Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Roman Wordplay

I've just finished reading Mother Tongue, Bill Bryson's very entertaining book about the English language. One chapter is all about wordplay, where he has this to say:

Wordplay is about as old as language itself, and about as various. As Tony Augarde notes... many verbal pastimes go back to the futhest reaches of antiquity. Palindromes, sentences that read the same backwards as forwards, are at least 2,000 years old. The ancient Greeks often put 'nipson anomimata mi monan opsin' on fountains. It translates as 'Wash the sin as well as the face'.' The Romans admired them too, as demonstrated by 'in girum imus noctem et consumimur igni' ('We enter the circle after dark and are consumed by fire'), which was said to describe the actions of moths. The Romans also liked anagrams- scrambling the letters of a word or phrase to form new words or phrases- and turned 'quid est veritas?' ('What is truth?') into 'est vir qui adest' ('It is this man here?').

(Bill Bryson, Mother Tongue, p 224)

This site has some more Latin word games, including my favourite, the Sator square.

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