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the ablative of sportsmanship

My high school science  class was taught by a joyless woman with short hair, glasses and beady eyes. We called her the mad scientist.   I postulated that a microbe had landed in her terrarium one day and went wild. And there she was. The final product.

I recall my sense of hopelessness in that class. I just had no idea what to do.  Latin grammar is for many of my students what earth science was for me. BORING. I warn them.


The brain starts to gel. You lose the first couple of sentences, and then suddenly you wake up to someone saying

But the passive infinitive endings in third conjugation “

Or maybe  “ So would this be the ablative of agent or the ablative of  instrument?”

You, dear reader, if Latin was never inflicted on you ( Did I  really just say that? Shame on me) are possibly wondering

What the hell is an ablative?”

Or  maybe, seeing the words conjugation and infinitive, you just skipped this whole paragraph. GET BACK HERE.  I promise that any grammar you read about here you can instantly forget.


See, in Latin, you can say things in pretty much any word order you want, and its going to mean the same thing all the time. Whereas, in English, if you take words John cooked Mary dinner and switch them around, maybe Mary is cooking dinner or the dinner cooked John.  However, because Latin puts a little code at the end of each word, the sentence will always be John cooked Mary dinner, even if the word order says  Mary dinner John cooked. The codes are called case endings, and ablative is the name of a case. There are lots of ablatives. Ablative of price, of time, accompaniment, means and instrument, comparison, agent, et cetera. WAKE UP.  Thank you. 

One day I presented the ablative of respect.  At that time, we had a school wide  character education project. Every month had a word for character:  integrity, honesty, compassion, loyalty, and so on.   When I came up with the ablative of respect, they just didn’t believe me. One girl gave a loud whoop of  laughter.

ABLATIVE OF RESPECT??   Whats next? The ablative of sportsmanship?”  (wait till she finds out about ethical datives)

Occasionally I say it out loud.

What do I do? I teach the grammatical complexities  of a language no one has spoken for several centuries.   So, what do you do?

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