The Weekly Winston: On Latin

I’ve been meaning to get around to some excerpts from Churchill’s charming autobiography My Early Life, but Power Line reader Bill Befort of Grand Rapids, Minnesota suggests this one, about Churchill’s less than fond relationship with Latin as a schoolboy:

I will here make some general observations about Latin which probably have their application to Greek as well.  In a sensible language like English important words are connected and related to one another by other little words.  The Romans in that stern antiquity considered such a method weak and unworthy.  Nothing would satisfy them but that the structure of every word should be reacted on by its neighbours in accordance with elaborate rules to meet the different conditions in which it might be used.  There is no doubt that this method both sounds and looks more impressive than our own.  The sentence fits together like a piece of polished machinery.  Every phrase can be tensely charged with meaning.  It must have been very laborious even if you were brought up to it; but no doubt it gave the Romans, and the Greeks too, a fine and easy way of establishing their posthumous fame.  They were the first comers in the fields of thought and literature.  When they arrived at fairly obvious reflections upon life and love, upon war, fate or manners, they coined them into the slogans or epigrams for which their language was so well adapted, and thus preserved the patent rights for all time.  Hence their reputation.  Nobody ever told me this at school.  I have thought it all out in later life.



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