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To the editor ...

Is there some particular reason that Mr. Strakon quotes Latin without providing an immediate translation? I'm sure it's fun to show off that he's studied a language that 99 percent of people haven't, and if his purpose is to set himself off as an elite, he has succeeded gloriously. If, however, his purpose is to communicate, I would suggest a different strategy.

John A. deLaubenfels
June 14, 2004

Strakon replies

Mr. deLaubenfels demands an immediate rendering; it isn't enough that I provide one in the penultimate paragraph of my column. So much for the dramatic tension that wonderment sometimes evokes. Mr. deLaubenfels doesn't much care for murder mysteries, I suspect.

In any event, TLD isn't MTV. We're not for everyone, though I do think that my correspondent underestimates the proportion of our readership who have some acquaintance with Latin — at least with the common Latin tags. We live in a dark time, to be sure, but I don't believe it's 99 percent dark. Not quite yet.

Even if the tag I used should be one that a reader finds unfamiliar, and impossible to decipher from the context, I wonder whether it would be such a bad thing for him to stretch out his mental muscles and learn it. It may be only elitist propaganda, but I was taught that it was good to learn new things, including things about our civilization and language, and about their predecessors. And that it was good to teach them, as well. My purpose is to communicate, to be sure, but also to educate.

Speaking of elitism, it may interest my correspondent to know that, in terms of the minimal tools that an educated man must have at his command, I actually consider myself a quarter-educated barbarian at best. I have no Greek (there goes half), and I've forgotten at least half my Latin (there goes half the remainder).

And speaking of tools, I should alert Mr. deLaubenfels and other interested but puzzled readers to the existence of what is surely the most powerful and convenient tool that has ever existed for research and education. It's a Website called Google, and its URL is www.google.com. To look up a phrase such as "Puto deus fio," just enter it, complete with the quotation marks, in the search field and then hit the "Google Search" bar. I hope that's helpful. Vale!

Once more unto the breach

I am delighted to find that I have helped Mr. Strakon get something off his chest. Exactly what it was that was oppressing him is still not clear to me, yet somehow my three-sentence e-mail apparently stimulated vital juices which had lain dormant for months, at least judging by the last prior letter posted.

Thanks for the helpful URL to Google, Mr. Strakon! Without doubt, I could run to search engines to help decipher columns whose writers are too lazy, or too full of their own use of "dramatic tension," to make clear what it is they wish to communicate. I would rather spend my time reading authors who aren't into playing such games.

I should add that I have enjoyed many works by Mr. Strakon, and it is without question that my pet peeve may be mine alone. In any event, if Mr. Strakon wishes to employ an endless parade of quotes in Latin, Sanskrit, Klingon, or whatever, that is his privilege.

June 14, 2004

Strakon has the last word, as always

If Mr. deLaubenfels thinks I'm bad, I hope he never comes across a copy of Chronicles!

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