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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tinniat, tinniat, tintinnabulum!

I took four years of Latin in high school and loved it. Some of my best friends and memorable personalities in high school were in those classes -- plus a wonderfully cute teacher not much older than her students. Those who took Spanish or French instead might have found their studies enjoyable too, but Latin served me well. It is a very complicated language, and the experience that came from getting good at it built my confidence. Being able to understand how nearly every Indo-European language works has been very helpful in my business career; and in my frequent dealings with lawyers, I usually can figure out their catch-phrases.

This is the last week of public school before Christmas. It was a tradition at my high school that on these Fridays, the combined third-year and fourth-year Latin class sang Christmas songs in Latin for about 15 minutes -- loudly enough for hundreds of students down the hallway to hear them. No other class had this privilege. Those 15 minutes for two years were as much fun as anything else I did in high school, including watching the football team win two state championships.

Politically correct? Definitely not by today's standards, but in those days the separation of church and state was commonly warped into tacit endorsement of Christianity as the norm. In retrospect I see that our fun may have come at the expense of those who found the religiosity unwelcome. But not all the songs we sang were religious. The final one, with maximum gusto, was Jingle Bells. I found this snippet on YouTube. Her diction is perfect classical Latin (not ecclesiastical).

Follow along, the chorus goes:
Tinniat, tinniat, tintinnabulum!
Labimur in glacie post mulum curtum!
Tinniat, tinniat, tintinnabulum!
Labimur in glacie post mulum curtum!

I'll never forget those words.