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10 Popular Children's Books That Have Been Translated Into Latin

Thanks to some hard-working scholars, Harry Potter, Winnie the Pooh, and Bilbo Baggins are now getting kids hooked on the language of Virgil.

1. HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE // HARRIUS POTTER ET PHILOSOPHI LAPIS

Even in their original English, the Harry Potter novels are loaded with undercover Latin lessons. J.K. Rowling studied classics at the University of Exeter—much to her parents’ bewilderment. “Of all the subjects on this planet,” she once said, “I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom.”

In Harry’s universe, magic-wielders have been using and updating the Latin language for centuries. Most spells, therefore, are based on Latin terms: Nox, for example, means night, while accio comes from the command “to summon forth.”

So, naturally, the Harry Potter books were begging to be translated into this ancient tongue. Peter Needham, who had previously converted Paddington Bear into Latin under the title Ursus Nomine Paddington, provided the translation. “It’s an ideal job for an old bloke in retirement,” Needham, a former Latin professor, said in 2001.

Bloomsbury Publishing put out his version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 2003, followed by an ancient Greek edition. “We aren’t under any illusions that [these translations] will be best-sellers,” editor Emma Matthewson said at the time, “but we think that it will mean much more fun lessons for anyone studying Latin and Greek.”

Needham has since translated Chamber of Secrets. To him, the whole undertaking proved a pleasant experience. “At the school I taught at we didn’t have modern translations of this sort,” he told The Telegraph. “But I also think it’s going to be a fun thing for intelligent people to have—the sort of thing you give your father for Christmas.”  

2. WINNIE THE POOH // WINNIE ILLE PU

When Winnie Ille Pu was released in December 1960, critics immediately sang its praises. “[It] does more to attract interest in Latin than Cicero, Caesar, and Virgil combined,” proclaimed The Chicago Tribune. Lewis Nichols at The New York Times hailed Winnie Ille Pu as “the greatest work that a dead language has ever known.”

Alexander Lenard, an eastern European doctor who’d relocated to Brazil, spent seven years translating Winnie the Pooh. Saying that his hard work paid off would be an understatement. Winnie Ille Pu was the first Latin book to crack The New York Times bestseller list, where it stayed for an impressive 20 weeks. Royalties from the book enabled Lenard to purchase a second house.

3. HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS // QUOMODO INVIDIOSULUS NOMINE GRINCHUS CHRISTI NATALEM ABROGAVERIT

According to Terence Tunberg, “The study of Latin, traditionally, can be a dreary business.” He and his wife, Jennifer, would know. Both teach Latin at the University of Kentucky, where they work for the department of classics and literature. One day, Bolchazy-Carducci Publishing, Inc., approached them with an unusual challenge: translate Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas into Latin.

At first, the Tunbergs had some reservations. “We thought our colleagues might think we were spending a lot of time doing childish things,” Jennifer told UK's magazine, Odyssey. Still, the couple was game. Released in 1998, their take on Grinch wound up selling over 41,000 copies within three years.

Like all translators, the Tunbergs had to get creative at times. In English, their edition’s title literally means “How the little envious one by the name Grinch stole the birthday of Christ.”

4. THE HOBBIT // HOBBITUS ILLE

Writer Mark Walker is a self-described “Tolkien fan and ardent Latinist.” In 2012, Harper Collins published Hobbitus Ille, his translation of the Middle Earth novel. As Walker told the Huffington Post, converting creature names was an interesting task: The word elves, for example, has no Latin equivalent. Instead, Walker referred to the pointy-eared archers as dryades, a race of forest nymphs in Roman folklore.

5. THE CAT IN THE HAT // CATTUS PETASATUS

After reimagining How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Tunbergs tackled another Dr. Seuss bestseller. “We ran into all sorts of situations with … The Cat in the Hat, where our inventiveness was really put to the test,” Terence said. “I think we’re contributing a lot to original scholarship, because this work shows that Latin is not a dead language. A project like this shows how the Latin medium can be adapted to a contemporary work.”

6. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE // UBI FERA SUNT

In 2015, Time magazine dubbed Maurice Sendak’s beloved tale “the best children’s book of all time.” That same year, it became available in Latin for the first time ever, courtesy of Bolchazy-Carducci Publishing and translator Richard A. LaFleur (a retired University of Georgia classics professor).

7. ALICE IN WONDERLAND // ALICIA IN TERRA MIRABILI

For 41 years, classics professor Clive Carruthers enjoyed a distinguished career at McGill University. After his retirement in 1961, the scholar busied himself by translating the works of Lewis Carroll. Carruthers’s Latin spin on Alice in Wonderland hit bookstores three years later, allowing the reader to “read it as Julius Caesar might have if he had been lucky enough,” according to the original dust jacket. Carruthers went on to give Alice in Wonderland’s sequel, Through the Looking Glass [PDF], the same treatment.

8. DIARY OF A WIMPY KID // COMMENTARII DE INEPTO PUERO

Monsignor Daniel Gallagher is a Vatican cleric who, among other things, runs Pope Francis’s Latin Twitter account. Why does this feed exist? For starters, Latin is still the official language of Vatican City. “[It’s] universal, it doesn’t belong to any one country or culture," Gallagher told The Telegraph. "It doesn’t privilege or favour any one nation, it’s trans-national.”

The Michigan native is committed to popularizing the tongue. If all goes well, his translation of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid will help do so. Published last May, Commentarii de Inepto Puero takes pains to convert modern slang into something that, in Gallagher’s mind, “[captures] the spirit of the ancient Romans.”

“Exclamations like ‘Darn!’ were tricky,” he said. “You try to get as close as possible with the translation.” The priest sees his Latinized Wimpy Kid text as a valuable—and accessible—teaching tool for 21st-century kids. “It is important for children to see that… you can still express today’s thoughts in Latin,” he said.

9. THE GIVING TREE // ARBOR ALMA

Jennifer and Terrence Tunberg took a break from Dr. Seuss in 2002, applying their linguistic talents to Shel Silverstein’s poignant book The Giving Tree.

10. CHARLOTTE’S WEB // TELA CHARLOTTAE

In 1991, the story of Wilbur the pig and a very special arachnid got a Latin re-release.Harper Collins Publishing hired Bernice L. Fox, a longtime English, Greek, and Latin language professor who worked at Monmouth College in Illinois from 1947 to 1981, to handle the translation. Throughout her career, Fox avidly promoted grade-school classical studies. In 1985, Monmouth established the Bernice L. Fox Classics Writing Contest. Every year, high schoolers from across America are invited to tackle such essay topics as “What 12 labors would Hercules have today and how would he complete them?” The winning entry earns its author a $250 prize.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Wine
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by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Between the vine and the liquor store, plenty of secrets are submerged in your favorite bottle of vino. Here, the author of Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma spills some of the best.

1. DIGITAL EYES ARE EVERYWHERE IN VINEYARDS.

Certain premium estates in Bordeaux and Napa are beginning to look a little more like an army base—or an Amazon.com warehouse. They’re using drones, optical scanners, and heat-sensing satellites to keep a digital eye on things. Some airborne drones collect data that helps winemakers decide on the optimal time to harvest and evaluate where they can use less fertilizer. Others rove through the vineyard rows, where they may soon be able to take over pruning. Of course, these are major investments. At $68,000 a pop, the Scancopter 450 is about twice as costly as a 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon!

2. THERE ARE ALSO LOTS OF COW SKULLS.

They’re not everywhere, but biodynamic farming techniques are on the rise among vintners who don’t want to rely on chemicals, and this is one trick they’ve been known to use to combat plant diseases and improve soil PH. It’s called Preparation No. 505, and it involves taking a cow’s skull (or a sheep’s or a goat’s), stuffing it with finely ground oak chips, and burying it in a wet spot for a season or two before adding it to the vineyard compost.

3. FEROCIOUS FOLIAGE IS A VINTNER’S FRIEND.

The mustard flowers blooming between vineyard rows aren’t just for romance. Glucosinolates in plants like radishes and mustard give them their spicy bite, and through the wonders of organic chemistry, those glucosinolates also double as powerful pesticides. Winemakers use them to combat nematodes—tiny worms that can destroy grape crops.

4. WHAT A CANARY IS TO A COAL MINE, ROSES ARE TO A VINEYARD.

Vintners plant roses among their vines because they get sick before anything else in the field. If there’s mildew in the air, it will infect the roses first and give a winemaker a heads-up that it’s time to spray.

5. VINTNERS EXPLOIT THE FOOD CHAIN.

A trio of wines
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Small birds like blackbirds and starlings can clear out 20 percent of a crop in no time. But you know what eats little birds? Big birds. Falconry programs are on the rise in vineyards from California to New Zealand. Researchers have found that raptors eat a bird or two a day (along with a proportion of field mice and other critters) and cost only about as much to maintain as your average house cat.

6. THE BIG PROBLEMS IN TASTING ROOMS ARE VERY SMALL.

Winemakers are constantly seeking ways to manage the swarms of Drosophila melanogaster that routinely gather around the dump buckets in their swanky showrooms. You know these pests as fruit flies, and some vintners in California are exploring ways to use carnivorous plants to tackle the problem without pesticides. Butterworts, sundews, and pitcher plants all have sweet-sounding names, but the bugeating predators make for terrific fruit fly assassins, and you’ll see them decorating tasting rooms across wine country.

7. WINE NEEDS CLEANING.

Winemaking produces hard-to-remove sediments. Filters can catch most of the debris, but winemakers must add “fining agents” to remove any suspended solids that sneak by. Until it was banned in the 1990s, many European vintners used powdered ox blood to clean their wines. Today, they use diatomaceous earth (the fossilized remains of hard-shelled algae), Isinglass (a collagen made from fish swim bladders), and sometimes bentonite (volcanic clay). Irish moss and egg whites are also fine wine cleaners.

8. ATOMS HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.

About 5 percent of the premium wine sold for cellaring doesn’t contain what the label promises. So how do top-shelf buyers avoid plunking down serious cash on a bottle of something bunk? Most elite wine brokerages, auction houses, and collectors use atomic dating to detect fraud. By measuring trace radioactive carbon in the wine, most bottles can be dated to within a year or two of the vintage.

9. FINE WINES GET MRIs.

Even with atomic dating, there are certain perils involved in buying a $20,000 bottle of wine. Leaving a case in the hot trunk of your car is enough to ruin it, so imagine what can happen over a couple of decades if a wine isn’t kept in the proper conditions. Back in 2002, a chemistry professor at University of California at Davis patented a technique that uses MRI technology to diagnose the condition of vintage wines. Not planning any $20,000 wine purchases? This is still good news for the consumer. This technique may soon be used at airport security, meaning you’ll be able to carry on your booze.

10. THERE’S A TRICK TO AGING YOUR WINE.

If you end up with a bottle of plonk, Chinese scientists have developed a handy solution. Zapping a young wine with electricity makes it taste like something you’ve cellar aged. Scientists aren’t quite sure how it happens yet, but it seems that running your wine for precisely three minutes through an electric field changes the esters, proteins, and aldehydes and can “age” a wine instantly.

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New Book Highlights the World's Most Depressing Place Names

If you like a little ennui with your wanderlust, we've got a book for you.

As Hyperallergic reports, the popular Instagram account @sadtopographies recently got the coffee table book treatment with the beautiful and gloomy Triste Tropique, Topographies of Sadness. Since 2015, master of misery Damien Rudd has been compiling Google Maps screen shots of real-life locales like Melancholy Lane, Mistake Island, Hopeless Way, and Cape Disappointment on the social media platform. Scrolling through them will make you laugh and marvel at how these names even came to be.

Created in collaboration with French publisher Jean Boîte Éditions, Triste Tropique includes 89 locales accompanied by amusingly poetic captions (called "romances" by the publisher) from writer Cécile Coulon. "Anyway, does it even really exist?" she writes of Doubtful Island. Each place is printed to scale with its exact location provided. The title is a reference to another glum book: Tristes Tropiques by anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss.

This isn't the first time @sadtopographies has been made into a book; last year's Sad Topographies: A Disenchanted Travellers' Guide delved further into the origins of depressing place names. "I have not been to, nor is it likely I will visit, any of the places in this book," Rudd wrote in that 2017 title, but perhaps you'll feel differently.

See the cover, featuring Disappointment Island, below. While you're at it, check out 14 of the most depressing place names in North America here.

Triste Tropique, Topographies of Sadness cover
Jean Boîte Éditions

[h/t Hyperallergic]

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