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Reviving Boccaccio in Active Latin

By Ashlie Canipe


Part I: Finding Ourselves and Our Sodales in Boccaccio


Salvēte, omnēs!” I would rank myself in the beginning-est of beginning stages of using active Latin: the most comfortable phrases for me are still the few I teach students every year: salvē, mihi nōmen est, and mihi placet. In this post, I’ll unite the two things in Lupercal that are new for me: Boccaccio and conversational Latin! 


This post was also inspired by the isolation of sōla ausa est from Bocaccio’s account of Hortensia in the Lupercal t-shirts on Bonfire. By the end of this post, you may find phrases worthy of inscribing on a card to a pal or scribbling on a sticky note by your laptop to have handy when you’d like to address the Lupercalēs and other Latinitsts in your life with a phrase that appreciates their qualities!


As I work on this post, Parks and Rec’s characters Ann and Leslie come to mind: Leslie pumps up her gal pal Ann with such killer epithets as “poetic and noble land mermaid”, “opalescent tree shark”, and “beautiful rule-breaking moth.” Giving myself the task of isolating such potential epithets in Boccaccio has also had the double effect of encouraging me to read selections that Lupercalēs already discussed. The selections below are not exhaustive, and I have chosen them based on their one-liner qualities: they can be understood outside their context and have a snappy, witty, or pithy nature.


As I read, I found many descriptors whose inclusion in this list are worthy of debate. For example, Boccaccio qualifies Athaliah’s action with the ablative absolute pulsā femineā pietāte. If we interpret femineā as “taught to women” or “attributed to women”, the phrase might be apt for any woman who has foregone her socially encouraged sense of duty in order to accomplish a goal. However, in context, Athaliah has acted without her sense of duty in order to commit additional murders-- and therein lies the complication of using that phrase as a compliment. There are many similar examples.