John Gibson: Latin’s all Greek to this scholar

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There’s always somebody somewhere. Somebody campaigning to bring a language back from the dead. Or the near-dead. Or obscurity.

Gaeldom has had more than its share of campaigners.

Last I heard, teachers of that lingo couldn’t be found for Edinburgh’s schools. In any case, can council tax payers afford their salaries?

Now, I hear with trepidation, classes are being held in dead-as-the-Dodo Latin for Scottish primary schoolchildren, sparked by some of JK Rowling’s words and Roman myths.

Stifle the laughter, but I was a Latin scholar at Leith Academy. A complete and utter waste of time when, jackets off for goalposts, we could have been having a healthy kickabout.

Latin was of scant good to man nor beast. Per ardua ad astra (through adversity to the stars) was the only Latin phrase that has stuck with me.

It was said by the intellectual locals down there that Latin was worth the bother only to pupils who’d become doctors in later life. Even so, they have to have it finely honed at university. Then again, few were capable of deciphering a doctor’s handwriting. They were clueless, wondering whether the quack had prescribed cyanide or liver salts.

Enoch’s cutting

NOT a word to Charlie Miller about this, but, the story goes, when the deceased but not forgotten Enoch Powell was asked by a barber how he liked his haircut his spontaneous reply was: ‘‘In silence.”

Credit Mary Beard, Cambridge don and Professor of Classics there, who exhumed the quote from a book on Roman humour.