(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.
“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