The View From Wisconsin

Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Fun with Words

The Latin language, despite being essentially dead, is an intriguing language to study. Even though it is the "parent" language of many modern languages (French, Spanish, Italian), it has also added to the dictionaries of other languages, including English.

Latin differs from English in two distinct ways: unlike English, which uses articles and modifiers to dictate "voice" (first person, second person, third person) and plurality (one person, more than one person), Latin changes the form of the word. For example: sum is the verb "I am", es is the verb "you are", and est is the verb "It is". Secondly, instead of using the Subject-Verb-Object method of sentence use, Latin uses (generally) the Subject-Object-Verb method. Latin linguists simply changed the ending form to nouns to indicate which was the subject, and which was the object. Manus manum lavat is an example of this: "One hand the other hand washes" (what we'd say as "One hand washes the other" in bloated English).

There are two Latin-based English words in particular that I'd like to highlight here: science and fidelity. Science is taken from the Latin word sciens - "to know". The word is actually a verb, whose common form is scio. Fidelity is taken from the Latin word fidelis - "faithful". The root of the word is actual fides, or "faith".

Nowadays, of course, the only people who use Latin on a regular basis are the members of the Catholic Church. Thus, the word fides is a very widely used term. In fact, the church is sometimes referred to as "The Faith". The phrase fidum amo would be translated to "I love the Faith."  The Latin word scio isn't used very often in conjunction with the word fides, of course - I mean, it's obvious if you "know the faith" or not - but it's not just for that reason.

See, the Latin alphabet is based on the Greek alphabet, and the actual letter used for the C sound in the word sciens is actually chi - a "ch" sound. And when it is combined with the letter S, it produces a sound like "sh" instead of how English speakers would pronounce it ("skuh" as in "school"). And, like most common Latin verbs, when using it in the third person the "o" is dropped and is replaced by the letter "t".

So, it is for this reason that you don't hear too many priests, bishops and other individuals within the Catholic church, when talking about an individual, mention fidum schit.

"I know, long buildup for a joke, but don't you feel smarter now?..."