Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Doing a Little Latin

Part of my problem in producing blog posts is my feeling that every post must be the definitive and exhaustive piece on whatever topic I've taken up. I always fear I'll leave out something important: some critical context omitted, some counterargument left unaddressed, some authority left unquoted. That's a lot of pressure to put on oneself!

It's foolish, too. Is it likely I'll be able to summarize a complex point of philosophy or theology in a thousand words? Maybe if I were St. Thomas I'd be able to, but, as you were probably already aware, I am not. Perhaps it's best to stick to smaller points and simpler questions. Perhaps it's not so bad to use a post simply to introduce a tidbit or nugget of interest. It's better to take small bites than to get too ambitious and end up choking.

As an example: do you know that we get an awful lot of words in English from Latin present participles? A participle is one of those -ing words: doing, eating, skipping, ignoring. A present participle is a word conveying the sense that the action is happening right--like "is happening." In Latin, present participles have an -ns ending in the nominative case, like "agens" for "doing," and that form changes slightly for other cases, e.g. "agentis" for the genitive case, "agenti" for the dative case, etc.. Say... "agentis" and "agenti" bear a striking resemblance to "agent," don't they? That's because that -nt- form for Latin participles is the great-great-great-etc. grandfather of a lot of English words. An "agent" is "someone doing something." A "docent" is "someone teaching something." A "patient" is "someone enduring something." A "postulant" is "something claiming/asking for something." See?

Come on, that's interesting! Right? Isn't it? I'm not the only one, am I?


  1. I assure you, Grandson - you aren't the only one who finds Latin roots interesting. (Perhaps you and I are the only pair of people who find it interesting though. chuckle).
    Keep up the fine work.
    Grandpa Jake

  2. It is most interesting! You are not alone. I enjoy reading your blog posts and encourage you not to be discouraged. God bless!