"Whatever happened to Latin? At least when
that made no sense, the church approved."
A special instance of Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness
and Altum Videtur
, and a perfect way to introduce that a character is not only smart, but refined, well- (formally) educated, and upper-class, even aristocratic
: have him be able to recite a Latin quotation eloquently or read the moribund language of the Romans as if it were his native tongue.
Supposedly, this demonstrates that the character is of magnified intelligence or at least education, because Smart People Know Latin. A reason for this is that Latin's remaining uses include an extended proportion of "intellectual" and "scholarly" applications, including but not limited to etymology, science, medicine, legal jargon, the arts, deciphering ancient texts, mere quotation, et cetera
. This inclination for intellectuals to comprehend Latin combines frequently
with Gratuitous Greek
, especially in science. While other modern languages may also have utility in these areas, their primary use - as living common languages for plebeians - obscures out alternative uses, so they are not considered as "scholarly."
This has a fundamental basis on Truth in Television
, as back during the Renaissance when classical Greek and Roman texts were rediscovered by Europeans, the ability to translate the original literature was considered a necessity. Even earlier during the Medieval Era, most literate Europeans were members of the clergy or nobles who were educated via clerical universities that preserved Latin as the legitimate ecclesiastical language, and ergo, had Latin as a Lingua Franca that neglects nationality. Given the above, Latin became the primary language of scholarship, and literature on science, the arts and such subjects of intellectual material were often inscribed in Latin. This is one of the reasons science's opted language for terminologies (especially in taxonomy) is Latin (combined with Gratuitous Greek
). The norm only received reduction during the 19th century, with the scientific and industrial domination of the British Empire (but the English vocabulary still imitated multiple Latin and Greek words, mostly through French and said scientific revolution).
Further, knowledge of Latin (and to a lesser extent, Greek) was a sign of an elevated education as supplied by the British school system. Like the Medieval nobility, only the wealthy could acquire an education that included instruction in Latin, thus amplifying the modern connotation of class, education, how Smart People Know Latin
and how Smart People Speak The Queens English
. Also, education in Latin in the present has been connected to better linguistic ability and examination scores (probably due to recognizing the etymologies behind the jargon), and it is infrequent for inept students to take Latin except when it's a requirement. And you know how many superior schools and universities have Pretentious Latin Mottoes
In modern works, knowledge of Latin will often be a part of Instant Cultured
if a character is subject to Screw Learning, I Have Phlebotinum!
. Expect a newly intelligent character to suddenly be able to read Latin fluently, or at least ramble off the Latin roots of a word.
Of course, use of Dog Latin
, or worse, Pig Latin
betrays a classical sort of Delusions of Eloquence
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Anime and Manga
- In one issue of The Avengers, Hank McCoy (The Beast) converses with a Roman Catholic nun in Latin.
- Astérix, which takes place around 50 BC when Latin was a living language, always show the Romans speaking the same language as the Gauls. Except that whenever a group of Roman legionnaires are speaking, then one of them will likely be qouting something in Latin. Often to the frustration of the other legionnaires since it usually happen in a situation too serious for that - for example while running from the invincible Gauls.
- One of the pirates whose ship the Gauls wreck Once per Episode also has a tendency to offer pithy quotes in Latin when they're all floating on a raft.
- Batman knows Latin.
- Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. They trade all sorts of learned quotations, but Latin is part of the deal. The last time he proposes marriage to her (in Gaudy Night), he does so in Latin while wearing his cap and gown (he took a First at Balliol). She accepts in the same language: "Placet." Lat. One of his frequent terms of endearment for her is "domina" (a feminine form of "dominus" "master") meaning "lady" or "mistress".
- The ''Aubrey Maturin series, this is invoked in universe. Stephen Maturin is a physician that speaks Latin (along with a half a dozen other languages) and he will often use Latin around patients both to keep them from knowing what he is saying (when he is talking to another physician or an assistant who also speaks Latin) and because patients are reassured by the fact that their doctor is learned enough to speak Latin. The crews of the ships he serves on often brag that their ship has a real physician that speaks Latin and Greek.
- Note that these were the times when surgeons and physicians were two radically different occupations, surgeons being little more than half-literate artisans who could let the blood, put on the leeches, extract the tooth or perform a field amputation. Having a real trained doctor on the ship (which was required to have a surgeon, not a physician) was a rare luck indeed.
- Vlad Tepes and Elizabeth Bathory are apparently writing to each other in Latin in Count and Countess.
- Parodied in a FoxTrot strip where Jason says that his new year's resolution is to speak entirely in Latin. He recites common-knowledge Latin phrases such as "a priori", "quid pro quo", etc. just to annoy his sister, Paige.
- In Fallout New Vegas your player can use Latin phrases in certain trees provided their intelligence is 8 out of 10 or higher. The lower ranks of Caesar's Legion seem only to know "vale" and "ave", while a centurion POW you meet seems to be fluent.
- Doctus from Xenosaga.
- In the first Broken Sword game, George reveals that he knows enough Latin to give rough translations of the various Latin sentences that crop up. He blames this knowledge on having studied law.
- Phase (Ayla Goodkind) of the Whateley Universe reads Latin, ancient Greek, and Middle English, all part of his classism and upper-upper-class upbringing in private schools. He also speaks several modern languages, and is a snob about it.
- Despite otherwise being an evil overlord manipulating events from the shadows, Coil from Worm averts this by not knowing Latin when it comes up in Prey 14.9. This is lampshaded by the person talking, since she's using it to pass a message along to a powerful enemy of Coil's. Had he known it, he'd have realized Skitter was in danger and that a very dangerous piece of information was just given to the person who least needed to know it.
- Vatican City, home of the Catholic Church, has no official language, yet theological writings are first written in Latin before other translations. Also, one can still find a Mass where most of the liturgy is still spoken completely in Latin.
- There are countries where Latin and ancient Greek are still taught in school.
- The non-english nomenclauture of anatomy, the "Terminologia Anatomica" is in latin (and is taught at medical universities in non-english speaking countries). It can be found here. Medicine itself is filled with Latin terminology, and generally, the language of medicine in non-english speaking countries is still latin.
- In seminary (studying to be a priest), learning Koine Greek or Hebrew is usually compulsory, so that one can read The Bible in its original language.
- Mensa, the high IQ society, has a Latin name. "Mensa" means "table" in latin, signifying the coming together of equals.