You can, if you know that millennium comes from two Latin words-- mille
(thousand) and annus (year) --so it has two l’s and two n’s. It is just
one of many English words that owe their existence to this ancient language.
Although English is considered a Germanic language, we would truly be at
a loss for words without Latin derivatives. From abacus and absurd
to zephyr and zone, our “living” language owes a great debt to their “dead”
language. In addition, whenever a new word is needed, Latin is still sufficiently
alive to provide a treasure trove of possibilities.
Studying the language of the Romans means learning about your own language,
glimpsing the thought processes of another people, acquiring an insight
into the nuances of language in general, and gaining the discipline of
saying exactly what you mean and meaning exactly what you say.
It is, moreover, not just in the area of language that the Romans have
given us a rich legacy. From architecture to literature, from engineering
to government, and beyond, their civilization left lasting imprints and
made important contributions. Not coincidentally, Latin was the language
of all instruction throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
You may know that Bernstein’s West Side Story was inspired by Shakespeare's
Romeo and Juliet, but did you know that Shakespeare based his play on Ovid’s
Pyramus and Thisbe?
Did you know that the Romans had to cope with such “modern” problems
as family planning, political corruption, over-extended spheres of interest
and military involvement, gangs, urban sprawl, class conflicts, and inflation?
Did you know that the standard distance between railroad tracks has
its origin in the width of the backsides of two Roman horses?
Did you know that Ag and Pb are the chemical symbols for silver and
lead because the Latin words are argentum and plumbum? If it were possible
to remove every trace of the Romans from contemporary life, we would find
ourselves in a much poorer, much narrower, and much less interesting world.
So on April 21st, the anniversary of the founding of ancient Rome, say
Salve, Gratias to a Roman!