Let’s get a little vulgar and wax lyrical but not with earwax please


Centurion (Photo credit: bomvu)

All our Latin teachers at school were weird. Very weird. There was the priest who kept smiling sweetly while saying “Eheu, eheu”. (Alas, alas!, or in a more modern translation, bummer!) This meant you were in trouble and were about to be caned. On the bum. Bummer! But the worst was a grumpy male lay teacher: he would sit at his desk, take his handkerchief out, twist it into an earbud and jab it into his ear, collecting wax samples, which he would then examine forensically. Sometimes he would take off his shoes and fiddle with his socks, but thankfully he never twisted them into earbuds. While all this was happening, some poor boy in the class had been asked to translate something from our text book. He would do so hesitantly, and there would be a long silence while the teacher excavated his ear canals and sometimes his nostrils too. Then out of the blue the teacher would pound the desk with his fists, roaring “No, you blithering idiot! You bloody fool!”. Sometimes he would even throw his shoe. The whole class jumped in fright. The teacher would look around for someone else to translate and we all bowed our heads, trying to hide behind the boy in front, praying, please Jesus, don’t let him pick (on) me. At least we said our prayers. This went on for 40 minutes until the bell rang. What a relief. To illustrate this post I could have chosen a picture of some earwax, or a smelly sock, or someone picking their nose, or a priest caning a boy but I opted instead for some Roman Centurion who seems to have clean ears and a ferocious roar. I hope you are grateful. But I will dig out some earwax and snot if you insist.

Anyway, the Romance languages that we are studying today are derived from Latin, or more specifically vulgar Latin (I can’t wait to get stuck into modern vulgar French, vulgar Portuguese etc etc). So as a way of revising the verbs to be and to have, and to refresh my memory of Latin, I thought I would look up those verbs in Latin and see which of My Five Romances is closest to it. I don’t have a Latin grammar text book, though, and thus am relying on websites, and I have found conflicting information. Some use accents on some Latin words (I don’t remember having to learn accents at school), and some give ille/illa and illos/illas  for he/she and they instead of is/ea and ei/ea, and so on. I suppose it depends on whether it is more formal written Latin or a vulgar variety. To save space I will drop the subject pronouns in the other languages since we have covered them previously. Remember the Portuguese second person plural verb endings are archaic and are no longer in spoken use, so I have put the third person plural endings in that slot instead.

The subject pronouns in Latin are: ego (I, that’s easy to remember, think of alter ego), tu (you singular), is/ea (he/she), nos (we), vos (you plural) and ei/eae (they).

To be goes like this:

In Latin (esse) :   ego sum;     tu es;     is/ea est;    nos sumus;   vos estis;    ei/eae sunt

French (être):            suis          es          est           sommes          êtes            sont

Portuguese (ser):      sou           és            é             somos             são            são Portuguese (estar):   estou       estás       está        estamos         estão         estão

Spanish (ser):           soy           eres         es            somos            sois           son 
Spanish (estar):       estoy        estás       está         estamos        estáis        están

Italian (essere):        sono         sei            è              siamo             siete          sono
Italian (stare):          sto            stai           sta           stiamo            state          stanno

Romanian (a fi):       sunt          eşti         este          suntem         sunteţi         sunt

Looking at this, I would say that in this instance French is the closest to Latin, perhaps followed by Romanian, while Italian, surprisingly, seems the most removed.

Let’s do the same with to have, but I will discard ter and tener in Portugese and Spanish and go with haver and haber:

In Latin (habere):    habeo   habes    habet   habemus   habetis   habent

French (avoir):           ai          as           a           avons       avez       ont

Portuguese (haver):  hei       hás        há        havemos       hão        hão

Spanish (haber):        he       has        ha         hemos        habéis      han 

Italian (avere):            ho,       hai        ha        abbiamo       avete     hanno

Romanian (a avea):  am         ai          are         avem          aveţi          au

With this verb it seems like Portuguese, Spanish and Italian are closest to the Latin equivalent, and that French and Romanian have dropped their haitches and drifted off together on a different path. But you might beg to differ.

For more comparisons of Romance languages you might like to look at the Navitlang.com website.

Must go. The bell has rung and the Latin lesson is over. It’s time for some physical education (a swim at the beach). See you next time, thanks for reading.

Cheers, Bernardo🙂

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