Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Latin, Swedish, Cornish

While I am on languages, I suppose I should cover these for the sake of completeness. There's not much to say about latin, except that I studied it and wrote it and translated it for more years than any Roman can ever have done. Poring over inky copies of Hillard & Botting's Elementary Latin Translation (never was the word 'elementary' less appropriately employed) and Kennedy's Shorter Latin Primer (always amended to 'Shorter Eating Primer). Caesar and Cicero and Pliny, the Punic Wars and the Conquest of Gaul. I hated every minute, and yet have a perverse fondness for it now, like rice pudding or matins.

A series of delightful au pairs left me with some useful phonetic swedish phrases. 'Gut nutt, sore got, vakna tot', for example, which meant 'Good night, sleep well, don't wet your bed'. The last bit must have been designed to wind me up, because I didn't have that problem. Honestly. And there was a satisfying sounding swear word, which sounded like 'Fy buskit!' I've no idea what it means, but I know I wasn't meant to hear it.

I met a Cornish Bard when I worked in Cornwall - one of a tiny handful of cornish speakers. He dressed up in druidic robes, but not in his day job with the council. His name was Dave.

The only cornish words I learnt were disparaging terms for tourists. People got so weary of the hordes of puddle-jumping cars clogging up the roads at Easter and in summer that residents wore stickers in the back windows of their cars which read, 'Non Emmet', which sounds more latin than cornish. An emmet is an ant, which is what tourists are called west of the Tamar. In Devon they are called 'grockles'.

Working in Cornwall was better than learning latin, but we worried about London and the rest of England, which seemed disadvantaged by being so out on a limb.

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