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Volumes of help offered to Latin lovers


By Philip Pullella

Vatican City - The Vatican's Latin lovers - that is, those who love the language - are issuing a new dictionary on how to say contemporary words like doping, FBI and videophone the way Julius Caesar might have.

It may never become a "liber maxime divenditus" - a best seller - if only for the steep cost of €100 (about R900).

But the release of the book this week is one of those esoteric, niche events that has put talk in literary circles into overdrive. Or as the language of ancient Rome would put it, "instrumentum velocitati multiplicandae".

The Italian-Latin dictionary, called Lexicon Recentis Latinitas was put together to join two earlier volumes, A-L and M-Z, which had been released in past years but sold out.

It offers students of Latin, still the Catholic Church's official language, a way of speaking or writing about things that did not exist when ancient Rome ruled the world.

So, FBI is "officium foederatum vestigatorium" and Interpol is "publicae securitatis custos internationalis".

Television correspondents embedded with United States military in Iraq might be amused to know that they had filed stories via a "telephonium albo televisifico coniunctum", or videotelephone.

Sports fans can learn how to say doping in Latin, "usus agonisticus medicamenti stupecfactivi", and commuters are advised that "tempus maximae frequentiae" means rush hour.

Father Reginald Foster, who translates Pope John Paul's documents from Latin to English, says such dictionaries may be fun and useful but much more is needed to revive the language.

"What we really need is more training in Latin," said Foster, a leading Latin professor.

"But maybe these things will help increase interest in the language because there are a million things that did not exist then, especially the political jargon," he said.

Foster offers the Latin version of a phrase that came into the news after the dictionary was printed: US President George Bush's "road map" for Middle East peace.

He would write it as "tabella viarum ad pacem" or "tablet of the road for peace". That road will likely be a long one. Even a "puer explorator" - boy scout - knows that.


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