Cicero on the lingua franca ; Munro on soldier’s patois of the Great war

“Speaking Latin properly is indeed to be held in the highest regard – not just because of its own merits, but in fact because it has been neglected by the masses. For it is not so much noble to know Latin as it is disgraceful not to know it.” 
― Cicero

Of course, old Latin itself, like some old grandfather or grandmother, sent away to retirement, is little heard or discussed today. I live in a county of almost 1 million people and there is not a single Latin teacher anywhere for over 100 miles in every direction.

And yet, I am surrounded by a sea of Spanish speakers and as every Spanish teacher knows Spanish is a Romance language derived from Latin. People sometimes forget that Spanish is a European language because European speakers are outnumbered by non-Europeans (of many races) by a factor of almost three to one. Since the Renaissance Spanish has borrowed extensively from French, Italian, Latin and Greek -“cultismos” (cultured or learned words) as well as borrowing some vocabulary from indigenous languages of the Caribbean, Mexico and Peru.

English cognate
iron hierro férrico Ferric oxide
son hijo Filial Filial
Hado fatal fatal
famélico famine
Distaste (aversion) Hastío  
false cognate);
To stink heder Fétido
Fetid (putrid)
To flee huir fugaz Fugacious

I could make a much longer list of cognates that Spanish and English have in common although there is an occasional linguistic difficulty as Spanish and English share roots that are false cognates such as the word “success” (a Latinate word) and “suceso” (event) as well as  éxito (success not “exit”). In the last two centuries Spanish has borrowed many words from English (chiefly American English and not British English).

Nonetheless, it should be obvious that an educated Spanish speaker has a command of Latin roots and Latin words that could help him or her read and write academic English well. Latin lives through its Romance progeny. There is no reason a person cannot develop two or more languages well and be authentically bilingual. We raised all our children to speak Spanish as well as English and of course being totally fluent in English and Spanish means one can begin to learn Italian or German as well since one already has a base vocabulary for the other languages. One of the things that irritates me is when administrators call English learners (of any level) “bilingual” when in fact many are monolingual or if they are partially bilingual they are illiterate in one language or the other. And of course my parents were never bilingual; they were polyglots.

So I tell my Spanish-speaking English learners (I am today chiefly a teacher of English to English learners) they are very lucky if they command that “treasure of harmonies” (tesoro de harmonías) which is Spanish. Of course, they would be luckier if they were able to read, write and speak English because it is a cognate fact that English is the lingua franca of today. But there is no reason why one cannot cultivate an apple tree (representing English) and a lemon tree (representing Spanish) in one’s home and garden.

English is the one language that is known and spoken almost universally among educated people. In fact, soon -if it has not happened already- English speakers who are non-native will outnumber native English speakers of the Anglophone world. But Spanish isn’t going away and will continue to be useful particularly in the Americas.

One could make the case that if you already read, write and speak English you don’t need to know any other modern language. But then one could give good reasons why one doesn’t need a formal education beyond high school in many jobs and careers.

It is possible in the near future most higher education will be done by home study or online. Traditionalists may find that colleges and universities will become so inimical to their values (if they haven’t become so already) that attending most colleges do more harm than good especially as they have become so ridiculously overpriced as to burden young people with tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of school loans. We shouldn’t go to college merely for a credential or diploma but because of the marvelous value in learning new things, reading new books, hearing learned lectures, training our minds and of course broadening our horizons. We cannot study medicine at home or nursing or dentistry but unless one wants to become an academic credentials and diplomas are not crucial.

I encourage my students to be adventurous with languages When one learns the word “problem” one is not learning merely one word in one language but a common word in 20 or more languages. Before I knew the word for “wine” or “water” in Morocco or Greece I asked for “Coca-Cola” or “Cafe”.

My grandfather was not a formally educated man -he went to sea at age 8- but he was an avid reader of newspapers and the Bible. He was very wise in practical things what my father called “Argyll Trench Wisdom” or what Aristotle would call phronesis)
When I was a small boy I asked him why we spoke English if we were’t English-especially outside the home- and he replied “Is e Beurla cànan nam bancaichean agus nan gunnaichean mòra” (English is he language of the banks and the long-range guns). “That’s why everyone speaks English including the English!”
In other words English was the language of technology and money. We didn’t hear much German because the Kaiser and Hitler lost. He could speak several languages with a reasonable fluency including Hindi, French and his native Gaelic though he could not read and write these languages well, especially Hindi because all he knew was a soldier’s patois from close contact with Indian Army soldiers. They called him “Changa Gora Spahis” (the Good White Soldier) and “Changa Dhost” (the Good Comrade) Shikaaree Tommy (Tommy the Scout or Hunter).

Auld Pop, as we called him, always said, that knowing another language was one way to favorable impress your non-English comrades and associates about your respect for their culture and language as well as your seriousness of purpose and sincerity. To make good with the natives one must have tea and share meals with them, share photos, songs. And it helped enormously to greet them and speak to them in their native lingo.

It was not just fun; it really was often a matter of life of death. The bonds of the Highland soldier with the Indian Army soldiers particularly the Gurkhas and Sikh were very strong. These were men who would lay down their lives for you, your friends, your King and your country. The Old Breed had served together on the Northwest Frontier prior to 1939 or 1914 for years. I am always taken by the fact whereas many Americans or Latin Americans have no idea about the differences between Scotsmen (Highlanders) and Englishmen, Indians and Nepalese almost ALWAYS know. They know what bagpipes are and who wears kilts.

Many Indian officers and NCO’s spoke English, of course, but the rank and file soldiers generally spoke, Hindi as well as their native dialect (Bengali or Punjabi). But the Highlanders knew instinctively that Punjabi, in particular, was very close to Gaelic. So the soldiers created their own English/Gaelic/Punjabi/Hindi patois. I learned some as a boy (I used to give commands to my toy Indian Regiments). Of course I have regular contact with Indian immigrants and their families so I continue to pick up a few words and phrases.

  1. Maiṁ zakhamī hāṁ (Me wounded I am) Tha mi a ’gearradh “zakahmi”
  2. Ḍākaṭara sāhiba /doctor sahib
  3. Ḍagaṭāṭa /Dugout
  4. Maśīna gana (Machine gun)
  5. topa (cannon) saila (shell)
  6. Rā’īphala Enfield Enfield rifle
  7. Mērī rā’īphala (my rifle)
  8. Tuhāḍī rā’īphala (your rifle)
  9. Baka (bunk)
  10. Narasa (Nurse)
  11. Hasapatāla (Hospital)
  12. An-diugh (“today”) in Punjabi “AJA”.
  13. Assalaam vaalekum (Greetings)
  14. ek/ika (one) do (two) tina (three) cara (four) panj (five)
  15. Malakē (excrement/caca)
  16. Pēśāba  (piss/urinate)
  17. Laiṭarīna (latrine)
  18. Zīrō (Zero)
  19. Kō’ī nahīṁ  (nobody)
  20. Kujha nahīṁ  (nothing)
  21. Mahāna (Great)
  22. Chōṭā  (small/wee)
  23. forest/jungle ( jagala )
  24. Kairōsīna lao/ Bring Kerosene Thoir Kerosene
  25. daytime (Dina dē dina) an-diugh an diugh Today/Today
  26. Tha iad marbh a tha ann. ( Ha eeat marv a ha ow-n) They are dead all about -Gaelic) Uha mara ga’ē hana.
  27. Śaila sadaka (Shell shock)
  28. And the vital communication:
    303 Gōlī lao. (Bring 303 ammunition) Panee Lao (Bring water) Nan lao (Bring bread/food) Chai lao (Bring tea) Garm chai lao (Bring warm tea)(goil tea /boiling tea) vhiskee lao (Bring whisky) Ram lao (Bring Rum) Drika lao (Bring drinks -alcohol) The Highlanders were not usually satisfied with rum and in the Salonika campaign they had plenty of opportunity to make their own poteen.
  29. Give him covering fire! (Covering fire de-do! )” Covering Fire “Tabhair dha ” (Ta-ar da)
  30. Cheldi /Cheldi (quickly quickly)
  31. Changa sipāhī (good soldier)
  32. Changa dhost (good comrade)
  33. Patanī atē bacē (wife and children)
  34. Yūrapī ādamī (European “Adam” Man)
  35. Rasi (Rosary)
  36. yeeshu (Jesus)
  37. Raijamaiṇṭa (Regiment)
  38. Karanala Colonel
  39. Kapatāna (Captain)
  40. Laiphaṭīnaiṇṭa (“left tenant” lieutenant)
  41. Sārajaiṇṭa (Sergeant)
  42. Lānsa kārapōrēla (lance corporal)
  43. Pharānsīsī (Frenchman)
  44. Briṭiśa (British)
  45. Sakāṭiśamaina (Scotsman)
  46. Yaiṅkī (Yankee) Amarīkī (American)
  47. Sikha (Sikh)
  48. Gōrakhā (Gurkha)
  49. Turakasa (Turks)
  50. Afarīkī (African)
  51. Balagēīana (Bulgarians/Buggers)
  52. Kaithōlika ādamī (Catholic “Adam” Man) Duine Caitligeach
  53. Hā’īlaiṇḍa sipāhī (Highland Soldier)
  54. Kuli (coolie)
  55. Bāībala (Bible)
  56. Sagrahi de-do (give him the bayonet)
  57. Duśamaṇa māri’ā gi’ā hai The enemy is dead/slain
  58. Kaidī Jaga (POW Prisoner of War)
  59. Kill bad Jairmens (Germans). Jaramanaza mara nu maro.
  60. Mahāna jaga ( Great War An Cogadh Mòr)
  61. Āraminasa dina (Armistice Day)
  62. Santi/Peace (sith)
  63. Bara (Bar)
  64. beeyar (beer)
  65. Rajah ko ….Don rìgh /to the King!
  66. Māta bhūmī (Motherland)
  67. Tuhānū (Godspeed)
  68. Huṇa la’ī ṭā ṭā (Ta ta for now/So long for now)
  69. Ākharī pōsaṭa (last post)
    Of course, I have been to Ypres (Wipers) and the Menin Gate where my grandfather and his Scottish pals and Indian comrades fought in the Ypres Salient. Many, many fell.
  70. NE OBLIVISCARIS do not forget.
    Passchendaele 100th Anniversary – Menin Gate Ceremony: