These pages are dedicated to Marcus Terentius Varro, a Roman writer
of the first century BC. Like many since, he thought he knew everything,
and was particularly fond of pontificating on the derivation and correct
meaning of words. Here I shall pontificate about words of Greek or Latin
origin that have attracted my attention for some reason - perhaps a novel
usage, or because they are being irritatingly misused or abused.
Please feel free to send in words for this page via email.
For the dedicated word aficionado, here is a today's word
(courtesy of AWAD - A Word A Day). Not always classical, but always
fascinating! Click on the word in blue for details.
As Edmund Waller wrote in the 17th century,
Poets that lasting marble seek,
Must carve in Latin or in Greek.
We write in sand, our language grows,
And like the tide, our work o'erflows.
Follow any of these links to other pages on the site:
- Monty Python's Life of Brian Brian's anti-Roman grafitti come in for a linguistic bashing.
- Separated at BirthOver the years I've collected examples where two words in Modern English both ultimately derive from one common ancestor, but where the family resemblance (as with Sofia Coppola and Nicholas Cage) is no longer apparent. On this page these words are reunited, with a brief explanation of what happened to them.
- Sporting Quotes
I've been noticing that there are a number of sports writers and commentators who love to flash their classical knowledge. Here are a few to get started. Contributions very welcome.
- Linguistic curiosities
Anything strange, weird or baffling concerning the Greek or Latin languages
- CarsAutomobile manufactures seem to love to christen their machines with high-falutin' classical-sounding names. We investigate.
- Greek Warships - the TriremeWhy was it that the Athenians gave feminine names to the world's deadliest weapon of marine warfare until the exocet (which is merely French for "flying fish")? Does it tell us something about the way they thought of women? Or is there something rather endearing about giving a ship a girl's name? See the evidence and judge for yourself.
- Rude LatinAmong the "Christmas books" aimed at rusty Latinists this year is one called How to Insult, Abuse, and Insinuate in Classical Latin by Michelle Lovric and Nikiforos Doxiadis Mardas published by Ebury. Inspired by this, I decided to go back to the master - Plautus - and have produced a glossary of some of his choicer expressions. There are also a few suggestions of how to be nice to people (missing from the Lovric-Mardas opus).
- Legal Latin to go?There's move to ban the age-old traditional Latin phrases from being used in English courts from April. Read an article which tries to quote most of what we'll be missing. Is it a long-overdue piece of essential modernisation, or an act of judicial vandalism?
- Press CuttingsWorth checking my press cuttings page for linguistic curiosities.
- Filthy BrittenThe puzzling Latin references in The Turn of the Screw (possibly) explained.