History and Latin

England over the last 1000 years and more has experienced some of the most influential language and cultural changes. This most significant language is clearly recognisable to those having been taught Latin. Viewing English and Latin texts side by side, many words have clear Latin origins.

Latin is a language used today as part of church services including hymns.  Latin is still a major language in Roman Catholic Churches.

I was taught Latin at school in 1956 and beyond. Making an error could prove painful! In those days, pupils wondered why Latin was important as it was never spoken as a language such as French.

There is a humorous poem reflecting such thoughts. Indeed, when welcoming visitors to Winchester Cathedral’s Kings and Scribes Exhibition, many will have learned Latin and together we recite the following (not too loudly!)

‘Latin is a language,
As dead as dead can be,
It used to kill the Romans,
And now it’s killing me.’

Much gentle laughter, from those who know or not know Latin.

A word announcing a pause for example during stage plays and quite a few years ago, movies, is ‘intermission’. An example of its original use: ‘To pray without ceasing’ – ‘Orate sine intermissione’.

The language of monks in monasteries was Old Latin. ‘Vulgate Latin’.

In contrast to the more strict application of Latin, near Amsterdam’s Leidseplein, is an enormous Romanesque-style structure, complete with pillars, built a few decades ago with a delightfully humorous Latin inscription: ‘Homosapiens non urinat in ventum.’ Enhanced translation: ‘Humans should not urinate in the wind’! Another well-used word is alacrity, meaning briskness, cheerful readiness, originating from Latin: ‘alacer’.

Other much-used words originate from French; Rapport: Harmonious communication. Although not as visible as Latin and Norman French, is Greek.

The original texts of the New Testament were in Old Greek, translated into Vulgate Latin by St. Jerome circa  AD380. He was asked to go to the Holy Land by Pope Damascus to try and locate some of the early scriptures and stayed in a Bethlehem monastery. He also sought the Old Testament (The Torah); naturally in Hebrew. St. Jerome spoke Latin and Greek. He did not speak or read Hebrew. His prime mission was to translate the Greek and Hebrew texts into Vulgate Latin. He learned Hebrew with the help of some Jewish (Hebrew) citizens. He then invested over twenty years translating Hebrew and Greek into one language Vulgate Latin. Remarkable fellow. As it happens, he was the second most prolific writer after St. Augustine, who said if St. Jerome, ‘What Jerome is ignorant, no mortal has ever known.’

Returning to languages!

Paradigm originates from Greek – a change of approach to science or a particular subject. A ‘paradigm shift’ for example. Metaphor.

Britain is an island invaded on a number of occasions, so a few ‘foreign’ languages are evident, but not always recognized.

From 1066 the Norman Invasion and Norman  French.

Latin: (Roman occupation circa AD78 to departure in AD 400. Germanic era following departure of Romans.

Anglo-Saxon: Prior to the Norman conquest. ‘Old English’.

Danish occupation. There is little Danish to be found in English.  ‘By’   pronounced ‘boo’ – hence Grimsby and Tenby: ‘bee’ phonetically there are a few other words: goodby in English: ‘farewell’ (phonetic) in Danish.

Finally Normandy; William I -the language of ‘Court’ being Norman French.

King Alfred the Great (pictured above) and King William I had the greatest influence on the creation of England.

Winchester being the former capital of Alfred the Great) and former residence of Queen Emma who died in 1052, who was the great aunt of William the Conqueror. Her father was Richard I of Normandy.  She was married twice. Firstly King Aethelred and when he passed away, King Cnut. The only Queen to be Queen twice and the only Queen to have a mortuary chest in Winchester Cathedral. Her principal home being Winchester, where her residence still remains. She had two sons; Harthacnut and Edward the Confessor.

Today I had the honor of welcoming a direct descendant of Queen Emma. Over 95% of people have never heard of her. I guided him to the Kings and Scribes Exhibition and showed him details of her history and much to his surprise, her mortuary chest; the only Queen to have a mortuary chest in the Cathedral. He was really very emotional. I was sincerely honored.

Winchester has much to offer in the way of history. I adore the City’s historic significance and close proximity to the most glorious countryside; rivers, hills, moorland, and water meadows.

Many people from around the world, including those visiting via cruise liners.

Certainly worthy of a visit.


Simon Lever
Simon Lever
Prior to his retirement, Simon engaged in software and services sector search and recruitment for American companies around Europe. He has retained the enjoyment of engaging with people from other countries and cultures. His energies are now directed towards voluntary community activities, journaling, and exhibition stewardship. He is a Featured Contributor for BizCatalyst 360°. As an Exhibition Steward, at the 1000-year-old Winchester Cathedral, he is responsible for guiding visitors from the world over, around the award-winning 'Kings and Scribes Exhibition', which includes the 900-year-old Winchester Bible. The exhibition introduces visitors to Winchester's historical significance as a former capital of England. Simon's journaling activities are published on BizCatalyst 360° and accompanying posts on LinkedIn, He acknowledges the inspiration afforded him by Carol Campos of Massachusetts: Life Strategist, Writer, and Intuitive Business Leader who introduced him to writing with feeling; from the heart. Simon's forté is creative writing; the accent on the natural environment, transforming feelings, emotions, sights, sounds, and scents of Mother Nature's landscape; hills and rivers and woodland into words, transporting the reader to the locations. Essays include accounts of his life in former days. Instinctively writing in such a spontaneous manner, descriptions become life-like. His often emotionally charged writing, whether describing a surreal 'Son et Lumière' at the Grand Place in Brussels to experiences acquired during European business travel. Journaling and Exhibition Steward activities are his key sources of inspiration and creativity. Kindness is ever more important, where he is a promoter of Shelly Elsliger PPCC's 'Decide to be Kind' Campaign. Simon champions Positivity, Empathy, and Kindness and has been described as a 'Beacon of Positivity'.

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  1. For generations children in my school learned of the Second Punic War and the holy chickens. Unfortunately, the teacher never really focused on that this was the mother of all Roman languages – English included. I guess to a teacher of Latin that went without saying, but to young students who had yet to have any introduction to the term “Roman languages” and to whom English was more connected with Saturday evening crime shows on TV than with the country itself, it might have been a nice way to convince us to study it more diligently.

    I learned a similar term to the one you mention ‘Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit.” but otherwise Danish folk tradition is filled with pig-Latinish nonsense including in songs from the middle ages where the lay people made fun of the clergy by adding made up words to their ballads.

    As for your statement that there is little Danish to be found in English, I think the linguists have determined that half your language is old Norse to the point where they discuss whether English is really a Roman language after all. Or perhaps half the language is and the other half is not? As we all know, thanks to Susan Rooks, English has many words for the same thing, so it could just be that there are many parents and because Latin was the more written parent and people are very respectful of men of God, focus was on the classics, not the lay spoken language?