The problem with the Romans is they always try to walk it in

John Bull
John Bull
Oct 23, 2017 · 10 min read
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The IT Crowd, highlighting the absurdity of everything really.

Using Latin phrases is often just verbal bullying, Bullingdon style. So let’s translate phrases into football.

There’s a particularly insidious verbal technique that seems to have crept back into political debate — the recourse to Latin. The two biggest proponents of this are current (despite his increasingly desperate efforts) Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Parliament’s House Elf Jacob Rees-Mogg. Both men are prone to dropping a pithy line of Latin into the middle of a comment.

People called Romanes they go the house?!

Whatever way you cut it, Latin phrases aren’t something that pop up in most normal conversations.

The weaponisation of language

Speak to Boris and others and they’ll return frequently to the argument of ‘beauty’ or point out that it isn’t that hard these days to ‘educate’ oneself as to meaning with the help of the internet. Indeed this is a point Johnson made back in that 2010 piece.

+2 Class anxiety. A British race trait

There is really no denying that in public discourse dropping a Latin phrase is — whether intended or not — an exclusionary tactic.

Latin 1–2 Football

Some time back, I found myself in a particularly annoying and inescapable conversation at a digital strategy conference with a wielder of weaponised Latin.

Inverted class bullying

Without realising it at the time, what I’d actually landed on was the inverted class attack. Just as the finer points of Ovid were lost on me, so it seemed the concept of a manager “losing the dressing room” was lost on him. Recourse to Latin countered by recourse to football (and yes, again, I’m aware of the irony given the game’s origins as an upper class sport).

Repeating the technique

I’ve actually used this trick — and that’s all that it is really — a few times since. If you want to hit me with some obscure line from Virgil’s Aenead, then don’t be surprised if I drop a reference to Faustino Asprilla teaching a horse to play football while dressed as a dinosaur.






John Bull

Written by

John Bull

Writer and historian (military & transport). Editor of London Reconnections and Lapsed Historian. I focus on ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

John Bull

Written by

John Bull

Writer and historian (military & transport). Editor of London Reconnections and Lapsed Historian. I focus on ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

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