Shades of Meaning, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! On Saturday, as you probably remember, we looked at a sample Tres Columnae story that illustrates some interesting vocabulary issues. Today we’ll begin to look at how we’ll accomplish our six key strategies regarding vocabulary with a story like this. Specifically, we need to look at how we’ll handle the following in the context of this story:

  • finding out whether the learner knows the word;
  • actual “presentation” of words that need to be presented;
  • opposites and synonyms;
  • homophones and near-homophones;
  • prefixes, suffixes, and such; and
  • connections to English and other languages

First, though, another look at part of the story … just so you don’t have to click on a link if you don’t want to (But you can see the whole thing here if you’d like):

Caelius tandem Cnaeum pūnīre dēsinit et “abī, puer īnsolēns!” clāmat. Cnaeus “vae! heu!” clāmat et ē tablīnō celeriter currit. Prīma et Secunda extrā iānuam tablīnī rem tōtam audiunt et inter sē iocōs faciunt….

Prīma autem “nōnne nōbīs dē lūdō commemorāre vīs?” rogat. et Secunda haec addit: “nōnne laetāris, mī frāter, quod puerum tam īnsolentem quam tē iam vidēs?” Cnaeus tamen īrātus, “puellās īnsolentēs!” exclāmat. “nōnne vōs decet in maximam malam crucem īre? cūr mē ita vexās? et iste Quīntus Flavius est īnsolentissimus! multō īnsolentior est quam ego!”

Prīma et Secunda cachinnibus sē trādunt. “heus! multō īnsolentior quam tū? utrum bove pater illum pūnīre solet, an taurō?” inquit Prīma. “nōn taurō, sed lupō!” inquit Secunda. “immō leōne ferōcissimō!” clāmat Prīma. “vel bālaenā maximā?” exclāmat Secunda….

Cnaeus tamen, “num mē terrēre potestis? nōnne bracchium patris in pavīmentum cadere potest, sī mihi plagās plūrēs dare temptat? et quid poenārum minārī potest ille?”

Prīma et Secunda rīdent. tandem Secunda respondet, “fortasse nōn patrem, sed nūrum vocāre dēbēmus. fortasse Planesium tibi poenās aptās parāre potest.”

et Prīma, “fortasse nōn nūrum, sed bovem vocāre dēbēmus!” Cnaeus bracchium Prīmae prēnsat et, “vae! heu! nōlī umquam,” puellae susurrat, “istam bovem commemorāre. tē in crucem malam et maximam ipse mittere possum! tē cum sorōre tuā crūciāre volō! haec sōlus facere possum!”

Prīma et Secunda rīsūs cēlāre frūstrā temptant. Cnaeus fessus et īrātus ad cubiculum contendit. iānuam cubiculī firmē claudit et in lectum sē iactat. Cnaeus in lectō lacrimās tacitē effundit! “cūr omnēs mē dērīdēre et pūnīre solent?” sēcum susurrat. “dī magnī, cūr vōs mē ita torquēre solētis? cūr omnēs mē torquēre solent? vae! heu! heu! vae mihi!” ….

Since this story comes from the middle of a Lectiō, almost the words in it will (at least theoretically) be familiar to the learners. So we’ll save pre-assessment and presentation for another day … except to say that we’re considering whether or not to have hypertext links for each word, in keeping with the suggestions of the article by Professor Robert Cape about John Read’s vocabulary-development studies. We’d really like to know what you think.

  • Would it be helpful to you, or to your students, to have such links available?
  • Should they be available on the public versions of Tres Columnae stories, or should they be a special bonus for subscribers?
  • Should the links go to an external, public-domain resource like the Lewis & Short dictionary, or should we create a simpler internal glossary?
  • And if we create an internal glossary, should that be another area where users and subscribers contribute?

This story actually contains a lot of opposites and synonyms that we might explore … some, of course, will have been explored already in previous Lectiōnēs, but we might have links to those explanations in case anyone needs a review. For example – et grātiās maximās to our faithful reader Elizabeth, who asked a great question about this on Friday – we address various words that mean “should” or “must” in a quid novī? note in Lectiō X in the current draft, but we may move it back by a few Lectiōnēs before we’re finished:

quid novī?

By now, you have probably noticed a lot of different ways that Latin speakers express the idea that they need to or should or have to do something:

You may be wondering what the differences are. So were we :-), so we consulted the relevant entries from Lewis & Short’s Latin Dictionary at Glossa. This is what we learned:

  • decet means “It is seemly, comely, becoming,; it beseems, behooves, is fitting, suitable, proper” ( It’s related to the word decōrum, which means “right” or “proper,” and to decus (glory or honor) and dignus (worthy or deserving).
  • oportet means “it is necessary, needful, proper, becoming, or reasonable; it behooves; I ( thou, he, etc.) must or ought” ( and is related to the word opus, which means “task or work.”
  • dēbeō, which was originally dēhabeō (, originally meant “I have or keep (something) away” … I don’t have it, so I lack it, or owe it. From there, it came to mean that I’m under obligation to do something.
  • necesse ( may be related to a Sanskrit word naç, which means to obtain; anyway, it means unavoidable or inevitable as well as necessary.

Lectōrēs cārissimī, you can probably imagine the exercises we’ll use to practice the shades of meaning among these words … but if you can’t, just hang in there until next week. We’ll be previewing some exercises, and probably including links to the “live” versions of them, too, after Easter.

Another set of synonyms that we’ll address, most likely around this story, is dēsinere and cessāre. I haven’t written the quid novī yet, largely because I need more examples of sentences with cessāre before I do so! 🙂 But it will note that, according to L&S,

  • dēsinere ( simply means to cease or stop doing something, but implies nothing about whether it’s desirable or undesirable to do so.
  • cessāre ( is obviously the frequentative form of cēdere; it literally means “to step back very much” from doing something, so it implies that there’s something wrong or remiss about ceasing. In other words, you’re stopping something that you should be continuing … as in Aeneid 6 when the Sibyl asks Aeneas if he’s going to stop praying … and strongly implies that he’d better not stop!

Are there other synonyms you see in this story that need explanations? If so, just let me know and I’ll be glad to add the explanations … or to add them at another point in the project and make a link to them.

As for homophones and near homophones, this story deliberately includes forms of sōlus and solēre (and solēre’s relative īnsolēns). At least one of the Big Three reading-method Latin textbooks has a similar emphasis on these two (along with the noun sōl), so you may be wondering what we’ll do differently. Take a look:

quid novī?

For quite a long time, we’ve seen people (especially Cnaeus!) described as insolēns … which obviously is the source of English words like insolent and insolence. It means “rude” or “arrogant” like its English derivatives, but its root meaning is “unusual” or “contrary to custom.” It comes from the prefix in- (the one that means not) and the word solēre, which we have now met in these sentences:

  • cūr omnēs mē dērīdēre et pūnīre solent?
  • dī magnī, cūr vōs mē ita torquēre solētis?
  • cūr omnēs mē torquēre solent?

solēre ( means “to be accustomed to” or “to be used to” – to usually do something.

It’s not related, though, to another new word we saw in this sentence:

tē cum sorōre tuā crūciāre volō! haec sōlus facere possum!

sōlus (, which means “alone” or “only” or “single,” is probably related to words like suus and .

In the interests of space, we’ll stop here and pick up next time with

  • “untranslatable” idioms like sē trādere and sē gerere;
  • more prefixes and suffixes; and
  • some cultural issues about vocabulary that are raised by this story.

intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus! Please keep those comments and emails coming, and please feel free to join us with one of the remaining Free Trial Subscriptions.

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