Neil Gaiman’s Latin In Joke (Maybe)

Latin? Or co-incidence. You decide.

I’m reading Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys at the moment. It’s pretty good (although that’s a given really) but today I noticed something a bit odd…

As part of the flow of the story Neil drops in the occasional Anansi story, and one of has a bit that goes a little like this…

…So Anansi lay down on his bed and he sighed, long and loud, and his wife and his sons all came a-running. “I’m a-dying,” said Anansi in his little weeny-weedy-weaky voice, “and my life is all over and done.”…

You get that? Weeny-weedy-weaky?

Now at this point you’re probably wondering what the heck I’m on about. Well, while preparing for Justin’s birthday party (which I wasn’t able to go to in the end) I did a fair bit of brushing up on my Latin. One of the interesting things about Latin is that there’s two ways of pronouncing it. The one that most people are familiar with is the Eclesiastical pronunciation, which is the pronunciation developed by the Roman Catholic church over the last 1000 years or so. The second one is the Classical pronunciation, which is our best guess at how the Romans actually spoke it. There’s some diferences in the vowels here and there, but about the biggest divergence is probably ‘v’ and ‘c’. In Eclesiatical these are usually pronunced ‘v’ and ‘ch’ respectively. In Classical however they’re ‘w’ and ‘k’.

So what has this go to do with Anansi Boys? Well consider Caesar’s famous declaration Veni Vedi Vici (“I came, I saw, I conquered”, for those whose classical education is lacking). In Eclesiastical this is something like “veenee veedee vichee”. In Classical on the other hand it’s (drum roll….) “weeny weedy weaky”!

SEE!?!?

(I don’t know what’s sadder, that I know all this at all, or that I know all this well enough to immediately notice it in a book 🙂

PS: Ha! David Tench is being moved to 9:30. It’s the begining of the end!! *vbg*

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