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Wednesday Morning Latin Lesson?

February 12, 2014

I was planning on re-emerging from my bloggery hibernation period on Friday, which just so happens to coincide St. Valentine's Day with Friday, which is the traditional date of all things Latin Lesson-y.  However, a wrench has been thrown into my plans, so I decided to go ahead and post something today.  You're welcome.  My sudden popping out of the slumbering hole can be linked to the impending doom heralded by the slow, yet ferociously fierce arrival of Winter Storm Pax.

Wait just a minute.  Winter Storm...Pax?

A large, fierce system of moisture and air just cold enough to freeze water is moving across the southern plains of the United States right now, as we speak.  Er, type.  Er, read.  Whatever, you get the picture.  With said wintery system--which has been deemed to have the potential to be 'catastrophic' by CNN, among other major news outlets--forecasters have predicted dangerous conditions for travel as well as large swaths of the American Southeast to go dark from power outages.  There will be deaths on the roads from auto accidents and there will be deaths in peoples homes from carbon monoxide poisoning brought on by improper ventilation while running their generators.  There will be people getting frostbite and suffering from exposure, there will be people who are chilled in their homes without power, and there may even be heart attacks and strain injuries from shoveling snow.

All of this paints anything but a peaceful picture.

However, the braintrust over at the Weather Channel has dubbed this particular weather system "Pax."  In case you're unfamiliar with the fuckwittery that goes on at the Weather Channel, a couple of years ago they came up with the notion to name "winter storms" in the same way that we name hurricanes.  Granted, there was no rhyme or reason behind the method to their idiocy madness; anything that spits snow is a winter storm now.  Also, for some strange reason, they decided to pull a mixture of historic names and obscure mythological entities for their list of names; all of this had a heavy Greco-Roman bias to it--except for Orko.  We all know that Orko comes from He-Man and Eternia lore, not from some obscure Iberian weather deity that barely has a registry in the Encyclopedia of Mythology.

All this aside, for 'p' this year, they chose "Pax."

Pax, as you may have guessed from the title of the this blog entry (you're so clever, you), comes to us by way of Latin.  Pax is a third declension noun (you can tell by the -x on the end of the word), which means that it probably entered into Latin via Greek.  If you've attended a Catholic Mass, or you're familiar with hymns, you've come across pax or one of its other forms in the line dona nobis pacem, which means "grant us peace."

There are two other flavors of pax that have appeared in English over the years.  One of them is the phrase Pax Romana, which describes the roughly two hundred year period of peace within the Roman Empire after our boy Augustus took power and thus ended the Roman Republic.  Pax Romana brought peace and prosperity to the people of Rome, and for those two centuries--minus the end of Nero's reign which led to the Year of Four Emperors--Rome was basically without internal strife.  No civil wars, no great rebellions by conquered people, no piracy along the coasts or across the Mediterranean, just wonderful, blissful, ever-loving Roman peace.  Yes, there were still foreign wars, but the Empire had ceased its indefatigable expansion and now focused on protecting their borders and their people.  For a couple hundred years, it was good to be Roman.

The other flavor of pax that you might have encountered is Pax Christi, which means "the peace of Christ" and it has its origins in Pax  Pax Christi was an attempt in 1945 to help normalize relations between France and Germany after WWII.  The notion was that the two largely Christian nations should try to emulate the teachings of Christ so that they could work together moving forward and avoid these types of conflagrations again.  You know, war, invasion, death...those kind of things that Jesus was pretty much against.  From there, the notion that people live a peaceful life based on the teachings of Christ really took hold in the churches--both Catholic and Protestant--and so Pax Christi has become a thing where Christians attempt to better emulate the lessons Jesus passed along to his followers.  Novel concept, I know.

So, clearly, it makes sense that a dangerous, potentially 'catastrophic' winter storm would garner the name "Pax" as it leaves frozen roads, closed schools and businesses, wrecked cars, and dead bodies in its wake.  Way to pick 'em, Weather Channel!

For reference, other weather outlets such as NOAA have largely dismissed the notion of naming winter storms, describing the practice as silly and potentially dangerous.  This is pretty much just a Weather Channel thing, though the supplicants at Time Warner Cable (another group of people renowned for their brilliance) have thrown their support in with the Weather Channel.  I guess this means the practice won't go away anytime soon, no matter how many people make fun of them.  If so, I hope they think a couple of moments before grabbing any old Latin word out of the lexicon in order to name their storm.  Next time, might I suggest "Pugnax."


Todd Sweeney said...

Pax vobiscum

Wizard Cat said...

And also with you.

Pax appears all over the Latin Mass; I decided not to list them all because of the length of the post (TWSS?). I'm a little confused as to how it took 2000 years to get around to following the message, and even then we're still fighting and bickering with ourselves.

SkylersDad said...

A reading from the Gospel according to MJenks. Nice to see you out here again my friend!

Scope said...

She's straightening out my, "South Bend".

As an ex-pat Northerner, please try to use your winter smarts and avoid any of the behaviors that will lead to any of those death like conditions,.