Latin Watch:

Jack Waterford, Editor-at-Large of The Canberra Times, writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. I’d be pretty sure (though I do not have my definitive Lewis and Short Latin dictionary immediately to hand) that apparatus is a fourth declension Latin noun, with a plural apparatus (if you can do the thing with a horizontal line above the US bit) not apparati. Best not try to impress us with (non) classical learning.

In English, the number of words with Latin origin that call for a Latin plural as opposed to an ordinary English plural is very small, perhaps down to half a dozen, and even with Greek, French and Italian added, probably still short of a dozen:  For example, lamina, laminae;  radius, radii; fungus, fungi; addendum, addenda; phenomenon, phenomena; beau, beaux; bacterium, bacteria; cherub, cherubim; prima donna, prima donnas.

Relatively recently invented words formed (usually from Latin or Greek) are likely to have ordinary plurals rather than the plural that might have applied in the original language: thus referendum, referendums than referenda;  forum, forums, not fora, stadiums not stadia etc

Berlusconi:

Kate Kennedy writes: Re. “(Grass)roots protests against Berlusconi say enough is enough” (yesterday, item 16). I have come to the conclusion that beautiful, sensuous Italy her citizens must be dead from the neck up. Why else would they elect Berlusconi?

A referendum:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 14). In Richard Farmer’s chunky bits he expresses his surprise that the Swiss people voted decisively in a referendum to continue to allow army-issue weapons to be kept in the home.

Richard writes: “I had thought that given the choice citizens anywhere would be in favour of greater gun controls.”

Richard’s thoughts would be fine as a piece of comment if they were not preceded by the words “Maybe a referendum is not the way”.

Presumably the Farmer view is that the democratic choice offered by a referendum is not appropriate if the view of the people does not accord with his view.

Peter Fray

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