Lost in Translation (from Latin)? | Christopher S. Morrissey | Catholic World Report
Pope Benedict XVI sent out his first tweet in Latin today. Lessons in Latin now follow.
The Pope finally sent out his first tweet in Latin from his Twitter account @Pontifex_ln on Sunday, January 20, 2013: “Unitati christifidelium integre studentes quid iubet Dominus? Orare semper, iustitiam factitare, amare probitatem, humiles Secum ambulare.”
The Pope immediately followed it up with translations into the languages of his other Twitter accounts. He translated the Latin via his English language account @Pontifex this way: “What does the Lord ask of us as we work for Christian unity? To pray constantly, do justice, love goodness, and walk humbly with Him.”
But the news service Reuters performed a valuable service by quoting the University of Cambridge scholar Tamer Nawar, who teased out a more nuanced translation of the Latin: “What does the Lord command to those wholly eager for the unity of those following Christ? To always pray, to continually do justice, to love uprightness, to walk humbly with Him.”
True, Nawar’s translation sounds more clunky in English than the Pope’s English tweet. But it certainly exhibits an appreciation of all the subtlety packed into the Latin tweet. For me, it demonstrates why knowledge of Latin is indispensable. Namely, that it can help one become attuned to subtleties and nuances of thought that would otherwise be missed.
Perhaps my favorite part of the Pope’s inaugural Latin tweet is his use of the verb “factitare” in relation to “justice”, since “factitare” has the connotation of “to make or do frequently; to be wont to make or do; to practice.”
Indeed, I’m very happy with the Pope’s first Latin tweet, but I was in a bit of a sour mood because of the press coverage leading up to it. That coverage had me wishing for the impossible, that the Pope’s first Latin tweet would be a sarcastic: “ROMANES EUNT DOMUS”.
If you don’t get the joke, then Google the phrase and watch Monty Python’s famous Latin lesson, in which a Roman soldier corrects the graffiti of an empire rebel.