20 January 2010

Alabama and Arkansaw

Sorry. A dreadful mistake, to confuse those two countries. As bad, I suppose, as it would be for a North American to confuse Cork and Cracow simply because they are both in Europe and are mutually alliterative. And I am so crassly ignorant that I don't even know which of the two would be the more irritated to have been confused with the other. And now I'm so befuddled that I can't recall which of the two it was that the late Richard Millhouse Clinton came from. He, by the way, was President of some confederacy of North American political units; as our Public Orator described him here a couple of years ago, "Praeses Civitatum Americanarum Foederatarum, ipse Oxoniensis et perspicax meriti existimator".

It must be dreadful being Public Orator; facing the temotation to describe Clinton as "qui bacillum nicotianum quid sit et unde depromatur optime novit" and not being allowed to do so. Oops: like Dr William King, I'd better add here "Spero me impetrare posse ab eruditorum omnium aequitate, ut nequis, me invito, hanc orationem in sermonem patrium vertat". You know about King, Principal of S Mary's Hall? In the Oxford of 1749 he had just made a rabidly "Jacobite" speech, the deft verbal ambiguities in which, if translated into English, would have been lost (the Whigs were still in a murderous mood). He had spoken at the opening of the Radcliffe Camera before both the University and Jacobite luminaries from far and wide, who included Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, known to his contemporaries and to the whole of Human History as The Great Sir Watkin ... not that Sir Watkin will have been able to read the published version of the speech; he died just in time for Dr King to include a flowery footnote to this greatest of all Welshmen " eheu! qualis vir et quantus interiit! ... quam diligens libertatis publicae propugnator! Reipublicae Parens, ac Patriae Pater .... Generis Humani decus ... Qui enim haud quenquam unum vivus habuit inimicum, nisi qui huic reipublicae et Britanno nomini esset inimicus, homo flagitiosissimus, ferreus et inhumanus ..." BTW, if you think I'm rambling again, do stop me and say so.

But what is the Latin for USA? If the Oxford Orator renders it (vide supra) CAF, as far as the Vatican is concerned, it is SFAS (Status Foederati Americae Septentrionalis). I get this from a decree at the beginning of my fascinating copy of the 1957 "S Antonii" ORDO; the American bishops had asked for the Feast of S Joseph Opificis to be transferred in America from May 1 to the beginning of September. In a decree dripping with disdain (" ... festum civile operariorum vulgo 'Labor Day'" ...) Cardinal Cicognani declined to do this, but did allow an External Solemnity.

SFAS is a bit of a mouthful, isn't it? When the admirable John Luce was the Dublin Orator, he called the USA Confederatio Civitatium Americanarum. At Cambridge, the versatile if wayward Dr Diggle appears to have ducked the question - although he did once refer to the European Union as Communitas Nationum Europaearum foedere Romae icto Consociatarum. But even the Oxford Orator can't always avoid syllabic diarrhoea. In 2008 he had to refer to some woman called Widnall (why Oxford was honouring her nobody explained) as "apud Institutionem Technologiae Massachusettiensium professor".

Not a phrase to try to declaim after stoking up on claret. Some years ago I had a letter from a previous Orator with whom I was collaborating on a piece of Latinity which had some delicate red-wine patterns all over it. But Richard Jenkyns is sterner stuff.

Do I ramble?


Sir Watkin said...

Non sum dignus ....

Anonymous said...

Why the heck are you going to visit Alabama or Arkansas (I love the look in English eyes when they say Arkansas, Massachusettiensium is comparably a trifle!) Now I guess Alabama's not so bad - Crimson Tide, Flannery OConnor, Lynyrd Skynyrd, World's largest chair etc. But Arkansas? Aren't they only known for having the most roadside memorials? Like these (Do you have these in Oxford?): http://www.jpgmag.com/stories/7276

Though perhaps you are coming for "Christ of the Ozarks?" http://www.greatpassionplay.com/index.asp

No it has to be the good eats: Hominy grits, country ham, cracklin's, fat back, chitterlings, hog-head cheese, trotters, sugar creme pie, sweet tater pie, sarsaparilla and sassafras tea. Be prepared to gain some weight!

GOR said...

Well Father, as an aid to distinguishing between Alabama and Arkansas you might consider their State mottos as memory aids.

Arkansas’ began as “Regnant Populi” in 1864. Still being part of the Wild West at the time, Latin was probably not high on the educational agenda. It was corrected to “Regnat Populus” in 1907 when things were a little less primitive there. But only a little (cfr. Clinton, William Jefferson - some years later).

Alabama’s began as “Here We Rest” in the post-Civil War years. However, this was not popular as it harked back to Reconstruction following the War of the States (as Alabamans would put it) and evoked images of Northern interlopers. So, on the eve of another great conflagration (1939), a new motto was adopted: “Audemus Jura Nostra defendere” which also appears to reference the Civil War era and might be loosely translated as: “Take that, you Yankees”…

Hope this helps!

johnf said...

I'm Alabamy bound
I'm Alabamy bound
If this plane don't stop and turnaround
I'm Alabamy bound

Richard Millhouse Clinton - who he?
Are you still on that red wine Father?

Londiniensis said...

Do I ramble?

Yes, but please don't stop ...

Michael McDonough said...


Thank you for those mottos!

The Alabama motto seems to have some historical perspective. There is an anecdote, related in some volume dealing with the Civil War, that when some Sothrens had been captured by some blue-bellies, they got to talking about the conflict. One of the northerners asked their prisoners, "how can you poor boys believe in slavery?" The response was, "We ain't fightin' for slavery, we're just fightin' for our rats!"

"Iura nostra defendere".

Michael McDonough said...

Fr. H,

Clearly, the Vatican, by using "SFAS", is attempting to protect "Central and South America" from imperialistic incursions from the North! Very much in keeping with the Social Doctrine of the Church.

I find it interesting that the Latin assumes that Massatusetts is plural! Thank God, I can only find one. [Lest I seem rude to Native Americans, or "Indians" as they tell me they have no problem being called, I suppose that it might originally have been "the Massachusetts", as in "the Apaches".]

Is it known in Oxford where President Clinton did his scholarly work in learning the syntax for "To be"? Was it Oxford? Probably not, much more likely to have been the Jesuits' Georgetown, which deserves the credit. He probably took a course in sexual morality.

Michael said...

You ramble beautifully!

Figulus said...

Rome hardly seems to have one single nomen for the USA that it empoys consistently. Rather it uses a variety of referents, as a google of vatican.va turns up: Foederatae Civitates Americae Septemtrionalis, (FCAS) as well as CFAS and on many occasions FASC, which has a certain ring to it. Since I almost always refer to my own country by its acronym, USA, I have always been partial to the near-barbarism, "Uniti Status Americae", which has the added advantage of clearly indicating its dominant language.

I'm not so sure that "Massachusettiensium" refers to the state so much as to its inhabitants. "The Bay-Staters' Institute of Technology", which is a rather logorhoeic way to say Massachusettense Institutum Technologiae. The state's seal refers to the Res Publica Massachusettensis. Presumably the adjective and demonym Massachusettensis may be derived from an original "Massachusetta" or "Massachusettes" (Μασσαχουσέττη?).

Thanks for rambling, Father, and for allowing us to do some of the same.

GOR said...

Yes Michael, and Shelby Foote noted a similar exchange between some Confederate prisoners and the Yankees. Upon being asked why they were fighting, the southerners replied: “…’cos you’re here!” (or perhaps it was -Y’all’s here…).

Enjoyed the ‘fighting for our rats’ (or would that be rahts..?).

The southern accent can be difficult to understand for the uninitiated (warning to Father…). Some years ago a lady approached me in a Walmart parking lot and asked, in a heavy southern accent, where the “Tahr an’ loobs press” was… It sounded to me like a single polysyllabic word. Despite three repetitions, I still couldn’t figure out what she was looking for. It was only later it dawned on me that what she wanted was the “Tire and Lube Express” (tyre to you, Father…) auto service area.

As it turned out that particular Walmart didn’t have one!

Figulus said...

Fr LR:

Quid Alabama Flanneriae aut Flanneria Alabamae?

Doctor Sackcloth said...

The Latin name for the Us of A is a matter of hot dispute on Latin Vicipaedia (which, I'm sure, would benefit from Father's contributions - the articles on Anglicanism are still somewhat jejune). American contributors who all seem to be in love with Cicero insist on Civitates Foederatae Americae, which of course is nonsense in the Latin of Tacitus onwards where 'civitas' is synonomous with 'urbs'. Ciceronians abhor the word 'status' and even more the word 'unio' so object to the calque favoured by up and trendy modern Latinistas: Status Uniti Americae.

The Vatican shows no real consistency on the question either. Perversely the German Egger was far more Ciceronian than the American Foster.