinctions, say, between the ablative of means, ablative of manner, dative of agent, etc? Was it during the middle ages when they were coming up with equally elaborate terminology for any metaphysical doubt one might possibly have? Or was it some folks in the Renaissance who looked back at all the Latin written during the middle ages and blushed at how embarrassingly straightforward it all was? (Not that Renaissance Latin is any less silly, grammatically speaking, but they at least *try*. Sort of.)

Which would be an interesting thing to research, I think. Except what actually happened then was that thinking about silly Latin from the middle ages totally diverted me and put the following mash-up poem in my head:

Bibat ille, bibat illa, bibat servus et ancilla
With the rhyming and the chiming of the
Bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells!

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