Sir, what a joy it was to read Cooper and Cascarini's Maxillary etymologies in your journal (BDJ 2008; 205: 393–394). They are continuing many centuries of Latin scholarship meaningful to modern culture.
As fresher dental students in the fifties, we had been taught Latin at school. The dreaded test, in class, had been 'Latin unseen' which was the translation of a Latin text without a Latin dictionary. This required a sound knowledge of grammar and the imagination to find words of Latin origin still in current use. We discovered that this applied to anatomy which was Anglicised Latin and that senior surgeons still used Latin terminology. Many other subjects used words of Latin origin or borrowed Greek.
It was at the Renaissance that Latin scholarship, Arabic numeration and revived ancient learning launched the scientific approach generally. However, for the previous millennium, it was the monasteries which had preserved and promoted scholarship and education as well as medicine and other forms of welfare for rich and poor alike. English is now a global language but Old English (Anglo-Saxon) first began to be written in Latin script in these islands in the seventh century through Roman Catholicism and the widespread use of Latin by the Church goes back to Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor (324 AD) of the whole Roman empire. Thus these peculiar marks on this piece of paper can now be read by billions of people.
It is essential for unambiguous communication that standard English is preserved by proper usage. The answer can be found in Latin. Two thousand years ago, Julius Caesar wrote an account of his Gallic wars which is still perfectly readable, yet Gall is now France which speaks French, one of the Romance languages derived from Latin. English will change enormously and diversely in the future due to rapid technological advance and the different cultures that use it. I submit that the study of Latin usage still has the ability to broaden the understanding of language, its proper usage and the historical context of the present.
I look forward eagerly to the next article!
About this article
Cite this article
Sholl, T. Lessons from latin. Br Dent J 206, 56 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bdj.2009.14