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A dirty word by any other name…

For years I’ve been asked to teach  some dirty words in Latin (although not by the administration), and for years I said I didn’t know any.  I didn’t.  You know where I finally learned them? Latin  poetry.  A college Latin poetry class. And  more in a graduate poetry class.  And it was pretty filthy stuff, too.  I was so excited, I came to class the next day and announced, “I learned some dirty words.”

Notebooks were whipped out at the speed of light.

Scortillum. The little  whorelet.  Lentulus, the little pimp (pimplet).”

I managed to work in a little grammar lesson on diminutives. Never know when the opportunity will arise.  Then I  gave them the dirty stuff.  Or what they thought was the dirty stuff. Had them out there calling each other “gravy boats.”

They haven’t totally figured out yet a word is not foul in itself, but is offensive because of what we associate with it.  Otherwise its just a collection of syllables.

Two Israeli boys taught me some profanity in Hebrew.  I realized just how bad it was from the look of horror on their faces when I pronounced it correctly. They had just taught a teacher something really nasty and it was disturbing to hear her say it. To me, the words were just random sounds.   One day I had a study hall and two  other boys were talking in Hebrew in the back of the room. I understood nothing until I  suddenly I heard my newly acquired vocabulary .

“Hey, hey, keep it clean!”  Their shock  was extremely gratifying.  But to this day I still don’t know what it means.

2 responses to “A dirty word by any other name…

  1. I like teaching my students how to curse when we are reading Shakespeare. The insults are so colorful!

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