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Inspirational Reads

Friday Morning Latin Lesson, Vol. LII

December 10, 2009

We are hip-deep in the holiday season. For instance, tonight, at sundown, Hanukkah begins. My son is fascinated that one of his friends doesn't celebrate Christmas, but celebrates Hanukkah instead. It's his latest "thing". Tonight, he was telling us about the dreidil. He was also telling us about the symbol of Hanukkah, the manure-uh. And, yes, we did correct him on the pronunciation and only giggled a little.

We're also in the middle of the holiday special season. This means that we get one of two stories told over and over again. For one, some tragedy has occurred and now there's a chance Christmas won't happen at all (the Rudolph model). For the other, some cantankerous old asshole, hellbent on ruining everyone else's day, has a sudden change of heart because the spirit of the holiday is upon him (the Scrooge model). It's kind of like how every story is either a story about a war (the Iliad) or about coming home (the Odyssey), or some mixture of the two.

See what I did there? Yeah, I dragged this bitchfest right back to antiquity. Of course, the Iliad and the Odyssey were Greek, and not Roman. In case you were wondering (and I know that you weren't), the big Roman epic was the Aeneid.

I bring this all up because, well, we're in the Christmas season, and since the Romans didn't really celebrate Christmas, I had to do something to link the two. Well, maybe they did after Constantine had that whole "see the sign of Christ in the sun's rays" moment, but for more than a thousand years, I can guarantee there was no Christmas goose being carved up in Rome. So, essentially, I'm grasping at straws here in order to relate Christmas specials with our favorite dead language.

Despite this lack of Christmas celebrations, I'm here to tell you that the origins for both the Rudolph model and the Scrooge model of Christmas specials have Latin origins. It's true. Penned by the famed Roman poet, Doctore Seuss, everyone's favorite Christmas special actually has roots in Latin, and it is the perfect blend of both the tragic no Christmas model of holiday specials and the cantankerous old bastard's heart growing three times storyline:

Quomodo invidiosulus nomine Grinchus Christi natalem abrogaverit.

Pronounced: "Quo-moh-doh in-weed-ee-ose-you-loose noh-mee-nay Green-koose krist-ee nah-tah-lame ah-broh-gah-way-reet."

Nasty wasty translation in the hovertext.

Okay, so, maybe this wasn't written in ancient Rome. However, there is a book with that title, and it is full frontal awesome--which you should be able to tell just from the title alone. Don't believe me? Well, let's take a look, shall we:

Quomodo comes from combining quo and modo, meaning "in what way"
invidiosulus tags the diminutive ending -ulus, and translates as "the little envious one"
nomine you should know from church, but it comes from nomen "name" and is translated as "by name" (in church it's actually "in the name of"...those Romans with their interchangeable prepositions based on meaning...what a bunch of cards!)
Grinchus is the Latinized form of "Grinch"
Christi this is Latin for "of Christ", like how Corpus Christi means "body of Christ"
natalem means "birth"
abrogaverit is the subjunctive perfect tense of the verb abrogo (I abrogate or I annul or I recall or I deprive) and is translated as (for our purposes here) "may have taken away". (Indicative pluperfect might have been a better tense to use here, in case you're scoring along at home...which would have made it abrogaverat and would be translated as "had annulled or had abrogated").

Anyway, stringing all of that along, the literal translation is "In what fashion the little envious one, by name the Grinch, may have taken away the birth(day) of Christ". I don't know about you, but that (and a gallon of brandy-laced eggnog) sure puts me in the Christmas spirit!


Ed Adams said...

I'm sure I'm learning something here, but it must be through osmosis cause I don't feel anything. Plus, I suck at Math. And Speeling.

Jules said...

I'm teaching THIS lesson to Hubby immediately! I'm sure he can use it in his sales today at work somehow.

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

I should remember to wait until later in the day to read your post. I always stumble onto my blogger before 8 in the morning, and I stare at your words and I'm like, "What the fuck? Did I forget how to read?"

My comprehension skills are still sleeping.

Moooooog35 said... forgot the pictures of hot chicks in scant clothing.


the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

Who, damn. I shouldn't write these things at one o'clock in the morning. I tried to clean this up a little bit so that it made more sense, thus easing you into the whole "speaking a foreign language" thing.

Joshua said...

For some reason, this one made my head hurt.


Nej said...

Seems like allot of syllables to spit out, just to say How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Let me get another cup of coffee and try again. :-)

Travis said...

I'm with Moog.

However, that's not the only reason I read you.

I like the pictures of scantily clad women too.

Wait. What?

carissajaded said...

But now can you relate the Lifetime/ABC Family/Hallmark christmas special? I suppose you could argue that it falls into the
tragedy" realm of things, but it is so much more.

red said...

Everyone knows the big Roman epic was the Aeneid. I mean, duh!

Just Another Momma said...

Always entertaining!

Soda and Candy said...

Intellectualism AND Dr Seuss.


Heather said...

How cute that your son is interested in other ways to celebrate the holidays.

JenJen said...

I swear, Mjenks, I can't get through these without hurting my head.
Since...I don't really get it.

Come over and see me some time...

Jon said...

Manure-uh is infinitely funnier. That gets my official Jew stamp of approval.

JennyMac said...

you had me laughing at manure-ah...oh comedic.

adrienzgirl said...

My son's fascination with all things Jewish and Hanukkah had to do only with getting more presents. Have I mentioned how much I love children?

Yeah, didn't think so!

Eric said...

Speaking of Grinches, I just heard that damned Paul McCartney song again and he repeats 'the phrase' 12 times in the song. Perhaps a nod to the twelve days of Christmas? I don't #*$(@ care.

PS - Is the novel going to be ready for gift giving by this Christmas?

Lisa-tastrophies said...

BAH-HUMBUG!!! Yeah, my Christmas spirit went south about the 7th batch of cookies I had to make, 65 thousand Christmas cards I had to write, and the life time spent standing in the line at the post office only to have Ms. I Work For The Government And Will Be Going On My Break Right Now leave me standing high and dry with 12 packages to mail.

Del-V said...

That you Constantine! If it wasn't for him we wouldn't celebrate Christmas and we would be calling Istanbul, Byzantium.