You're Doing It Wrong

By Megan Petersen '15, Copy Editor

Guess what, Scripps! We’ve been going about everything the wrong way.

You see, when I arrived at Scripps last fall, something caught my attention almost immediately.

“Incipit vita nova.”

The first time I heard this phrase uttered at Scripps, I twitched a little. I tried to brush it off and refocus on whoever was speaking and whatever they were saying. With each occurrence though, any time anyone said “Incipit vita nova,” I had to suppress a cringe as tension and angst rose inside of me. Within a few weeks, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I had to vent to a friend.

Everyone pronounces it wrong!

The college’s motto can be found on the metal work of Honnold Gate

I took Latin in high school. We read, translated and chanted at nerdy Latin conventions the classical Latin pronunciations taught in high schools: “C”s are hard, “V”s are pronounced like “W”s, “I”s are like “EE”s and “AE”s are like “I”s. Everything makes sense.

At Scripps, what I was always taught should be “inkipit wita nowa” became “insipit” or “inchipit” and “vitta” and...others.

Also, “alumnae,” the plural of “alumna,” is pronounced “alumnaye” (“aye” like a pirate). And “alumni,” the plural of “alumnus,” is pronounced “alumnee.” Everyone does it backwards. Though I know the conventional Latin pronunciation of these words, if I were to pronounce “alumnae” the Latin way, the way I was taught, people would probably think I was the ignorant one. They would assume that I didn’t realize that the graduates of a women’s college are generally the female “alumnae” rather than the male-inclusive “alumni.”

It was all quite distressing.

It became a thing I’d jokingly complain about among friends. Sometimes people would offer an explanation: “I think that’s church Latin, so it still counts.” The Romans came first. The church Latin is a derivative, not the real thing. So there, I’d think grumpily.

Still, I’d never correct people outright—that would be really rude, right?—but it still made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up every time. Eventually I brought it up for the sake of comic relief at a (very late) newspaper layout night, and it was decided that I should write an article about it.

I’m getting to the part where I tell you how we’re going about this the wrong way, now. Bear with me. I decided to e-mail someone who really knows Latin to see what he would say about it. I e-mailed Classics Professor David Roselli to pick his brain a little bit. After telling me that my high school Latin teacher didn’t steer me wrong, he pointed out that there were variations in pronunciation across Italy and the entire Roman Empire, and mentioned that church Latin was something to note too. He also asked if a “standard” in Latin is like the “standard” of the English language.

Okay, but there still is a standard English and a standard Latin, and we should follow them, right? But then I started thinking about a couple things. First, how pompous do I sound right now? (Don’t answer that.) Second, why am I doing this?

The space in the paper that I’m taking up with this whiny and subjective article could be used much more productively with something else.

So I guess what I’m trying to say, Scripps, is that we (as human beings, not just as Scripps students) do this way too much. We stress about the stupid little things in our life and let them drive us nuts.

Don’t tell me you don’t, because we all have those things. One friend of mine hates the word “secrete,” and gets all wound up when someone uses it. A family member cannot even bear the thought of corn on the cob—he just hates it.

It’s the things like drumming fingers on a table, or pen-clicking, or bad comma use or whatever. We all have those tiny annoyances that make us crazy.

So here’s my challenge to you: take a week to isolate that little thing in your life that’s bugging you way too much. Then try to eradicate it. Not the thing that’s bugging you, but the bugging. There are bigger problems in the world. Let’s get out there and find ourselves some of those instead.