On the Manifest Erudition of Ms. Sweet Brown

(Latin for Addicts recently celebrated its first birthday, so I thought I’d have some fun with this one.)

In a recent interview with KFOR News Channel 4, Ms. Sweet Brown suggested to a reporter that neither she nor anyone has the time in their lives to deal with the drastic inconvenience of developing bronchitis. Because her phrasing was fairly inconsistent with English prescriptivist snark, she received extended (and continued) mockery around the internet for her statement.

As Latinists, we ought to redeem Ms. Brown in light of her public shaming by demonstrating the extent to which her grammar is entirely acceptable in the Roman view. If we remind the present-day, pedantic peddlers of grammatical ‘rules’ that many such rules were founded on a failed attempt to create an English register which imitated the grammar of Latin, then they will be forced to admit that not only does Ms. Brown’s statement conform to this grammar, but also reaches the highest registers of Augustan verse poetry.

Let us review the statement.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udS-OcNtSWo

“I got bronchitis. Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

The first portion of Ms. Brown’s statement, ‘I got bronchitis,’ correctly expresses the passive role of a victim in the context of a disease. The proper phrase, ‘I caught bronchitis,’ uses an equally Germanic verb ‘catch,’ which effects a clumsy idiom, since none of us heads out with a net (or an open mouth) deliberately seeking disease. Instead, disease attacks us, and Ms. Brown has rightly made use of the passive ‘get,’ which we see holds a passive sense in the following exempla: ‘I got your letter.’ ‘I got gum on my shoe.’ ‘I got laid.’ Her phrase, ‘I got bronchitis,’ is nicely aligned with these counterparts, whereas ‘I caught the letter,’ ‘I caught gum on my shoe,’ and ‘I caught laid,’ all render various awkward images. It seems Ms. Brown was calling attention to the inappropriate nature of this ‘correct’ English idiom and substituting the more appropriate ‘got.’

The second portion of Ms. Brown’s statement, ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that,’ replicates the sort of double negation, internal elision and relative pronominal ellipsis achieved only in the highest register of Latin verse. Her phrase might be rendered thus in the Latin:

nōn nullō est tempus ad istum.

Why, we can even see that Ms. Brown’s statement could nicely produce a line of hexameter.

Bronchitatum tūlī. Nōn nullō tempus ad ist’ est.

—–

The woman is brilliant. Make no mistake. Below are the references in AG for double negatives, elision and ellipsis.

The Essential AG: 326a, 612, 640

Advertisements

Answering Double Questions

To review, a double question offers a defined range of options, of which one is the true or most likely answer. Since I imagine you’re pros a asking double questions by now, here’s a triple question.

He asks whether the axes are Caesar’s or Cicero’s or Cato’s: quaesit an Caesāris an Cicerōnis an Catōnis secūrēs sunt.

To answer double or triple questions, the respondent had best echo the grammar of the question.

The are Cato’s: Catōnis [sunt].

Here’s another:

Did you see the boar itself, or merely smell its stench: vidistīne verrem ipsum an mōdō eius afflātum olfēcistī?

I just caught a whiff: mōdō olfēcī.

The Essential AG: 337

Distinguishing Double Questions

A&G have a note that carefully differentiates the double questions from a similar alternative—questions featuring the particles aut or vel / -ve. Let’s look at this distinction.

  • I ask whether he acted unjustly or dishonestly: quaerō num iniūstē aut improbē fēcerit.
  • I ask whether he acted unjustly or dishonestly: quaerō utrum iniūstē an improbē fēcerit. 

In the first question, there are two options on the table, neither of which are necessarily true. It may be that he acted neither unjustly nor dishonestly. In the double question (the second example), it is clear that he either acted unjustly or dishonestly. We have to pick one.

I don’t really like A&G’s example, so here’s another:

  • I ask whether she likes cats or dogs: quaerō num felēs aut canēs amet.
  • I ask whether she like cats or dogs: quaerō utrum felēs an canēs amet.

In the first of these two questions, we know nothing about this girl. We’re merely curious about whether she like animals. We might expect our respondent to say something such as, ‘no, she likes birds.’ In the second example, we asking whether she’s a cat-person or a dog-person, assuming she’s either one of the other.

(For cat-person Latinists, see the Bestiaria Latina Blog.)

These two types of questions are identical in written English, and differentiable only in stress pattern. In the first question, we would stress ‘ask.’ In the second question, we would stress ‘cats’ and ‘dogs.’

The Essential A&G: 335n.

Double Questions

Double Questions, AKA Alternative Questions, are yes-no inquiries, or more broadly, questions with a defined set of responses.

  • How many jelly beans are on the table? (Question)
  • Did you see him at the pool hall? (Double Question)
  • Did you see Juan, Julio or Fernando in the pool hall? (Double Question)

In English, we design double questions with the auxiliary ‘do/did/have + past participle,’ but in Latin, we design double questions with a pair of interrogative particles.

  • Utrum or -ne will stand in the first-word position (-ne is an enclitic ending for the first word)
  • An, anne (or) will stand in the second-word position
  • Annōn or necne (or not) will stand in the final-word position

Some examples:

  • Is it that you don’t know, if turtles can fly: utrum nescīs, an testūdinēs volāre possint? 
  • Did you desert Lucius Domitius, or did Domitius desert you: vōsne L. Domitium an vōs Domitius deseruit?
  • Shall I speak with Gabinius, or Pompey or both: Gabīniō dīcam anne Pompeiō an utrīque?
  • I ask, are these your words or not: quaerō, sint haec tua verba necne?

Note that in the third example, we see anne, which is actually quite rare. In the fourth, we see necne within an indirect question, where is it far more common than in a direct question. Also, note that the third and fourth questions feature an omission of the first of two particles, which is a fairly common omission.

Where an stands alone in the first position, we get a jolt of indignation or surprise:

  • Are you getting your hair dyed or not: an comās tingis annōn?!

The Essential A&G: 335

Accusative Case-Ending -im

Certain nouns in Latin have an i-stem, such as puppis, -is (ship). However, following the consonant declension, these generally take an accusative stem –em (puppem), not –im.

This post covers exceptions to that rule, by listing all cases where –im is retained

1. Greek nouns borrowed from the Greek third declension (consonant declension) with an i-stem.

  • Paris -> Parim
  • Adōnis -> Adōnim
  • Busīris -> Busīrim

2. The following Latin nouns:

  • amussis, -is (rule)
  • būris, -is (plough-beam)
  • cucumis, -is (cucumber)
  • rāvis, -is (??)
  • sitis, -is (thirst)
  • tussis, -is (cough)
  • vīs, -ī (force, power)

[n.b. on rāvis, -is…. I can’t find this in any online dictionary. Any clues?]

3. Adverbs in –tim, such as partim (in parts)

The –im ending is also found occasionally in the following words–

  • febris, -is (fever)
  • puppis, -is (ship)
  • restis, -is (cord)
  • turris, -is (tower)
  • secūris, -is (axe)
  • sēmentis, -is (sowing)

“and rarely in many other words,” say A&G. Damn poets…

The Essential AG: 75a-b

Alternative and Archaic Quī and Quis

The relative and interrogative pronouns (quī, quae, quod) and (quis? quod?) are originally of the same root, so their older forms overlap in many places. The majority of this post will cover features of Latin you might only live to see once, or never.

  • The archaic genitive singular of this root is quōius, and the archaic dative singular, quoi.
  • The form quī is alternative of the ablative in all genders, though most often appears as an adverb (quī, how, in what way, inanway–using the same semantic field as the Greek ὅπῃ), or as quīcum, with whom? However, there are more general instances, even in classical Latin, for instance:

Which chest did the spears pierce: quī pectōre tela / transmittant (Lucan, Bellum Civile 7)

  • The archaic nominative plural, quēs, is only found in early Latin, though the archaic dative/ablative plural quīs is found in classical poetry.

The Essential AG: 150

Declension of Relative Pronouns

The relative pronoun is used within a complex sentence to refer to some antecedent in an earlier clause. In Latin, the relative pronoun is decline, and should fit syntactically with its own clause, rather than the case of its antecedent. For instance:

  • These are not the Droids you’re looking for: haec Droidēs nōn sunt quae quaesis.

The antecedent (nominative) does not align with the relative pronoun (accusative). Also, note how easily Latin shifts and embeds a relative clause:

  • These are not the Droids you’re looking for: quae quaesis haec Droidēs nōn sunt.
  • These are not the Droids you’re looking for: haec Droidēs quae quaesis nōn sunt.

These are both acceptable (albeit irregular/poetic) alternatives to the sentence above.

The relatives are declined as follows–

Picture 1

The Essential AG: 147