Corpus Humanum

After a few weeks of Latin, my students feel comfortable enough with me to ask what they really want to know: “Can you teach us some bad words?”

If a student makes it to chapter twenty-one in our book, he will be rewarded with the word stercus, which means ‘dung’ or ‘manure.’ By then he already knows to call other kids fatue (‘stupid’) or asine (‘ass’).

But way back in October, I put my skeleton with the moveable joints on the board and we learn the parts of the body and the major bones.

After dutifully copying down bracchium, ‘arm,’ and pes, ‘foot,’ their thoughts turn to more interesting parts. Caput (‘head’) and clunes (‘buttocks’) could yield clunes-caput, in a student’s mind, but even they know that Romans had better profanity than that.

When I was a student of Latin, I had a Cassell’s Latin dictionary. Like all fourteen-year-olds, I looked up every bad word I could think of. Very disappointing. It was as if Mr. Cassell were looking over the tops of his glasses at me, saying, “Shame! Did you think I would put those words in my dictionary?” More

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