BMCR 1995.02.13

1995.02.13, Also Seen

, , Dr. Seuss O, loca tu ibis : (oh, the places you'll go) : a beginning Latin reader and activity text. Portland, ME: J. Weston Walch, 1994. vii, 64 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 27 cm + 1 teacher guide (xi, 78 pages ; 28 cm). ISBN 9780825124570

“Imagine you are a reporter for The New York Times. On a separate sheet of paper, write in English in about one hundred words a book review of the best-seller, O, Loca Tu Ibis! Give your candid reaction to this book. State the reasons why you think this is a best-seller” (p. 49, Student’s Text). In his marvelous memoir Old Wine, New Bottles, Moses Hadas recalled visiting a school in the Bronx where a well-meaning teacher had founded a Latin club. The organization met in a room marked by a banner proclaiming Fustis Latinus. Hadas remembered feeling that no Latin at all was better than Latin like that. After opening Loca Tu Ibis, which arrived in today’s mail, I know what he meant. Whatever you do, don’t give this book to your students. Here is the sort of thing they will find attempting to pass as Latin:

“Today is your day.” Hodie est tuus dies.
“graduation speech” graduatio oratio
“while encouraging” dum cohortans
“as famous as possible” tam clarus quam possibilis
“with the whole world watching” cum toto mundo spectante

Lately, at the APA’s Presidential Forum in Atlanta and in the University of Pennsylvania’s working group on graduate education in classics, many hands have been wrung over the questions of what we ought to teach candidates for the Ph.D. and how we can do a better job of preparing them to teach in their turn. A letter accompanying Loca Tu Ibis suggests that a Latin teacher with a Ph.D. is responsible at least for overseeing this attempt at writing the language that many of us profess to teach. God help us all—we’ve been rearranging the deck chairs while beneath us icebergs grind away at the hull. Why might this be a best-seller? The impending collapse of Latinity might have something to do with it.