Ancient Languages are Like Loaded Weapons: Never Use Them Unless You’ve Been Trained to Do So OR “Why Google Translate is NOT Your Friend”

Dear Satanists and Left-Hand-Path (LHP) people and the groups you form and mobilize,

Since Halloween is a time for scary shit, I have something I need to discuss with you that scares me silly and, furthermore, provokes my deepest fears for the continued vibrancy and vitality of our little collective bundle of against-the-grain movements. This discussion may prove somewhat painful for you, but I promise I’ll do my best not to call out specific names and attach them to the instances of the bad behavior I’m homing in on. I just really need you to hear my concern and adjust your actions, because every time you try to invoke the historically hallowed mystery of ancient languages, particularly Latin, in your memes, rituals, and even public notices, I see you cocking it up royally, and it wounds me, deeply. The result is that you look like ridiculous bumblers rather than badass, imposing paragons of all that’s unholy. And you don’t want that, do you?

You see, I taught high school Latin for a total of three years and university-level Latin for about eight. I have a Master’s degree in Classical Philology: that’s the fancy term for Latin and Ancient Greek language and literature. True, I wrote my M.A. thesis for that degree on a Hellenistic Greek poet named Theocritus, which should make me more of a Hellenist than a Latin scholar. But I have spent a great deal of my adult life and effort not just thoroughly understanding the Latin language for my own purposes, but bringing that knowledge to bear in educating others to correctly read and appreciate the language and its cultural monuments as well.

And all that means the following: when you choose to butcher Latin on the hardbacked covers of your Satanic, LHP, or occult works; in your memes; within your spoken rituals and written announcements of them, I see your mistakes and shake my head at them in dismay. (I also screen-cap them and keep them all conveniently loaded into a file on the desktop of my computer, so that I can trot them out again and again in order to have a good chuckle at your expense, because—yes—I am that much of a total bitch.) 

You may think you’re solemnly invoking the “death of liberty,” but what you’ve actually written is “death liberated.” Not exactly the same thing, is it? You may think you’ve boldly touted the power of personal merit, writing “By my own merit,” but what you’ve really concocted says: “Through by means of the merit of my feminine-gendered thing.” You may think that Satan reigns to reason or within the power of reason, but you’ve actually asserted simply that Satan reigns and there’s virtue in/to/for reason within. You may think you’ve nailed the Latin imperative “will!” in the Crowleyan phrase “Know, Dare, Will, and Keep Silent,” but the Latin verb velle never had an imperative form and, anyway, vide means “see!” not “know!” much less the infinitive “to know” found in many versions of this formula. And don’t even get me started on the teeshirt purporting to sport the Hebrew word Leviathan but which actually got wrong the fact that Hebrew, as all alphabetic Semitic scripts, reads right to left, such that the shirt really read the equivalent of Nathiavel (BTW: I also have a Master’s degree in Biblical Studies, including Biblical and post-Biblical languages and literatures, like Hebrew). 

SO, folks, what I’m really trying to say here I can perhaps adequately sum up by quoting the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting and the scene where the titular Will, a mathematical genius, loses his patience with his MIT math prof mentor and jumps his shit, blurting out the lines every frustrated teacher everywhere has always wanted to say but never could and still keep their job: 

“Do you know how easy this is for me? Do you have any fucking idea how easy this is? This is a fucking joke! And I’m sorry you can’t do this; I really am. Because I wouldn’t have to fucking sit here and watch you fumble around and fuck it up!”

I once heard a prof of mine tell another student that semicolons are like loaded weapons: never use them unless you’ve been trained to do so. I could say the same about ancient languages.

Sincerely and with love,

A Concerned Citizen of Both Ancient and Modern Worlds    

2 thoughts on “Ancient Languages are Like Loaded Weapons: Never Use Them Unless You’ve Been Trained to Do So OR “Why Google Translate is NOT Your Friend”

  1. Pingback: Abundance and Ownership: Competing Claims on the Complicated Life of Words and Symbols – The Devil's Fane

  2. Pingback: An Abundance of Meaning from a relative Paucity of Symbols – The Devil's Fane

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