Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ablative Of Insert Blank

Latin is funny sometimes.

It has the distinct advantage of being a dead language (high school students take note -- no verbal requirements!). The age old schoolboy ditty runs: Latin is a dead language / as dead as it can be / First it killed the Romans / and now it's killing me!

Second year Latin is nothing more or less than reading Ceasar. Veni, vidi, vici, etc. Do you know what dear General Julius spent all his time actually doing? Killing people. It's a living, I guess. As a funny consequence, Latin has as many verbs for killing people in interesting and gruesome ways as the proverbial Inuits have words for snow.

Latin also requires that you conjugate verbs and decline nouns, which is a fancy way of saying your grammar has to match in case, number, and gender. After the obvious noun-verb-pronoun thing, Latin also sports the "everything else case" which is called ablative.
The Latin ablative case (ablativus) has at least fifteen documented uses; although some classicists[who?] have stated that there are additional unique uses. Generalizing their function, however, ablatives modify or limit nouns by ideas of where (place), when (time), how (manner), etc. Hence, the case is sometimes also called the adverbial case; this can be quite literal, as phrases in the ablative can be translated as adverbs. E.g. magnā (cum) celeritāte, literally "with great speed", may also be translated "very quickly."
In practice it is used with prepositional phrases, but covers all other contingencies. These contingencies have some funny names like:
  • Ablative of Place
  • Ablative of Separation
  • Ablative of Instrument
  • Ablative of Manner
  • Ablative of Time
  • Ablative of Absolute
  • Ablative of Attendant Circumstances
  • Ablative of Accompaniment
  • Ablative of Personal Agent
I was sure that my high school Latin teacher was making this stuff up. She was one of those crazy cat ladies, so we were convinced her grasp on reality was a bit slippery. It was memorable, however. So what do you get when you combine the bloodlust of Ceasar with the love of made up grammar rules? Ablatives of insert-blank: when in doubt, throw in an ablative of make-something-up and 5 out of 6 times you were right! Some of these ablatives she swore were true made me suspicious, however; see for yourself.
  • Ablative of Disembowling (With a Rusty Implement)
  • Ablative of Taking Someone's Head Off With A Pike
  • Ablative of a Slow and Agonizing Death
  • Ablative of 5-to-10 Years With Time Off For Good Behavior
  • Ablative of Destruction
  • Ablative of Being a Demi-god
  • Ablative of the Stink of Blood
  • Ablative of Taking Someone Else's Woman
  • Ablative of Going To War
  • Ablative of Possession Is Nine Tenths of the Law
So, hey, if you're ever stuck on what to do in life, remember this: implement your ablative.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My favorite (aside from the ablative of disembowelment with a rusty implement; classic!) was one I ran across in a Latin short story: the ablative of Immolation in a Wicker Basket.



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