Happy Birthday, Harry!

Happy Birthday, Harry!

In honor of Harry Potter’s birthday, I am starting a new category:  Latin in Literature.

J. K. Rowling plays with Latin, Greek, French,  and German throughout her famous series.  For example, Caput Draconis is  a password from the first book. It opens the door to the Gryffindor dormitory.

Caput in Latin means head.  Draconis means of the dragon.

She is not, of course, the only author to do so.  Latin shows up in many places.

Panem, in the Hunger Games, is from the Latin word panis, bread.  Why did the author choose the word panem, instead of panis?  Was it a mistake?  Was it ignorance?

It was neither.  It was intentional.

Panem comes from Juvenal’s satire of Rome.  He uses the phrase panem et circenses (bread and circuses) to scorn a Roman policy of mass appeasement.  In 140 A.D. , some Roman politicians instituted panem et circenses as a means to win votes.    Turns out cheap food and entertainment was a cheap way to win those votes.

Sound familiar?

Insight into literature is one of the benefits of learning Latin.

Have you spotted Latin in literature?  Share it with the rest of us in the comment section below.

Do you think you have spotted Latin in literature, but you aren’t sure?  Ask in the comment section below.