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:
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."
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!