Seize the day

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Author Harry Mount begins his book with explanations of one of Angelina Jolie's tattoos, specifically one spelled out on her belly: Quod me nutrit me destruit.

It means "What nourishes me destroys me" — a curious little phrase to be permanently marked on one's person, but this book is so not about Angelina. Carpe Diem: Put a Little Latin in Your Life (Hyperion, 259 pages, $19.95) is a Latin primer for the layperson...

Carpe Diem

I have always regretted not taking Latin in school. Heck, I don' t even know that it was offered at my high school. I do know that it comes up more than I ever would have expected. We use Latin terms every day without always knowing exactly what they mean.

Etc., for example. We know instinctively what it means, but do we know literally that et cetera means "and the other things"?

I can say with all certainty that caveat emptor means "let the buyer beware." Yep, learned that one on an episode of "The Brady Bunch" back in the '70s — and never forgot it. Makes you wonder if more TV shows had used Latin, maybe we'd all be scholars. Hmmm....

But back to the book. Mount uses other pop culture references (David Beckham's tats, Monty Python's "The Life of Brian"), as well as actual historical ones, to make understanding Latin a lot easier. And the glossary at the end of the book is a handy guide for anyone interested in such things.

Ave atque vale.

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I have always thought of Latin as the Yiddish of the intelligentsia; for instance, as one who has been in "de valetudine mala" (in ill health) I constantly hope for "ad cenam voco" (an invitation for dinner), to which I rarely give "de modis negandi" (negative answers). It is cool to know and most people haven't a clue what the heck you are talking about.

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This page contains a single entry by Teresa Budasi published on December 4, 2007 6:57 AM.

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