Tag Archives: Latin

Lorum Ipsum Rocks!

6 Aug

There is a saying: quidquid latine dictum, altum videtur. “Anything said in Latin sounds profound.” Certainly it grabs my attention–even nonsense Latin, like lorum ipsum which is used as space filler. What is it about a dead language that draws you in?

My first exposure to Latin was in choir–there’s a LOT of sacred music that is only sung in “Church” Latin, since until Vatican II, that was how all Catholic services were done. As a singer, Latin is a lot easier to sing than in English. English is a Germanic language and has a lot of “sh” and “th” and hard “c’s” and your tongue has to work around that. Latin is the Romance language, and just like French, Spanish, and Italian, softer vowels are easier to sing.

Take this example — this is St. Louis Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. It looks like an office building in the middle of downtown, but it is covered in Latin phrases on the outside. It grabs your attention. I only noticed the diocese coat of arms 15 seconds after I tried translating the two phrases. The lower one is easy “Ecce Tabernaculum Dei” – Behold the tabernacle of God. The one above the door I had to run through a translator – “All nations will bow before thee, O Lord” – I could only catch “Omnes,” “Corum,” and “Domine.” Not bad for someone whose knowledge of Latin only comes from translations of choir music. 🙂

However, maybe it’s not just Latin? In the movie, the Matrix, the Merovingian says, “I love French… [rattles off some nonsense words], it’s like wiping your ass with silk, I love it.” German generally sounds aggressive. Personally, I love the sound of Dutch – I guess it’s because it’s German with softer vowels… LOTS of softer vowels. You never run into more double “a’s.”

It could just be an American thing — I know bits and pieces of ten different languages, but can only barely speak anything but my own. We don’t use multiple languages in regular daily conversation. (Unless you count Spanish signs.) So maybe the unknown is the appeal. I don’t know what the heck the words above me say… but I -want- to know. I wanted to know what Lorum Ipsum meant and was disappointed to find out they were just nonsense words.

What do you think? Is it just the sense of the unknown? Is it the formality of a dead language that you can’t hear that makes it sound profound? Let me know in the comments below!

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