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Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014

"De gustibus non disputandum est"

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I took three years of Latin in junior and senior high school. Mrs. Gerber said I was a good student but not as good as my sister, Ellen, had been. That didn't bother me because I was used to that comparison. I liked Latin but preferred French, which I studied later. Then in college I took Spanish. Now instead of having the ability to speak three languages (well, you don't really speak Latin), I have a muddle of foreign words and phrases which I pull out from time to time. I'm not even sure of the spelling or pronunciation anymore, but I remember the meanings.

I suppose the most benefit I received from these studies is to understand our own language better. But like phrases from Shakespeare, or from the Bible, I find I enjoy having the ability to say one or two words in each language, and pop up with them from time to time.

When we were raising our own children I began to have the problem of finding food that everyone in the family enjoyed. I would cook something that Lester liked and have one of the children make a face. However, they would usually be good sports and eat it anyway. That is when I began quoting the phrase, "De gustibus non disputandum est." As I said earlier, I may have the words spelled wrong but I know that it means that there is no dispute about taste. If something is good to your taste buds, then there is no argument.

I found that I began to use the phrase in things other than food. When a certain TV program became a favorite of one child, some others found they didn't like the show at all. We only had one TV in our household then, so instead of arguing over it, I brought out my Latin phrase and changed the channel when the program ended. It didn't always work, but it became a stand-by.

One year for Mother's Day my youngest daughter created a colored poster with these favorite words on it. I fastened it above my desk at work. Once again the phrase helped me when some of the other workers disagreed.

Now that our great granddaughter lives with us she has become the recipient of my linguistic skills. As the years have passed I probably am butchering the phrase even more, but she seems to understand it as well as her predecessors did. In fact she started to quote it herself recently.

I have no thoughts at all that knowing a little Latin makes me appear more educated. No, it is more a source of humor for me. When three generations have responded to my phrase, it has become a family joke, but we do each seem to realize that like many such sayings it tells the truth.

Since a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, I have limited my foreign remarks to no more than Miss Piggy might say. However I am always grateful for whatever experiences I have been exposed to during my life.

With seven siblings bringing home their bits of learning to our dinner table, I couldn't help but pick up a few things along the way.

But half understood facts, garbled conversations, memory lapses and hearing problems make me reluctant to even try to appear intelligent, Instead I prefer to have fun with words, enjoy laughter with friends, and know that any ideas I express will not be received with gravity.

After all, "De gustibus."

Carolyn Gray Thornton
Middle Age Plus