Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Bath B4 Eating

Having had the privilege of a classical education at a selective grammar school, I am one of those unusual people who have fond memories of Latin classes. It is true that I have since forgotten much, which, in the big scheme of the language, probably doesn’t leave a lot. However, even now, I often find myself hovering in front of a Latin inscription on a tomb-stone or memorial, struggling to make some sense of it just for the fun of doing so. If the same had been written in English, then I might have simply cast a cursory glance and moved on.

Sad, as many may think me to be, I still treasure copies of Kennedy’s Revised Latin Primer and Wormald & Blandford’s Path to Latin, Vols. 1 & 2. Indeed, I have them beside me as I write. They are a little like a literary security blanket, forming a psychological link to those halcyon days of school life.

I was therefore delighted to come across an article in The Daily Telegraph News Review (Saturday, March 4th, 2006) entitled Rapping with Miss Ho-Jo. The reporter, Sam Leith, obviously had a similar scholastic background to my own. As a result, he managed to bring joyous memories flooding back as I read his article. The article is one of comparison between our experiences of learning Latin and the way it is currently being taught at an inner London comprehensive school.

The teacher, Miss Eugenie Howard-Johnston (hence Miss Ho-Jo) teaches a Latin class twice a week after school hours. The remarkable thing is that the class is voluntary and she gets a regular attendance of twenty seven pupils. Her skill is bringing Latin into the modern age. For example, she teaches the girls how to rap in Latin. How things change!

The piece which really brought my own experiences back to life was a reminder of the way to run through second-declension nouns without a moment’s thought: ‘Blumblumblibloblo, Blablablorumblisblis.’ Oh, the joys! (sic). Latin for me will always be the language which, to quote Horace, “delectando pariterque monendo,” delights while at the same time instructs.

What of the strange title to this piece? Well, that is a reference to the aforementioned text, Path to Latin which, in true schoolboy fashion, usually had the cover title doctored so that it read A Bath B4 Eating. Such little wits, weren’t we?

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