A very welcome e-mail on the ARLT web site

Ennius amicis in Anglia s.p.d

Hodie cognovi situm vestrum.

Vobis gratulor ob magnum laborem
pro lingua latina.

Quamquam tiro sum, doceo linguam latinam, quam valde amo.

Valete, amici!

From Enio Jose Toniolo, Universidade Estadual Paulista (Brazil)

Did you hear Pliny the Elder? You still can!

Wozallthis, then?

I missed this on March 8th. It appeared in the Guardian. Can anyone explain?


In a speech to the AUT's annual media shindig, Paul Mackney,
capo of the other lecturers' union, Natfhe, pays an oblique compliment to the
education secretary. “Ruth Kelly is rumoured to dream in Latin – which is fine by us,
especially if it reduces the Greek influence from Downing Street.”
Andrew Adonis will just have to write out his instructions in the ancient Roman tongue.

Prize for Barbara (Minimus) Bell – euge!

From today's Guardian
'Notebook' column

· A small but significant announcement from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority this week.
Latin and Classical Greek have received a minor boost through changes to the exam board OCR's
GCSE and A-level syllabuses. Students will have to learn less vocabulary and shorter set texts.
And more good news on the same front. Barbara Bell, classics teacher at Clifton high school in Bristol
and the creator of the popular Minimus textbooks, which provide an introduction to Latin
for 7- to 13-year-olds, is the first winner of the Classical Association's new annual prize
for “the individual who has done the most to promote the study of language, literature and
civilisation of Ancient Greece and Rome”. The £5,000 prize will be awarded to Bell on April 1
at the association's annual conference at the University of Reading. The prize – to be awarded
annually – has been made possible by a donation by Sir Jeremy Morse,
former chancellor of Bristol University. Lingua Latina mirabilis est! (Latin is so cool…)

Berlitz in Latin? Not quite, but it's fun all the same

Jennifer Judge, who is head of world languages at Garfield School, Seattle,
registered with the ARLT site today welcome, Jen! I find that she runs a jolly web site with useful as well as entertaining
links. Here are two of her entertaining links:

First, Latin for travellers is

. It has sections on travel, shopping and dining, basic words, numbers, directions, places, times and dates.

Then, weather maps in Latin

See the rest of Jennifer's site

Help save Classics at Codsall!

Our very good friend Lynda Goss needs our support.

(See Lynda's article on the ARLT web site on teaching Latin in a broom cupboard.
This e-mail arrived in my in-box this morning and I pass it on for your immediate action, please.

The new Head has decided to axe classics from the curriculum at Codsall after July,
with only Y11 and Y13 continuing their courses until May 2006.

The school has a shortfall of £263,000 which can be met largely by “natural” staff departures.
The loss of classics for 2005-6 will save just £7,000 approximately. It seems likely, therefore,
that the decision is less to do with cash than with the extinction of Latin and Class. Civ.

Both subjects are currently taught at A level , a rare occurrence today in a comprehensive school.
Exam. results and commitment to the subjects, even to degree level, have been consistently excellent.

I would encourage you to express your concerns to:

Mrs M. Tunnicliffe, Codsall Community High School, Elliotts, Lane, Codsall, Wolverhampton WV8 1PG

The thought of her inbox and desk awash with messages of support for classics is a very pleasant one!

Many of you have other contacts who would be keen to protect our subject.

Please circulate this information to as. many as possible.

Thanks. Lynda Tel: 01543 578916

This might help if you want to post neat on-line quizzes

A site called Hot Potatoes provides some easy-to-use software that
makes professional-looking multi-choice and other quizzes. The snag is that “it is free of charge for those working
for publicly-funded non-profit-making educational institutions,
who make their pages available on the web. Other users must pay for a licence.”

And the licence costs $120.

So, if you teach in a state school you might like to investigate. Otherwise, you can get the script for a simple
quiz here.

Philip Howard is on good Classical form in The Times

I am proud of having once got the excellent Philip Howard to give a lecture to an ARLT Summer School. He is a staunch, erudite and witty supporter of the Classics, and his piece on the downsizing of the Mars bar factory in Slough contains this fine survey of names from Greek and Roman mythology used in marketing today.

March 18, 2005

Heroes of myth live on at the sweet shop

By Philip Howard

The Mars bar is a classic confection, and that name, reflecting the god of war, the month of March and the red planet, exposes the deep roots of classical civilisation in the English psyche.

In astrological superstition, Mars is associated with combative, aggressive or masculine qualities. Mars is associated with the Greek marnamai, I fight, and the Latin mas, masculine, virility (hence our English “masculine”). The Sanskrit root means “striker”.

Educationists and politicians can try to chuck Latin out of the curriculum like a sweety wrapper, but it always comes back in unexpected places.

Classical names are popular with advertisers, even though they may not always get them right. Ajax, Atlas, Hercules, Jupiter and Vulcan are used to sell products they would not recognise. Only Mercury, the chameleon trickster, would recognise the god of war in a bar of toffee-chocolate. And he would, as often in the Babel of trade names, get it wrong.

In fact the popular bar is a family name. Forrest Mars was an American confectionery manufacturer. After a quarrel with his father, he came to Slough in the 1930s to set up his own company. The same man’s name lies behind the coloured chocolate buttons marketed as M&Ms, standing for “Mars and Mars”.

Celestial and classical association is strong in the company. Its other chocolate bars include Milky Way (formed when Hera, in a bate, tore her teat from the mouth of the baby Heracles, whom she was suckling). And Marathon. Somebody in the marketing department read classics.

Mars is in good company at the corner shop. Nike, as in the sports gear marked with a tick, was the goddess of victory. Ajax, the lavatory cleaner, must be, in part, a reference to the Greek hero of the Trojan War, who went round the bend when Achilles’ armour was awarded to Ulysses rather than to him. In his madness, Ajax was said to have slaughtered whole flocks of sheep in the Greek commissariat, mistaking them for Trojans: “Do you see me, the bold, the valiant, the one who was fearless in deadly war, and now formidable to tame and trusting beasts? What mockery! What shame!”

I hope that there is also an Elizabethan pun on A Jakes (a loo) in the trade name of the useful powder.

Flora was the ancient Italian nymph Chloris. She was loved by the West Wind, Zephyrus. At his kiss she was transformed into the goddess Flora, and breathed out flowers that spread over all the earth, just as the cold earth in spring is warmed by the gentle West Wind into blossoming. Botticelli depicts Ovid’s myth in his Primavera, with Chloris fading in Zephyrus’ grasp, and becoming the radiant, queenly Flora. Now she is transformed into the soft margarine Flora; margarine is the Greek for “made of pearl”, because of the pearly nature of the crystals or scales in margaric acid.

Ambrosia (tinned rice pudding) was the improbable food of Mars, Flora and the other gods and goddesses, who were more accustomed to barbecued beef entrails.

Marathon choc bars suggest staying power. I don’t believe it. Milo, the Nestlé milk drink, is named for the strong athlete who supported the roof of a collapsing building in which Pythagoras was teaching, enabling the proto-mathematician to escape.

Pan books are for the part-man part-goat god of shepherds and flocks. Cerebos salt looks from the Greek words as though it stands for a “bull of wax”. Better to take it for Ceres, the Greek goddess of agriculture (as in cereal), plus the Latin for ox (as in Bo-vril, ox-virility). Though the first half echoes cerebrum, brain, and the -os is Latin for bone. Cerebos salt was invented in 1894 by George Weddell, who wanted something to strengthen his young daughter’s teeth and bones. The advertising jingle went: “Ceres is Greek for the goddess of grain,/ Cerebrum stands for the best of the brain,/ Bos is an ox, and Os is the bone —/ A rare combination, as critics will own.”

Simon Jenkins in the Times with a back-handed puff for Latin

If you take the following sentences alone, you will think that Simon J is attacking Latin. In fact they are part of an article furiously attacking the decision of OCR to reduce the syllabus of Latin and Greek at GCSE:

'I studied classics to A level. I found them enjoyable, irrelevant and a dreadful cost to my wider education, which I have struggled to rectify ever since.'

You will find the article here, available for a few days. After that you will have to pay to read it. It is a bit of knockabout journalism by someone who doesn't have to make policy or take responsibility for decisions, so just enjoy it. SJ does not mention that this move by OCR is a response to AQA's dropping of Latin and Greek, which effectively made it impossible for state schools to enter candidates for these languages. AQA had the pared-down syllabus which state schools found possible to teach, and OCR was favoured by independent schools as being more demanding.

Let me quote SJ's closing paragraphs. At least his 'irrelevant' Classics A levels seem to have fitted him to write entertaingly.

“These regulators are like Great War generals, swilling port in the château far from the trenches, sharing jokes with their staff officers and watching figures on maps. They lead not by inspiration but by numbers. How many gerunds did we send over the top today? Were they fully supported by past participles? Let’s switch a hundred irregular verbs to the vocative and shoot all ablative absolutes on sight. The Latins and Greeks are weakening. Cut their numbers to give them room for manoeuvre.

“This is how standards decline. Why learn 470 Latin words if Ms Kelly will make Oxford admit you with just 450? Why read Greek literature when the Government will give you an A* for learning 365 words? Why bother to be an inspiring teacher, when Ms Kelly pays you only to count words and tick boxes? Why throw your heart and soul into running a school when higher authority has no trust in your professionalism? Come to that, why be a teacher at all when idiots like this are in charge?”

20 minutes all in Latin on the BBC – report in today's Times

March 20, 2005


Audio ergo sum
By Paul Donovan

Si hunc libellum latine scriberem, quot lectores intellegerent? Which is how Vatican Radio, or Finnish Radio’s Friday-night news bulletin, might put it.

If this document were written in Latin, how many readers would understand it? Very few, I am sure. But, nil desperandum. Radio 3, the home of classical music, is doing its bit to rehouse classical studies.

On Saturday, at 10.40pm, it will broadcast 20 minutes with all the speech in Latin — extracts from Pliny’s Natural History, from dolphins and frogs to elephants, vultures, owls and cuckoos. The only translation for listeners will be specially composed and appropriately timed music (wet fingers on glass to accompany the description of whales, an Indian banjo for the crabs, and so on), juxtaposed with animal recordings from the BBC’s Natural History unit. There will be no English in the programme at all: for that, and more information about the author, who died observing the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD, you need to visit the website of the weekly series Between the Ears. As far as I can tell, this is, apart from language lessons, the first national radio programme based on speech that contains not a word of English. It is a tribute to Radio 3’s imagination and the persistence of Kate McAll, its producer. When she first proposed it, she got a rejection note back from her bosses that read: “Wonderful, mad, expensive. No.”

Dr Peter Jones of Newcastle University, the Spectator columnist and probably Britain’s best-known classicist, advised the two actors we shall hear on the correct Latin pronunciation. “I do think radio has a responsibility to produce slightly potty ideas to see how they run,” he says, “and to engage in occasional experiments that television, dominated by visuals, tends to resile from.

“In this particular programme, the listener is encouraged to make a connection between Latin and English partly through onomatopoeic music and partly through the choice of the Latin. Pliny’s ‘maximum est elephans’, for example, you might realise means ‘the elephant is the biggest creature’. These are connections that even the most illatinate can get.”

Professor Brian Sparkes, a retired archeologist and now president of the Classical Association, also approves: “I expect some listeners will say ‘What’s this funny language we’re listening to?’ And I wonder how much help Radio Times will give it. But there’s more Latin around than you might think.

It has been reintroduced into several primary schools, and about 3,000 people are studying Latin or Roman civilisation with the Open University. But the way it is taught has changed, with less emphasis on declining verbs and more emphasis on actually speaking it. It is taught as a language that can be spoken. So radio, where, obviously, you can hear it spoken, has a real role to play.”

Astonishingly detailed descriptions of bees, cuttlefish and nightingales made nearly 2,000 years ago; clips from the world’s biggest wildlife archive; original music with conch and drum and many other instruments. If ever a programme cried out for a daytime repeat, this is it. But Roger Wright, imperator of Radio 3, will probably agree to that only if enough people ask him. Carpe diem.