Latin is Medieval, Right?

A friend of mine brought this to my attention, and it’s vaguely medieval, if you squint real hard and don’t look at it directly.

It seems that the U.S. Senate is striking a great blow for irony with S.R. 458, a resolution “affirming that statements of national unity, including the National Anthem, should be recited or sung in English.” The resolution itself reads like a high school history report on national symbols–Francis Scott Key’s anthem was in English, and so was General George Washington’s first Oath of Allegiance, and so and and so on. But the best bit is this clause:

“Whereas the original national motto of the United States, `E Pluribus Unum’, meaning `from many, one’, signifies the coming together of people from many foreign countries to form one Nation, was incorporated into the Great Seal of the United States in 1776, is printed on currency of the United States, and inscribed on the wall of the Senate chamber.”

When contrasted against the final conclusion:

Resolved, That the Senate affirms that statements or songs that symbolize the unity of the Nation, including the National Anthem, the Oath of Allegiance sworn by new United States citizens, and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States, should be recited or sung in English, the common language of the United States.

Logically, this means one of three things. Either,

1) The motto, E Pluribus Unum, is not a statement that symbolizes the unity of the Nation, or
2) E Pluribus Unum is actually English, or
3) They think it’s OK to write on the money in Latin, but you must read your dollar bills aloud in English.

I told some students about this earlier tonight, and they pointed out that Spanish–and let’s be clear, this is all about singing the national anthem in Spanish and not some hypothetical Swahili version of America the Beautiful–is a lot closer to Latin than English is, being a Romance or Latinate language. A Spanish speaker might be able to puzzle through E Pluribus Unum a lot quicker than the unilingual English speaker.

And might I add, the Star Spangled Banner is not sung in the English spoken in America. When was the last time you said, o’er or ’tis?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Voix

    Once again demonstrating the intellectual standards that we’ve arrived at in this country. Go USA.

  • petescully

    Good post, very good.

  • Spikeula

    Just keep it up and somebody is going to get Latin on your ass!

  • Aine Bina

    Very fun blog. I’m considering pursuing a graduate degree in Medieval history sometime in the future, though I’m leaning more towards Celtic Studies. Let me know how the Medieval Lint paper turns out.

  • Glaukôpis

    Of course Latin is medieval! Well, medieval Latin is medieval anyway. ::rambles::

    But good point. Although, I suppose (if they had enough brains to make something resembling a logical argument), they would just say Latin is an exception because the Founders cared about it so much. But then they’d be in danger of having to allow French, and that would probably tick them off.

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