A Foreign Tongue
by Eric Miller
friends bantered in the living languages of the
world, Roman Holliday was barely able to keep his
head above the waters of the dead sea of Latin.
been scammed, mon ami," the exchange student
from Aix-en Provence told him. "Latin is not
the only way, or even the best way, to get a
solid foundation in language. After all, as a
result of the Norman Invasion 750 years ago, half
of all English words are derived from French.
Moreover, a large number are cognates, meaning
they have the same spelling, but one is
pronounced with a French accent: like
perspiration versus 'purse-purr-assy-own'."
and physician friends of his parents told him
that whatever Latin he needed to know could be
learned in 30 minutes and printed on one wallet-sized
card. They told him that the myth of Latin's
importance had been perpetrated as a curse by
Witchia Hazelia, Caesar's nanny. It was then
that Roman knew that the curse had been put on
him, because that was his Latin teacher's name.
dreaded witch assigned him to be the master of
ceremonies at the annual Latin dinner, he did not
let her see him sweat. Being an Eagle Scout, he
knew what it meant to "Be Prepared,"
which he was when he welcomed the students. He
stood tall in a toga of supreme grandeur, holding
his scroll taut between two golden handles,
authentic touches that his aunt, a Broadway
Producer, sent from Wardrobe. Roman read and
spoke with confidence, eternally grateful that
his cousin Franco, aka Brother Jesterius at the
seminary, had translated his speech from English
to phonetic Latin. Witchia Hazelia sat in awe,
marveling at Roman's voice ringing with a
vocabulary so rich, so precise, and so idiomatic,
that she thought she was receiving a deliverance
from a Roman deity.
She could not
stop smiling at, and bragging to, the world about
his triumph. She greeted him every morning with
such joy and pride that his hardened image of her
began to soften; however, word travels fast in a
small town, as everyone knows someone. The winds
of gossip opened the box in which his secret lay,
carrying it in gusts, blasts, and swirls which
sang the lyrics from his hidden song to the world.
Hazelia's smile was gone, her glare was cutting,
and the grip of her hand clutching his throat was
tight. With her digitus medius fingerus firmly
placed between his eyes, she growled: "How
dare you!," to which Roman replied: "Magister
artis ingeniique largitor venter."
do you mean by that?," the evil witch
seemed like a good idea at the time," Roman
mess with me, kiddo," Witchia grumbled
with a guttural sound that only a devil could
make. "And for your information, Romanus
Wise Assius," she added, "the precise
meaning of the phrase you so smugly spoke is: 'Necessity
is the mother of all invention'."
he could fall on his sword, but he had already
returned it to his aunt.