Latin for Mrs Jones
An early seventeenth-century memorial to an English-woman in Lindisfarne Northumberland, inscribed in both English and Latin, gives testimony not only to love and grief for a departed family member, but also to a, for the time, common mixing of languages. The mourning relative’s choice to demonstrate their grief in Latin verse invites scrutiny in several intercultural contexts. The first – Latin and English intermingling on a memorial – is perhaps less interesting than the conversation between two Latinate cultures: that of the seventeenth-century erector of the stone and of ancient Rome. The composer of the inscription faced the task of fitting their chosen words into a quite rigid structure following precise technical rules of prosody and composition established by classical Latin poets. In so doing they declared their gender and education. This type of use of Latin by unremarkable people in obscure locations represents a curious and significant mixing of cultures; the explication of it in this article is by a specialist in what is nowadays referred to as the field of neo-Latin.
Keywords: Language mixing, Renaissance Britain, Ancient Rome, neo-Latin, interculturality
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