So my Latin teacher is EXCELLENT and has been teaching for a long time, and he does this thing that I find extremely hilarious (he does several actually) that I think I need to describe for you.
Whenever we (in my higher level Latin class- IV/V/VI AP/Honors) forget vocabulary words, he will cite THE CHAPTER NUMBER AND CONTEXTUAL SENTENCE in which the word appeared in Ecce Romani, and will proceed often times to quote several lines of said text.
“Don’t you remember *obscure vocabulary word* from line 26 of chapter 12 of Ecce Romani? Don’t you remember the daily life and struggles of Davus??? They used that word to prepare you for this very line of [Caesar/Vergil/Ovid/Marshall] six years down the road. There are no mistakes.”
Hi. I was reading some archives in classicist blogs and found one or two posts criticizing the use of the letter J when writing Latin, which I find sad because that's something I'm fond of. An obvious argument for this is that it didn't exist in ancient Roman writing, but neither did spacing, punctuation, and the letter U, and all these blogs use these other improvement from Medieval times. So what I'm trying to ask here is: what's your opinion on the letter J?
First of all, let me make it clear that I am not particularly fond of or inspired by “one for all, all for one” sorts of arguments according to which the idea is that the endorsement or the lack of endorsement of one or a few members of a group comprising putatively allied yet heterogenous members entails the endorsement or the lack of endorsement of all members of the group—and vice versa. While it is entirely sensible to point out that it is no argument in favor of any of those other Medieval improvements to point out that they did not exist in ancient Roman times, to cite either the modern use of those Medieval improvements or to cite the lack of their use in ancient Roman times is not to make a particular case for j (or any of the other Medieval improvements, for that matter), either. I think that this is a situation where I have to evaluate each on a case-by-case basis.
What about the case of j in Latin? What do I think of it?
Well, anyone who spends any amount of time looking at Mema Interretialia will notice that I take (along with most modern sources) the “intermediate position” of using u for the vowel, v for the consonant, and i for both the vowel and the consonant—unless, of course, I am quoting a source that actually uses j and w. (I find it interesting that while the Oxford Latin Dictionary does not make a real distinction between u and v, the Oxford Latin Course textbooks do. Perhaps that is an acknowledgement of the likelihood for students to encounter the “intermediate position.”) The lack of the use of j does imply my opinion of it. While I think there is a necessity to use v, I do not find that there is a comparable necessity to use j. While the letters I and V are comparable in the sense that each represented both consonantal and vocalic sounds, that is about where the similarities between the two end. And the lack of similarities has to do with why I find one useful and the other not so much.
The letter I did not function in a combination like the V functioned in QV, so while u had the benefit of settling into the qu combination (in Latin and in other languages), j did not have a comparable benefit; consonantal V (except in the QV combination) has undergone a drastic sound change in Latin throughout the centuries (from /w/ to /v/) while consonantal I has not, so modern scholars of Latin (who usually use various Medieval improvements) are likely to sense a more distinct difference in the uses of V than the difference in the uses of I; there has been some uncertainty about how consonantal I ought to be rendered in certain environments, particularly in between vowels (hence the CVIIVS that Cicero and Caesar are said to have written) and before vocalic I (REICIT instead of REIIICIT), while consonantal V seemed not to have inspired such uncertainty; unlike consonantal I, consonantal V normally occurs singly between vowels (although in certain Greek words, the consonantal V represents the Greek double [w], but even this is ignored in Greek transliteration), and so the V-ness in the word cave does not blend into the preceding a in a way comparable to the I-ness in the word maior, which does blend into the preceding a, thus partly bringing about the aforementioned orthographic uncertainty; while VI normally can be a diphthong (as in huic) or a combination of a consonant and a vowel (as in video), IV normally represents the consonant and the vowel (as in iubeo), so the two letters I and V, when put together, are good examples of how each differs from the other; Latin is generally okay with two consecutive instances of short vocalic V (e.g. arduus), but it avoids two consecutive instances of short vocalic I (e.g. mediterraneus instead of mediiterraneus), and so, when it comes to environments in which we have either short vowels or consonants, the VV generally can be either a combination of two vowels or a combination of a consonant and a vowel, while the II generally represents a combination of a vowel and a consonant.
What I am suggesting here is that u has a range of versatility that j simply does not have, and that a consistent use of j would require a lot more instances of it than we are used to (e.g. cujjus, rejjicit).
Double-u is a stupid name for a letter. All the other letters are single syllable, so you can refer to them quickly in speech (just like in writing). But whoops, let’s randomly make a letter that’s THREE syllables.
Saying “Giving What We Can” out loud is faster than verbalizing the acronym ‘GWWC’. Because double-u is stupid.