Monday, November 13, 2006

The Inclusive Language Debate

Yesterday I picked up a copy of the November edition of the Australian Catholic journal AD2000.

This morning I was perusing through the letters section and the subject of Missal translation was amongst the subjects being discussed. This letter in particular caught my attention :

Missal Translation

Thank you AD2000 and its contribution to my understanding of the spectrum of Catholic beliefs.

Your correspondent Philip Holberton (October AD2000) believes that the correct translation of "proper nos homines" in the Creed would be "for us men." However, he may have allowed his opposition to inclusive language to cause an error in translation. I believe that in Latin the primary meaning of "homo-homines" is "human being". For the primary meaning of "man", one would use the word "vir-viris".

So because the phrase is "propter nos homines" and not "propter nos vires", it would perhaps be best translated "for us human beings", a little cumbersome perhaps but more accurate than "for us men."

Pat Hurely

Carnes Hill, NSW


I'm afraid I have to suspect that whilst Pat Hurely comes across as reasonably educated in the Latin language and as offering an insightful contribution to the debate he has either picked up this tidbit from something he heard or hasn't touched a Latin grammar book since his high school days. A first year student should know that "vir" is a not a third declension noun but second declension. Yes, it is an exception to the normal ending of "us" for the nominative singular but quite well known. Hence it is "vir, viri" and the accusative plural is "viros" (not vires). Other exceptions are "ager" (field) and "puer" (boy).

Secondly, this is all beside the point as the "primary meaning" argument works precisely against him. One of the primary meanings in English of the word "man" is "human being" hence no need for the latter to be used. Furthermore cumbersomeness is an important consideration because the language at Mass should be sacral not banal.

No comments: