How I Learned the Language of Ovid

by Erin on February 19, 2012

It was the first day of class. A new semester, a new subject. This time around it was Latin. I squirmed a bit in my seat, fiddled with my pen and resisted the urge to start doodling in my pristine notebook. When the professor stepped in the room I snapped to attention, and immediately stopped what I was doing to watch him intently. After all, he would be the master of my fate in this class for at least the next few months.

I observed that the prof was tall and lanky, with a full beard and ever so slighty unruly hair. He was clearly understated with his attire. Indeed, the professor’s entire demeanor was reserved and patrician. Very Roman. How oddly appropriate, I thought to myself. He carefully set down his battered and worn leather satchel, removed his tweed jacket (with leather at the elbows, no less), and organized his belongings on the desk. This ritual was conducted in complete silence. No one in the room uttered a single word.

He scrawled three words on the chalkboard, then stood right in front of what he had written, so that it was, from my vantage, obscured. Taking a deep breath, with a resonate voice he spoke the following words :

“weni widi wiki”

I think the entire class just burst out laughing on hearing this. We were all like, what was that? The collective, unspoken thought was something along the lines of : “Weni, widi, wiki? Don’t you mean veni vidi vici?” With a sly smile on his face, our professor explained that this was how the ancient Romans would have pronounced that famous line attributed to Julius Caesar. And if that weren’t enough, he called the great general “Yoolius Kaisar”.

It was a memorable way to start a class. I just knew I was going to like learning Latin. Even if meant yet another semester of conjugating verbs, memorizing obscure words, translating ridicuous sentences, and even reading Cicero. It would be worth it. After all, we would get to Ovid eventually.

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