Amo, Amas, Amat… and All That: How to Become a Latin Lover by Harry Mount
While I love all things ancient and Roman, and can have a go at translating easy bits of Latin, I can’t claim to be able to write it at all. I can hear you exclaiming, “But you have a Latin motto on your blog! What’s that all about then?” “Simples!” (as Alexandr Meerkat would say – sorry!) – Mottos just sound better in Latin. I did have a go at writing it myself with the aid of a quite scholarly grown-up teach yourself Latin book, (Learn Latin by Peter Jones). In the end though I needed help, and my colleague Dr Ridd from Abingdon School sorted my schoolgirl Latin out.
Then I was given this book for Christmas. It combines all the Latin grammar an amateur needs, with added bits about all things Latin and Roman. These include discussions on the famous Monty Python sketch in Life of Brian and Jeeves’ propensity to spout bits of Latin amongst other references. Also included is an etymological list of common Latin expressions in use in English today. All of this is written in a jocular fashion and is thoroughly entertaining. I’m sure a bit more of the language has sunk in. I’ve certainly got a new appreciation for many a Latin phrase, but also much English grammar along the way.
I also found out that the author despises the Cambridge Latin course – which was a rather touchy-feely way of teaching Latin introduced into schools in the 1970s (and still going). Of course that’s how I learned my Latin! About a third of the O-Level marks were for earned for spouting about ancient Roman life – which was fab, (although now you have an option to study an extra set text instead). Unfortunately with this scheme, you didn’t have to learn conjugations and declensions off by heart in the same way as in the trad approach, so while you could always translate the stems – despite a lot of it sinking in by osmosis, you didn’t always get the sense of the syntax/grammar properly. I still managed to get an ‘A’, but possibly because we had previously translated the ‘unseen’ Pliny passage in the exam for prep the month before, and I really did know my set text Virgil off by heart …
If you want to brush up your grammar and learn how to use Latin in everyday English, this book will be really useful in a fun way; as a Latin primer though, it’s far too much fun (but good for revision)! (7/10)
This post was republished into its original place in my blog’s timeline from my lost posts archive
Harry Mount, Amo Amas Amat (Short Books, 2008) pbk, 272 pages.