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More Latin for Your English!

Latin is not just for the religious ceremonies. Latin is used in many movies and popular songs. In this July 2013 file photo, Pope Francis waves to people from his popemobile in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP PHOTO)
Latin is not just for the religious ceremonies. Latin is used in many movies and popular songs. In this July 2013 file photo, Pope Francis waves to people from his popemobile in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP PHOTO)
More Latin for Your English!
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From VOA Learning English, this is Words and Their Stories.

Today we continue our discussion of common Latin words and expressions in American English.

This is not an impromptu discussion. We have been planning it for weeks. In contrast, impromptu means you do something without preparing ahead of time.

Here’s another example. Let’s say you recently graduated from college and moved to New York City for your first job. Then one day you run into a group of your college friends in Times Square. You and your friends have an impromptu reunion. You didn’t plan it. It just happened.

You and your friends are very happy to see each other. You talk about what you are doing now. But soon you start telling stories about the old days at your alma mater. This doesn’t mean you are from the same “nourishing mother,” even though that is the Latin meaning. When we use alma mater it means school, college, or university you once attended.

Perhaps some of your friends were really good students in college. They graduated with honors. “Laude” in Latin means praise. When talking about graduating from college or university, laude is often translated as honor.

Cum laude means graduating with honors, magna cum laude means graduating with great honor and summa cum laude means graduating with highest honors.

Speaking of good students, many people who do well on tests have good memories. They are able to listen to a lecture and then repeat it back verbatim, or word-for-word. Others can repeat poems verbatim. They know them by heart.

You can also write down someone else’s words verbatim. But in some situations, doing this can get you in trouble. If a student copies someone else’s work verbatim, it’s called cheating.

In fact, let’s say two of your old college friends – we’ll call them Marco and Amelia – were once caught cheating on an exam. The professor asked them, “So, was it Marco who cheated off Amelia or vice versa?”

Vice versa means the reverse, or the other way around.

When you and your friends remember that story, you might say you were not surprised. You knew that Marco was in love with Amelia and vice versa. Since Marco loved Amelia, and Amelia loved Marco, maybe that is why they helped each other cheat.

If Marco and Amelia were so much in love that they talked about each other ad nauseam, they talked about each other non-stop. Ad nauseam is when something or someone goes on and on and on to the point that others feel sick. That’s the nauseam part. If you feel nauseated you feel dizzy in your head and sick to your stomach.

Some would say that is very similar to how love feels.

But love is one of those things that makes life extraordinary.

In the 1989 movie “Dead Poet’s Society,” Robin Williams plays a teacher at a private school for boys. He uses the Latin phrase carpe diem, or “seize the day,” to inspire his students to make their lives extraordinary.

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"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a’ flying, And this same flower that smiles today tomorrow will be dying."

"Thank you, Mr. Pitts. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. The Latin term for that sentiment is carpe diem. Now, who knows what that means?"

"Carpe diem. That’s ‘seize the day."

"Very good."

Today, I hope all our readers and listeners carpe diem!

That’s all for this Words and Their Stories.

We leave you with a well-known song by the rock band, U2. “Gloria” means “glory” in Latin and “In te domine” means “In Thee, O Lord.”

Are they singing about religion or a beautiful woman named Gloria? U2 leaves it up to you to decide.

I’m Anna Matteo.

Gloria (Glory)
In te domine (In Thee, O Lord)
Exultate (rejoice)

Anna Matteo wrote this story for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.


Words in This Story

reunion n. an act of getting people together again after they have been apart

praise v. to say or write good things about (someone or something) : to express approval of (someone or something)

know them by heart – idiomatic expression : to know something perfectly; to have memorized something perfectly.

nausea n. the feeling you have in your stomach when you think you are going to vomit

extraordinary adj. very unusual : very different from what is normal or ordinary