Nemo dat quod non hat!
Tuesday, 06 November 2012 17:33

Latin may be a dead language, but is it “playing dead to catch corbeaux alive?” Recently, I felt obliged to e-mail the company’s bank manager for clarification on a nebulous issue. Somehow the phrase “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes” became an integral part of my document. He promptly responded, and being of the now generation he was understandably inquisitive. After I jokingly suggested that he should consult Google, the translation was revealed - “I fear the Greeks, even when they are bringing gifts.” We burst into fits of spontaneous laughter over the phone and the episode was laid to R.I.P. (requiescat in pace).

Five decades previously, my secondary school portfolio of Latin, Greek, French and English Language Arts on the one hand, delicately offset Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Additional Mathematics on the other. I was fascinated by mythology, especially the imaginative works of the great Roman poet, Virgil. However, my Latin educator; the late Fr. Harkins was evidently perplexed by my flawless translations of his ‘unseen’ passages randomly chosen from Aeneid V. He knew that I was no scholar, just an average student. This benevolent priest could not perceive that I would obtain a copy of the translation and store the entire contents in memory. Optical character recognition was my password to open the files!

Hot on my trail one day, Fr. Harkins cut and pasted a few arbitrary sentences in situ into one of his tasks, thereby solving the world’s first cyber crime. “Quadripedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum,” he exclaimed as he admonished me. Virgil’s most famous quotation in rhythmic dactylic hexameter translates - “The horses’ hooves with four-fold beat shake the crumbling plain.” This is how my love for the Arts was put in limbo as a professional career in the Quantitative Sciences beckoned.

In 1972 I was a Mathematics and Physics teacher at my alma mater. My mission, inter alia, was to introduce relevant curricula to 30-odd students of diverse backgrounds. In order to rationalise and simplify my task, I resorted to a six-week introductory course in elementary Calculus. One day, both students and teacher were overwhelmed with frustration. I wrote on the blackboard “Caesar adsum iam forte, Pompey aderat,” and offered a prize for the first correct translation. One bright youngster (who was eventually awarded a National Scholarship) beamed “Caesar had some jam for tea, Pompey had a rat!

No one gives what he does not have. In an effort to contribute tangibly to the economic diversification of Caribbean Economies, our technical team created The Pan in Education Business Model to foster Music Literacy and Entrepreneurship. Just as Latin is the infrastructure for most modern languages; in simili modo, Technical English should form the basis for all Literacy Skills. As such, we envisage that the module Creative and Technical Writing will soon become a de facto component of this exciting new initiative.

Quod scripsi, scripsi, sic...

Simeon L. Sandiford
Managing Director