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Redneck Latin (A South Mississippi Refesher Course)

A prominent member of the House Intelligence Committee recently said that the focus of the current impeachment inquiry into President Trump needs to shift away from the use of “quid pro quo” to describe Trump’s alleged behavior because “it’s probably best not to use Latin to explain it.”

Well, excuse me.

The implication is that those of us among the hoi polloi (Greek word meaning “the common people,” the great unwashed), not to be confused with “hotty toddy,” aren’t smart enough to unpack some nickel and dime Latin phrase.

This statement also strikes me as somewhat elitist and indicative of the growing divide between the red and the blue.

Such statements smack of the increasing disconnect between the “patricians” inside the beltway and we “plebeians” in the provinces.  Since Latin was the language of the late, great Roman Empire, it also brings to mind those naysayers who see in our charged political discourse evidence of the same malignant conditions that brought Rome to its knees: an empire too diverse to govern, military setbacks, government corruption, rotten from within, class warfare, and runaway debt.

Not to mention an economy built on slavery.

Around AD 100, the Roman satirical poet, Juvenal, also accused his fellow citizens of only being interested in “bread and circuses.”

You can decide for yourself if any of these condemnations are relevant to the United States in the 21st century.

For the record, quid pro quo, or literally, something for something, tit for tat, “one hand washes another,” etc., was originally a medical term, where it meant substituting one medicine for another.

In medieval times, if the apothecary could not provide the medicine a person needed, they might get a substitute – a quid pro quo.

Personally, I’ve always preferred the offhand explanation offered by the late Democratic senator from South Carolina, Strom Thurmond, who famously said: “To get along, you have to go along.”

Speaking of “AD,” so many people think that it means “after death,” referring, of course, to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Actually, it means anno domini, or “in the year of our Lord.” As far as that goes, up until the 6th century AD, our calendar was based on the founding of Rome in 753 BC.

In 525, a fellow by the name of Dionysius Exiguus re-jiggered the calendar to standardize the date of Easter. A mistake in his calculations ended up with Jesus being born in 3 BC which, of course, is a long, complicated story.


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