The verbal Jacobins are at it again. The town council of Bournemouth, Dorset, has banned the use of Latin words and phrases in official documents and communications. There is no talk yet of changing the town motto, Pulchritudo et salubritas. Latin, says the local politicos, is a dead language that few can understand. This monumental bit of historical and cultural revisionism has caught the ire of many who, rightly, see it as an attempt to modernize away British heritage. So blatant and absurd is the policy that even the Daily Mail, scarcely the paper read by Oxbridge Dons, is opposing the policy with the headline: Si fractum non sit, noli id reficere
In a staggeringly philistine move, the council has just listed 19 Latin terms it no longer considers acceptable for use, including five of the expressions I used in the opening paragraph (see if you can spot them). Come to think of it, they probably wouldn't be very keen on the word philistine either - it comes from a Latin word, philistinus, which refers to an ancient tribe in Israel, who were considered particularly primitive. Not nearly as primitive as the idiots of Bournemouth Council, though. Every single one of the 19 terms they have banned have become so embedded in our language that they have, quite literally, become English. Yes, you will find vice versa, ad lib and bona fide in a Latin dictionary, but you will also find them in an English dictionary. Banning them is the same as banning English words - because that is precisely what they are.I'm reminded of the Evelyn Waugh novel, Brideshead Revisited, where the main protagonist, Charles Ryder, reflects on the generation coming of age in 1945, in particular the hapless young Lt. Hooper.
Hooper was no romantic. He had not as a child ridden with Rupert's horse or sat among the camp fires at Xanthus-side; at the age when my eyes were dry to all save poetry - that stoic, redskin interlude which our schools introduce between the fast flowing tears of the child and the man - Hooper had wept often, but never for Henry's speech on St Crispin's day, nor for the epitaph at Thermopylae. The history they taught him had few battles in it but, instead, a profusion of detail about humane legislation and recent industrial change. Gallipoli, Balaclava, Quebec, Lepanto, Bannockburn, Roncevales, and Marathon - these, and the Battle in the West where Arthur fell, and a hundred such names whose trumpet-notes, even now in my sere and lawless state, called to me irresistibly across the intervening years with all the clarity and strength of boyhood, sounded in vain to Hooper.It isn't that the Hoopers are in control, their grandchildren are in control. This is a bleaker prospect still than the one Waugh faced. There may have been "few battles" in Hooper's education but he had some exposure to traditional pre-1960s culture. The Drones of Bournemouth have no such advantage, or restraint. The council of Tunbridge Wells recently suggested banning the use of the phrase "brainstorm" because it might be offensive to people with epilepsy. I suspect only those who also suffer from a severe bout of modern education would object.
Crossposted at The Gods of the Copybook Headings