Seven-year-old Winston Churchill was amazed in his first Latin lesson to hear his Latin teacher expecting him to speak to a table! It reminds me of the folly of the much older Dean of Windsor speaking to a dead body, at the funeral of the aged Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip.
Churchill’s experience was popularised in his biography My Early Life and this became one of the most recognised passages, but it may also have demeaned the language and contributed to its demise from British schooling. Latin is not taught much nowadays in schools, although so much of the English language is based upon Latin, as well as upon other languages. The education of the rising generation is not the better for it, and the impoverishing of the English language is apparent to older generations educated with a better curriculum than at present.
When I first learned Latin, I was astonished to discover that the verb was placed at the end of the sentence. It seemed to me that one was kept in suspense throughout the whole sentence until the speaker or reader reached the end of the sentence. Only recently, with the manifest deterioration in public discussion, has the utility and practicality of Latin syntax become apparent to me.
Public discussion, debate and interruptions
Public discussion is impoverished by the interruptions that prevent the audience hearing what was said, or was intended to be said. It occurs to me that it would be difficult to interrupt a Latin sentence because one would need to wait till the end of the sentence to hear its significant verb.
So these Latin-speaking Romans have stolen a march on us and it may have contributed to Roman oratory building upon Greek oratory.
The question arises how this could be adapted to improving public discussion. It could begin with letting people finish their sentence, which will not only establish what was said, rather than what the hearer thinks or expected the speaker to say, and it will give the responder more time to formulate their response. It also allows listeners to hear the discussion and gives them time to assimilate the points made by each contributor. It reminds me of time-bound chess matches where each player hits the clock after he has made his move and the opponent now has his time to make his move. Time to think? Time to speak? It seems so obvious. Let the debate begin.