Some Of My Favorite Things

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Pronoun Trouble



Here's a question for Latin Mass types.
When you who claim to love Latin pray in English, you always say "Holy Ghost"

But when post-Vatican II types, who hate Latin, when THEY pray, they always say "Holy Spirit".

And on the rare occasions when the two pray together, each glares at the other for their silly language pretensions.

Hmmmm....

Now, "Spirit" comes from "spiritus" which is Latin for "breath."
e.g., In nomine Patris et fillii et Spiritus Sancti.

But "ghost" is derived from the Old English "gast" which comes from the German "Geist", and back to a root which originally means "to be excited or frightened".

So, the people who HATE Latin in liturgy pray in... Latin.
And the people who HATE English in liturgy pray in... Old English.

And they each glare at the other one for praying in the language they profess to love.

Does anyone wonder why I say "A Pox on BOTH your houses!"

2 comments:

J. said...

Modern English has roots in Anglo-Saxon, French, Latin (mostly by way of French), and German... and whatever else we occasionally decide to steal from other languages. The transliteration of the German "geist" as "ghost" to mean spirit goes back a long way, and for a great deal of English language history, "ghost" was a simple translation of "spiritus." Even the later English "spirit" comes to us by way of the Old French "espirit," not directly from the Latin. (You'll find both "ghost" and "spirit" used to translate the same Latin word in some older English Bibles.)

So, the people who HATE Latin in liturgy pray in... Old French.
And the people who HATE English in liturgy pray in... German.

But the translation of "Spiritus Sancti" as "Holy Ghost" is important largely because that was the way the name of the Third Person of the Trinity was translated into English Catholic Bibles for many centuries. That's not a minor consideration. Catholic language traditions don't exist only in Latin, and perpetuating the use of "Holy Ghost" even in a time when "ghost" is taken to mean simply the lingering spirit of a dead man acts as a reminder that modern language fashions are not all-important.

There's also something unbecoming about altering a person's name to suit contemporary fads. It would be weird to start calling The Father or The Son anything but. What if "Padre" and "Fili" became popular English replacements for "Father" and "Son" in the future? Both are closer to the Latin, but retaining the older forms would make a statement about the unchanging nature of the Trinity. Archaic usages are good for that sort of thing.

And not all of us glare. Some of us good-naturedly roll our eyes, instead.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Retaining the older form would prove nothing about the Trinity.

It would merely demonstrate that human beings are cussed obstinate.