My high school counselor was the first of many to bring to my attention Annalisa Quinn’s great write-up on the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae on the front page (!) of today’s New York Times. It documents the nineteenth-century origins of the dictionary project, its durability through political upheaval in the European sphere, and its omnivorous approach to Latin texts:
There is a piece of paper for every surviving piece of writing from the classical period. The words, arranged chronologically, are given in context: they come from poems, prose, recipes, medical texts, receipts, dirty jokes, graffiti, inscriptions, and anything else that survived the vicissitudes of the last two thousand years.
Most Latin students read from the same rarefied canon without much contact with how the language was used in everyday life. But the T.L.L. insists that the anonymous person who insulted an enemy with graffiti on a wall in Pompeii is as valuable a witness to the meaning of a Latin word as a poet or emperor.
Such a delight to see the spotlight on Latin lexicography in America’s paper of record!
Reading about the TLL in the paper today reminded me of the recent shuttering of Finland’s Nuntii Latini, the quirky weekly radio broadcast of international news in that most international of tongues. The last broadcast of Nuntii Latini this past June included reports on trade agreements between Putin and Xi Jinping, some exhortations to sleep more and drink less, and of course, a notice of the program’s end. “To our listeners,” the announcer pronounces, “we give our greatest thanks and wish you well” (Auscultatoribus … gratias quam maximas agimus et valedicimus). Ave atque vale!
Unfortunately, the transcripts of Nuntii Latini won’t make their way into the pages of the TLL—the dictionary’s articles catalog only examples up to the time of Isidore of Seville, more or less, so 2019 would be a stretch. But as one Latin project winds down, another starts up, and others simply keep plugging away, reliably, after 125 years.