Monday, December 21, 2015


Risque content included.

Last week I posted some cut out figures and posted one of my own, which I challenged readers to identify. I gave the answer as being the second last one.

This prompted an email from Byter Zach D:
Hi Otto,
Here's a word you might enjoy if you aren't familiar with it already: penultimate. Nevermore do you have to say 'second to last'. Take care. 
This evoked memories of when I first began work in an office a thousand years ago. My master solicitor used Latin terms in letters, such as ultimo (the previous month), instant (the present month) and proximo (next month). These were sometimes shortened to ult, inst and prox. As regards paragraphs, the wording was ‘ultimate’ for the final paragraph and ‘penultimate’ for the second last paragraph. 

Letters would be along the lines of "We refer to your letter of the 20th inst. Your attention is directed to the penultimate paragraph of our letter of the 26th ult."

Over the years I have become a follower of the KISS Principle, which includes plain English, including no paragraphs in fine print half a page long without punctuation, no Latinisms where these can be avoided.

I suspect that one reason lawyers liked to use such terminology and forms of writing is to maintain a need for lawyers to decipher and explain it and to set themselves apart from the general population, much as the chef’s hat and the wig and gown are the symbols of particular professions.

So, Zach, I appreciate the suggestion but non grates (no thanks, in Latin), I prefer the plainer version.

Some Latin items . . . 

A Roman walks into a bar, holds up two fingers and says “Five beers please.”

The above translates literally to “Always Where Under Where”. The rest you will need to work out.

A centurion walks into a bar and asks for a Martinus. 

The barman says, "Don't you mean a Martini?" 

The centurion responds, "No, if I wanted a double, I’d have asked for one!"

A reassembling of the phrase “Veni Vidi Vici”, meaning “I came. I saw. I conquered.” reputedly used in a letter by Caesar to the Roman Senate reporting on a quick victory in a war.

Caesar walks into a bar full of centurions and says "Right, lads, this round’s on me. What will you be having? 

The centurions stand, salute, and cry, "Ale, Caesar!"

(That would have been a Corn Corner item if this was Friday).

And a repost about Gough Whitlam and Cicero . . .

By way of preliminary comment:

There are two views on how the name Cicero should be pronounced. Commonly it is spoken as siss-ser-o, but there is another school of thought that holds that the traditional Latin pronunciation is either kick-er-o or keek-er-o. This is also the comment in Wikipedia. 

The pronunciation of Cicero has been an ongoing debate for centuries. 

Likewise the name Cockburn is pronounced as Ko-burn by some and as Cock-burn by others. 

* * * * *
From Barry Cohen’s book Whitlam to Winston, which sadly is out of print:


Speaking at the farewell dinner to Governor-General Sir Paul Hasluck in July 1974, Gough said of Sir Paul that ‘he was the greatest proconsul since Cicero’. In his response Sir Paul good-humourdly corrected Gough’s pronunciation of Cicero, pronouncing it with a hard C – KICKERO. 

Some days later Milton Cockburn, respected Sydney Morning Herald journalist but at the time one of Clyde Cameron’s private secretaries, was sitting in the adviser’s box while a Matter of Public Importance was being debated in the House of Representatives. The debate over, he left the House and promptly bumped into the Prime Minister. 

‘Who are you?’ enquired the Great Man. 

‘I’m Milton Cockburn,’ he replied. 

‘That should be pronounced CO’BURN,’ Gough informed him. 

‘Well -- I don’t think that anyone who can’t pronounce ‘Cicero’ correctly should be telling me how to pronounce my name,’ replied the brash young adviser. 

The eyebrows raised, the eyes widened and then, turning to his colleague Chris Hurford standing nearby, he gasped: ‘He’s a cheeky little c- - t isn’t he -- and that’s with a hard C.’ 

SOURCE: Milton Cockburn

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