Lost In Translation

I own a copy of the Oxford Latin Mini Dictionary — because why not.  Flippancy aside, it’s handy in many ways, not least because I’m finally writing the story about the Roman soldier that’s been in my head for ages and it’s handy for finding quick cognomen for side characters.

But one thing’s always confused me about it: in the pronunciation guide, there’s this weird little section.

Latin has five different simple vowel sounds, each of which could be long or short:


a short, as in English cup (not as in cap).

Does that leave anyone else a little bit confused?  Not just me?

It’s taken me over a year to realise why this is so weird.

You see, the thing is, in the UK southerners speak with a different accent to northerners.  Well, all regions speak with different accents to one another, but there’s something southerners do in particular: they elongate certain vowels (barth instead of bath, for example) and they do something particularly weird with their Us.  It’s most noticeable in words like butter, which seems to come out from southern mouths like “batter,” only not quite as harshly as if they’re talking about a cricketer.

And clearly the only people who would ever be interested in speaking Latin (according to Oxford University Press) … are southerners.

I’m half-tempted to send them an email about it where all short ‘a’s in the email are replaced by ‘u’s and we’ll see how they​ like it.


* If I sound like I’m implying southerners are a totally different breed to northerners…  I guess I pretty much am.
Don’t worry, it works both ways; they treat anyone north of Watford Gap like they’re an alien species too.  As a reminder: the Midlands is not the North, it’s the middle.

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