Light & Verity

Naughty Latin 101

Mark Zurolo '01MFA

Mark Zurolo '01MFA

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This friendly argument over Latin grammar, written in chalk under the High Street Bridge, might look at first like a vast improvement in tone over the usual campus graffiti. But classics professor Kirk Freudenburg explains that the original graffito, "Optimates defloreantur," is a sly off-color play on ancient Roman sloganeering. "It would mean 'May the best flourish,'" says Freudenburg. "The trouble comes in casting it in the passive voice and adding that nasty little prefix 'de-'. You thus have 'May they be deflowered,' as in 'Screw the aristocrats.'" Adds Freudenburg, "In its own way, it's just what one might have expected on a wall in ancient Pompeii, right down to the impossible grammar."

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