Friday, May 15, 2009

Latin diplomas and numen lumen

The NY Times this morning has an interesting op-ed piece today by classicist Christopher Francese, called "A degree in English" talking about the difficulties of diplomas in Latin. He writes:
diploma Latin is some of the most depressing and long-winded legalese you can find. Hiding behind the lovely calligraphy are maddening syntax and appalling neologisms. How do you say the name of every college town in Latin? You shouldn’t have to.
All this calls to mind the University of Wisconsin motto, numen lumen. That's a controversy of a different sort: numen is 'divinity', so you have this half-hidden reference to a diety for a public university, a famously secular one. (One version of the story on this is available here.)

But I don't mind this ceremonial use of Latin as much as Francese does. You have to think of it more like heavy metal umlauts or something.


dmv said...

You have to think of it more like heavy metal umlauts or something.Are you trying to make those of us who majored in Classics (Latin) weep for our beloved Latin?

Mr. Verb said...

Gee, sorry, no ... another failed joke. I actually really like Latin a lot, but figure you gotta take stuff like this cum grano salis sometimes.

Cassaday Rasmussen said...



John Cowan said...

Classicists always hate on post-1600 Latin.