Limbaugh, F-Bombs and the Classics

From a teacher in Kentucky, here’s (for me) mixed perspective on classical education. On the one hand, Cothran offers a fair analysis of the faults present within Limbaugh’s rant on classical education. The passage he quotes (and I trust him to quote correctly) is frightening. Not only does Limbaugh begin in ignorance, but he ends in censure — as if one followed the other.

Cothran does well to point to other faults in Limbaugh’s argument, and composes his own defense of classical education.

He has an odd position : ‘classical studies is a natural ally to conservatism.’ I disagree. Wouldn’t its methods of reasoning aid both sides? Weren’t there liberals and conservatives in the ancient world?

But–don’t let me hold you back.

Here’s a conservative classicist defending his lifestyle. Take a look!

And here’s a (cheeky) liberal alternative.

Plural Defective Nouns

Nouns with Plural Defects

Unicase Plural Defective Nouns

A normal noun declines into twelve cases, six in each number. With certain nouns, less than all 12 cases are used by ancient Latin authors.

The following nouns are regular, yet never appear in the genitive plural in any extant Latin text.

Third Declension : Feminine

  • calx, calcis : chalk; limestone; heel
  • cōs, cōtis : whetstone
  • crux, crucis : cross
  • fax, facis : torch; comet; cause of ruin
  • faex, faecis : brine; dregs
  • lanx, lancis : dish; platter; plate
  • lūx, lūcis : light
  • nex, necis : death; slaughter
  • pāx, pācis : peace
  • pix, picis: pitch; tar

Third Declension Masculine

  • rōs, rōris : dew, moisture
  • sāl, sālis : salt; wit
  • sōl, sōlis : sun
  • vas, vadis : bail; surety

Third Declension Neuter

  • cor, cordis : heart; mind;soul
  • ōs, ōris : mouth; face; speech; opening
  • os, ossis : bone

Tricase Plural Defective Nouns

The following nouns are regular, yet never appear in the genitive, dative or ablative plural in any extant Latin text.

Second Declension Neuter

  • hordeum, hordeī or ordeum, ordeī : barley

Thid Declension Neuter

  • fel, fellis : gall; bile; gall bladder; poison; venom
  • far, farris : grits
  • iūs, iūris : law; right; duty; gravy; sauce; broth
  • mel, mellis : honey, sweet one (term of endearment)
  • murmur, murmuris : murmur; rushing; crash
  • pūs, pūris : pus; foul matter
  • rūs, rūris : countryside; farm; village
  • tūs, tūris or thūs, thūris : incense

Fifth Declension Plural Defects

“Most nouns of the fifth declension want the whole or part of the plural” (AG 103.3)

The Essential AG: 103 g 1-2

Famous Phrase : amor et melle et felle est fecundissimus (love is most rich in honey and gall)

[Plautus, Cistellaria]



Yes and No Questions

Summary of -ne, Nōnne and Num

Origin of -ne

ne began with the force of nōnne (v.i.), expecting a yes response, but later “the negative force was lost and -ne was used merely to express a question” (AG, 332c N1)

Summary of Use

The enclitic -ne is attached to the emphatic word of a question, making the question a yes-no proposition.

When nōnne appears (viz. nōn ne), the force of the question expects a yes response

When the particle num appears, the force of the question expects a no response

Basic Uses


  • Did she fear that: eane id veritus est?
  • Does she seem to fear death or pain: ea mortemne vedētur aut dolōrem timēre?


  • Do you no observe: nōnne anamadvertis?


  • Is there any doubt: num dubium est?

Advanced Notes on -ne

Occasionally, yes-no propositions are given without –ne

These are often ironic questions

  • Do you not feel that your schemes are revealed: patēre tua cōnsilia nōn sentīs?

Often, when –ne is attached directed to the verb, it shares the expectation of nōnne, a yes response

  • Do you not recall [what] I said in the Senate: meministīne mē in sentātū dicere?

ne may participate in double questions, where -ne…an should be translated as or

  • I ask whether slaves or free: quaerō servōsne an liberōs.

In poetry, -ne…-ne sometimes occurs, and should be translated whether…or.

The compounds anne…an and necne are rare alternatives

  • Shall I talk to Gabinius, or Pompey, or both: Gabīniō dīcam anne Pompeiō an utrīque?
  • Are these your words or not: sunt haec tua verba necne?

The enclitic –ne is scanned short in Latin poetry

The Essential AG: 332a-b

Famous Phrase: Num negāre audēs? Quid tacēs? (Do you dare deny it? Why are you silent?) [Cicero, In Catilinam, 1.4]