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Henry Beard

X-Treme Latin (Lingua Latina Extrema)

© 2004

Series: Latin for All Occasions

Author’s Note

Although I did the original Latin composition for the first draft of this book, my translations have been extensively corrected, meticulously polished, and felicitously rephrased by J. Mark Sugars, Ph.D., without whose assistance I would have been in merda profundissima (very deep doo-doo). Thus, to the extent that the classical constructions herein are historically appropriate, grammatically accurate, and culturally apt, it is he who deserves the imposing, but tasteful, triumphal arch on the sunny side of the Forum, just below the Palatine Hill. If, however, there are any errata ignominiosa (boners), it is I and I alone who should be exiled to the remote, windswept tip of some godforsaken island inhabited by rude barbarians. (The Hamptons will do nicely.)

That said, I have to confess that even the most dedicated Latin purist inevitably succumbs to the temptation to make a cheap joke at the expense of the noble tongue of Rome ’s golden age, and I am no exception. Therefore, in the interests of scholarly integrity, I am compelled to concede that there is no Latin verb “geronimo, geronimare” meaning “to express an intention to act boldly or rashly,” say, just prior to jumping off a bridge, and if a Roman diner wished to remark, “I will recommend this restaurant,” “zago, zagas, zagat” is not the way he would have phrased it. The rest of the Augustan yadda-yadda (“iaddo, iaddere, iaddedi, iadditum”) is as kosher as we could make it.

Oh, all right. Yadda-yadda is actually blatero, blaterare. Sheesh.



It’s often said that Latin is a dead language

Lingua Latina saepe dicitur mortua esse

LEEN-gwah lah-TEE-nah SIGH-pay DEE-kih-tuhr MOHR-too-ah EHS-seh




It’s just been taking a long nap

Modum iam pridem meridiatur

MOH-duhm yahm PREE-dehm meh-ree-dih-AH-tuhr

And it’s been talking a lot in its sleep

Iam diu autem multa verba facit dormiens

Yahm DIH-ooh OW-tehm MOOL-tah WEHR-bah FAH-kiht DOHR-mih-ehns

In fact, you can’t get it to shut up

Re vera, non potes eam in silentium redigere

Ray WAY-rah nohn POH-tess EH-ahm ihn sih-LAYN-tih-uhm reh-DIHG-eh-reh

Look around-Latin is all over the place, like a cheap toga

Circumspice-Lingua Latina se pandit ubique tanquam toga qwevilis

KEER-kuhm-spih-keh-LEEN-gwah lah-TEE-nah say PAHN-diht ooh-BEE-kweh TAHN-kwaum TOH-gah WIH-liss

Lawyers use it to screw you

Iurisperiti ea utuntur ut te defraudent

Yoo-riss-peh-REE-tee EH-ah uh-TOON-tuhr uht tay deh-FROW-dehnt

Doctors use it to scare you shitless

Medici hac lingua utuntur ut alvum evacues ex metu

MEH-dih-kee hock LEEN-gwah uh-TOON-tuhr uht AHL-wuhm ay-WAH-koo-ays eks MEH-tooh

Politicians use it to hide their tracks while they rob you blind

Magistratus ea utuntur ad operienda vestigia cum te despoliant

Mah-gihs-TRAH-toohs EH-ah uh-TOON-tuhr ahd oh-pehr-ih-AYN-dah wehs-TEE-gih-ah kuhm tay deh-SPOH-lih-ahnt

Priests use it to weasel their way out when they get caught playing hide-the-sausage with the altar boys

Sacerdotes in stupro cum acolytis deprehensi ea utuntur ut se criminibus absolvant

Sah-kehr-DOH-tays ihn STOOP-roh kuhm ah-koh-LEE-teese day-preh-HAYN-see EH-ah uh-TOON-tuhr uht say krih-MIHN-ih-buhss ahb-SOHL-wahnt

Even garden supply stores use it to get you to buy overpriced, short-lived houseplants

Etiam venditores rerum hortensium ea utuntur ad persuadendum tibi ut emas maximo pretio plantas vitae brevis

EH-tih-ahm wehn-dih-TOHR-ace RAY-ruhm hohr-TAYN-sih-uhm EH-ah uh-TOON-tuhr ahd pehr-swah-DAYN-duhm TIH-bee uht EH-mahs MAHK-sih-moh PREH-tih-oh PLAHN-tahs WEE-tye BREH-wihss

The fact is, for too long these dirtbags have had a monopoly on this mighty tongue

Diutius quidem haec propudia monopolio huius magnifici sermonis fruuntur

Dih-OO-tih-uhs KWIH-dehm hike proh-POOH-dih-ah moh-noh-POH-lih-oh HOO-eeh-uhss mahg-NIH-fih-kee sehr-MOH-nihss frooh-OON-tuhr

But now, thanks to this little book, you too can tap the awsome power of Latin to dismay the ignorant multitudes

Nunc vero, huius libelli gratia, tu quoque potentia reverenda linguae Latinae uti potes ad indoctum vulgus consternandum

Nuhnk WAY-roh, HOO-eeh-uhss lih-BEHL-lee GRAH-tih-ah, too KWOH-kweh poh-TAYN-tih-ah reh-weh-RAYN-dah LEEN-gwigh LAH-tih-nigh OO-tee POH-tehss ahd ihn-DOHK-tuhm WUHL-guhs kohn-stehr-NAHN-duhm

And best of all, you’ll be able to insult and abuse one and all in perfect safety, using a language that everyone respects but practically no one understands

Atque haec est optima ratio omnium: maledicere cunctis hominibus et contumeliam imponere satis impune poteris verbis augustis quae cum omnes magno aestimant, tum nemo ferme intellegit

AHT-kweh hike ehst OHP-tih-mah RAH-tih-oh OHM-nih-uhm: mah-leh-DEEK-eh-reh KOONK-tees hoh-MIHN-ih-buhss eht kohn-tuh-MAY-lih-ahm ihm-POH-neh-reh SAH-tihss ihm-POO-neh poh-TEH-rihss WAYR-beese ow-GOOS-teese kwy kuhm OHM-nays MAHG-noh EYE-stih-mahnt tuhm NEH-mo FAYR-meh ihn-TEHL-leh-giht

And as you pepper your speech with catapult-powered put-downs, remember the immortal words of Maximus as he signaled the attack in Pannonia

Itaque cum spargis orationem tuam praepotentibus opprobriis, memento verborum immortalium quae Maximus fecit signum dans in Pannonia:

Ih-TAH-kweh kuhm SPAHR-ghiss oh-rah-tih-OH-nehm TOO-ahm prigh-poh-TAYN-tih-buhss ohp-PROH-brih-eehs, meh-MEHN-toh wayr-BOH-ruhm ihm-mohr-TAH-lih-uhm kwigh MAHK-sih-muhss FAY-kiht SIHG-nuhm dahns ihn Pahn-NOH-nih-ah:

Unleash hell!

Solve lora infernis!

SOHL-weh LOH-rah ihn-FEHR-nihss!

And have a nice day!

Et futue te ipsum!

Eht FUH-too-eh tay IHP-suhm

Latin Terms in Modern English


Basic Latin Pronunciation Guide


a if long, as in “blah”; if short, as in “rub-a-dub”

e if long, as in “ol é”; if short as in “feh”

i if long, as in “ ’zine”; if short as in “zit”

o if long, as in “d’oh”; if short as in “not”

u if long, as in “dude”; if short as in “wassup”

There is really no simple way to tell if a vowel is long or short, but if the word is short-one syllable-treat the vowel as short. The last syllable of verb endings are almost always short. If a, i, o, or u, come at the end of a word, they’re long; if e comes at the end of a word, it’s short. If a vowel is followed by two consonants, it’s long. For other situations, pronuntia utrolibet modo! (wing it!)


ae as in “Thai”

au as in “ouch”

ei as in “hey”

eu as in “hey, you”

oe as in “goy”

ui as in “ptui”


b, d, f, h, l, m, n, and p are the same as in English. So are k and z, which are rare in Latin anyway. j, w, and the consonant y don’t exist in Latin.

c, ch always “k.” That’s a KIGH-sahr salad you ordered. You want ANN-koh-veese with that?

g, gn always “guh.” The Romans were fighting the GUHR-mahns, not the JUR-mahns, and when they gave the signal to attack, it was a SIHG-nuhm (trumpet blast) not a SEE-nuhm (large bowl).