Computer, Corona, Carpe Diem: Latin lives and copies


In fact, we owe the “computer” and “digitization” to the ancient Romans. Coronavirus, cheese, Nivea cream or antibiotics are also many centuries old – linguistically.

The words come from Latin, which has over 2,000 years of history and yet still shapes our daily lives, often unconsciously, says Ingo Grabowsky. The director of the LWL State Museum of Monastic Culture is convinced: Latin is “fast”.

The special exhibition “Latin. Dead or alive? ”. at the Dalheim Monastery. You can also simulate shopping at the Venditor Henricus Rome cash register. And learn as you go: with brands like Alete, Labello, Duplo or Magnum, the advertising industry is also making good use of the Latin pool.

Latin relics lurk practically everywhere, not only when shopping, as the program shows in a fun way. In the courtroom, the motto is “in dubio pro reo” (in case of doubt for the accused), and the general rule is “manus manum lavat” – one hand washes the other.

Latin chats at the regulars’ table

“Almost every word we import from English comes from Latin,” explains Grabowsky. Because English is 70 percent Latin. Example: Computer (computare = compute). “Digital” also has an ancient Latin root (digitus = finger).

There is a movement where people meet at fixed tables to speak Latin, says Grabowsky. But on the one hand, Latin is no longer a “dead” language because it is almost never spoken. At the same time, however, it is also “very much alive” in terms of its influence and as “the common mother tongue of Europe”. Latin provides access to European intellectual history and continues to shape history, culture and education to this day. Not to be forgotten: the Latin script is used all over the world.

From Cicero to Hildegard von Bingen

To demonstrate development and significance, eleven important Latin speakers are ready to lead the show through the 2,100-year history of the Latin language. There is the Roman orator Cicero (106-43 BC) whose texts are still standard reading for modern Latin students. Or Charlemagne (747-814), who brought Latin out of the crisis: “He saved the language, restored Latin as a compulsory subject in higher education.” His multi-ethnic kingdom needed a common language. The abbess of Hildegard von Bingen (c. 1098-1179), canonized in 2012, is said to have even heard her visions in Latin.

Visitors also meet the unruly comedian Gauls Asterix. More than 200 exhibits show that there are even books for children and teenagers, such as “The Greek’s Diary” or “Three Question Marks” translated into Latin, as well as board and card games in Latin. It also illustrates what Latin lessons may have looked like centuries ago – a dictionary from the 9th century suggests extraordinary discipline among students.

Prerequisite for multiple courses

The head of the culture department of the LWL regional association, Barbara Rüschoff-Parzinger, stressed on Wednesday a few days before the opening: “Latin is the DNA for many other national languages.” It comes in many terms and is essential in many areas such as medicine. Latin is the third most spoken foreign language taught in German classes and is also a prerequisite for many courses.

Parallel to the show, the museum has developed a series of podcasts “Hocus, locus, jocus”. All texts of the exhibition are bilingual, Latin-German. The exciting and fun exhibition is open until January 8 – that is: “Carpe diem!”

Attention: This report is part of the automated service of the German Press Agency (dpa), which operates according to strict journalistic rules. It is not edited or checked by online editorial offices AZ. Please send your questions and comments to

Leave a Comment