Killing It

Whom we decide to murder is, luckily, mostly up to us. Simply connect a Latin prefix of your choice with the Latin four-banger of -cide, a suffix with a license to kill.

Feeling fond of warmer weather during the colder months? Murdering your brother might kindle passion’s proper flame. The first round of the ninth layer of hell is, according to an Italian eye-witness account in the early 14th Century, inhabited by the perpetrator of the world’s first slay, Cain, and subsequently the first fratricide. The Latin prefix frater(brother) joins hands of red deed with -cide in order to fell our brothers. But what about putting a sharp one through your sister? For this, there’s sororicide. This word stems from the Latin soror (sister), likely best recognized through the common university campus clubs called sororities, which institutions also serve as a kind of murder of a young woman. The eight-hour flight just started, the headphones just went kaput, and the baby is right on time with its piercing cries. Infanticide is the killing of infants, a task of unmatched physical ease—David Lynch’s Eraserhead shows one how simple it can be. Or, if offing the baby is not in the offing, then perhaps logic better supports the offing of oneself, namely through suicide, a word stemming from the Latin sui (of oneself). Matricide is the whacking of one’s mother, patricide the same for one’s father—I didn’t say off. For otherwise lesser spendthrifts amongst this exceedingly humble readership, a two-for-one scenario exists in parricide: the killing of one’s parents. Or, perhaps you are one for sticking it to The Man. The French and the Russians, amongst many other highly civilized animals, are rather fond of it: regicide, the murder of a king (or ruler), has been a crowd favorite for some time. The acting party most oft sees it, however, as tyrannicide: the killing of a tyrant. Simply getting your hands dirty without a specific target will likewise put a few hairs on your chest. Homicide (Latin homo [man/human]) will get the task done on the cheap. For a real deal, however, it’s best to buy in bulk. Genocide (Latin genus) is the killing of a race or kind. Or, if you are particularly fond of tragedy on a scale hitherto unforeseen, you might fancy menticide: the systematic undermining of a person’s values and beliefs through brainwashing or torture, a weak attempt at which may be easily imbibed with the viewing of the latest Batman film. 

True humanists are a rare breed nowadays, but they nevertheless roam packless across this planet as God’s lonely children. No problem, though. There is plenty of stuff for you to kill, too. There’s pesticide for pests, insecticide for insects (often pests), herbicide for weeds (unfortunately nothing yet for potheads), bactericide for bacteria, fungicide for fungus, and vermicide for worms. 

Fun with Animals

Comparing human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities, defined broadly as anthropomorphism, is an innate, highly entertaining tendency of human psychology. 

The human-to-animal route is a particular favorite of humanity’s, as well as an age-old practice. The English language comes complete with an eloquent system of Classical metaphors that, in order to connote specific meanings, compares animals’ physical appearances, actions, and intentions with those of humans’, and, in this way, exaggerates those same traits, such that they become more obvious, stronger, funnier. 

Likening your fellow Man to an animal can, however, sometimes possess the propensity to be rather smashmouth football. Calling someone an ape can quickly get you into a spot of bother. To suggest doing something doggy style might also provoke a stiff reaction. Therefore, seek the friendship of understatement. And nothing says understatement quicker than scientific writing. 

By its very nature of attempting to remain detached and objective, scientific writing has a built-in understatement monitor, the literary result of which is often ironic. Scientific words are often so nebulous in meaning that they feel almost ghost-like; therefore, scientific words are essentially invisible to the weal public, so one may use them flagrantly, disparaging, and with minimal fear.

A stand-up, modern gentleman’s work-around for rendering the blunter admission of “ape” might be found in the adjective simian. For comparison to another, slightly more dignified knuckle-dragger, consider ursine: like a bear. For sheeple who follow as the flock, ovine might be the bellwether. Whenever some swine’s eating like a pig, tut-tut him for his porcine ways; and, if he drinks tea directly out of the whistling kettle, his ways are more saurian, as lizards find the heat preferable and are known for things burnt and tonguey. Elected above the normal system of life, often a clever representation of tragedy, and in possession of possible psychic abilities? Try corvine. If she’s got a neck, she’s struthious. If Ulysses’s Buck Mulligan would say that she “bucks like a goat,” she’s probably redheaded, and you can also call her hircine. Someone who’s either lupine or vulpine might blow your house down, and these evil predators are often cloaked in ovine attire. His aqua-based partner in crime is the shark, which is described by the adjective selachian. “Silly goose” feeling a bit tired? Call that foolish, helpless, loveable lummox anserine. That’ll cook your goose. In English literature, the description of ugly, demonic protectors of treasures that sometimes symbolize fertility belongs to toads, or bufoniform creatures. Everyone knows a cockroach when she sees one; the good for nothing, unwanted, dirty pests, otherwise knowns neighbors, resemble something blattoid. Satan himself couldn’t escape the biting description of ophidian: an evil, poisonous, backstabbing, lying trickster with a penchant for deceit. Neither could Gríma Wormtongue give the raspberry to his parallel with the vermiform and therefore death. But, now I’m just peacocking, which is quite a pavonine thing to do.

Now for the elephant in the room. For an extensive analysis on comparing humans to animals, do consider forgoing the extra stop by the vegan restaurant tonight in favor of purchasing Ward Farnsworth’s much more enjoyable Classical English Metaphor. The book’s built like an ox.  

Rest your Case

Most would concur that the English language possess but three cases: subjective, objective, and possessive. Though popular today, misinformation should be distrusted. In this case, folly reigns supreme as chief grammatical practice, and the progressive education model continues not only to dilate its pockets with the coin of the dunderheaded, but also relies on teachers of foreign languages to teach English case.

English, however, retains the Latin cases. 

Nominative: the naming case. Most readily known as the subjective case. The nominative case identifies the subject of a sentence (The soldier fainted during the ceremony) as well as any pronouns or adjectives in that sentence grammatically related to that same subject (The tall soldier, who fainted at the ceremony, he…). 

Vocative: the calling case. Though similar in appearance to the nominative, the vocative case, as Kingsley Amis writes in his style guide, The King’s English, is “used when addressing or invoking some person or abstraction.” Hamlet has the abstraction bit down: “Frailty, thy name is woman.” Or, for more everyday sort of talk: “It’s been nice talking with you, Jim.” Hamlet could have eased things up with a simple “women are frail” and “Jim” could have stopped with “you,” but that wouldn’t have called them out.

Accusative: the picking-out case. Here, the nouns and accompanied verbiage therein form what’s commonly understood as the direct object, the object of a sentence at which the subject aims with a transitive verb (King Henry VIII beheaded Sir Thomas Moore…Jane threw the ball).

Dative: the giving case. “Corresponding with to or for,” the dative expresses recipience. In “Jane threw Jack the ball,” Jack is in the dative case, as he is the recipient of this highly sought-after ball. This means the same thing as “Jane threw the ball to Jack,” except that “to Jack” is not in the dative, but rather a part of a prepositional phrase, which means that we’re now also sans indirect object.

Genitive, the ownership or source case, corresponding with of or from. Many will recognize the possessive’s apostrophe-s form: “the gods’/god’s ambrosia,” as stand-in for “the ambrosia of the gods/god.”

Ablative, the case that corresponds to source or cause. We often see this in the passive voice: “The pugilist’s insides were explored by his opponent.” Or, “The waltz came from Austria.” 

In addition to honest, stand-up instructional failure, English’s absence of inflection is likely partly to blame for the general notion of English’s contemporary existence as merely a tenuously linked series of case-less, primordial grunts.  

An inflection is a change in the form of a word to denote tense, mood, person, number, case, and/or gender. This is clearer in other languages such as German or French, whose word-endings alter to denote what English does invisibly. Declensions and conjugations are two examples, or in this case, case.

A List of Latin Lingo

I never reached great heights in middle-school Latin class. In fact, I distinctly recall, after achieving my latest D test-grade, whereon, for one verb conjugation question, I scrawled “slipknot,” and, from there—much to the delight of my classmates—growled the word in my best devil voice during said test, my teacher’s telling me to clean out the wastebaskets after class, during which he asked if I were soon prepared to take it up as a career. I remember leaving generally unimpressed. 

I never became a garbageman, but I have been taking out the trash recently as regards some common contemporary Latin phrases. 

It should be noted that this is an ad hoc listing of Latin loan-phrases that endeavors not to go on ad infinitum, rather to cover specifically only some of the higher frequency contemporary phrases until the much more realistic ad nauseam

A fortiori: translated literally as “from the stronger.” This is used to refer to a preference for a stronger conclusion to an argument, for which a weaker conclusion previously prevailed.

A Posteriori: “from the latter.” Related to or derived by reasoning from known or observed facts. The Latin prefix “post” here refers to “after” observation, during which the gleaned data may be deduced.

A Priori: “from the former.” This is a posteriori’s antithesis. It is related to or derived by reasoning from self-evident propositions and theoretical deduction, or prior to empirical observation. 

But, should you really want a bona fide win in the debate, use Ad Hominem: “to the man.” This phrase denotes a marked denigration of an opponent’s character, rather than answer rationally the conundrum present or the issues raised. This is the favored contemporary model towards understanding.

To admit Mea culpa, “through my fault,” would be to admit personal fault or error, and thus to be somewhat honorable. Don’t expect to see as much of this as of the abovementioned. Here we also see the origins of the common English word culpability

An Alter Ego is a “second I,” which also a nice pun. This refers to a trusted friend, personal representative, or, as is today’s most common usage: the opposite side of a personality, which one assumes to be much like a trusted friend or personal representative. 

Caveat emptor means “buyer beware.” The onus is on the buyer. This also displays modern English’s caveat, which is often misused as “twist.”

There’s nothing to seize with Carpe diem, its literal translation being that of “pluck the day.” Enjoy the pleasures and opportunities the day brings without concern for the future, some day. Cliches completely prevent me from doing so, I retort pluckily. Don’t worry. I took care of this one for the public pro bono. You can get me later with a pint. Let’s call it a quid pro quo.

Not much for murdered bodies myself, I like using Corpus delicti or the “body of the crime” metaphorically. In either case, this phrase refers to the substantial groundwork of necessary facts required to prove that a crime has been committed. Any skilled linguists reading this whose modus operandi it is to report on the magnum opus of lesser beings, if you should not want to change your wayward modus vivendi, then consider this artifact as merely the Pons asinorum, literally “the asses’ bridge.” 

Most prospective employers require a curriculum vitae from their applicants. I’ve always found this a bit much to ask for: a “course of one’s life.” But it’s interesting how so many applicants get by with merely a short summary of one’s education, career experience, and relevant qualifications. It is, however, apparently a sine qua non, and done de jure.

Something can also be done de facto or “from that fact,” which means something akin to “there ain’t no name for it, but this is how it really goes.” Or ex post facto, meaning something done after the fact or in the aftermath of something, or “whoops.”

And here are a few of my least favorite things:

i.e.: “id est”; that is or namely 

e.g.: “exempli gratia”; for example 

q.v.: “quod vide”; which see

cf.: “conferatur”; confer; compare

etc.: “et cetera”; and so on

CV: “curriculum vitae”; boring paperwork 

I have a very special hatred in my heart for Latin abbreviations. This has less to do with their being Latin and more to do with their being abbreviations. But, since they are both, my prejudice knows no bounds. No one uses Latin correctly. And no one abbreviates correctly. Put the two together and you’ve something really quite special. 

This was either unhelpfully interesting or vice versa. But it was only pro temporeTempus Fugit, no?