Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Grinchus

On December 7th, the Bull's Head Bookshop at UNC-Chapel Hill celebrated their annual reading of Grinch in latin. The book, Quomodo Invidiosulus Nomine Grinchus Christi Natalem Abrogaverit, is read in the favorite dead language of creative translators (I own Ferdinandus Taurus). It seems many children's books end up with Latin versions, enough to give a non-American librarian the idea that need the books for America's extensive courses in Latin taught to gradeschoolers.

But, why Latin? As a dead language, it's not much useful, except maybe to lawyers, doctors, and scientists whose lexicons are full of dead languages...but I doubt many of their textbooks delve into dead languages to describe the anger of a fictional creature on a Christian holiday.

While writing is a creative process, reading -- or being read to -- is also artistic. Along with the pictures in the book, the mind must create images of its own, internally, based on the words cascading from the pages. Artists commonly have 'tricks' for creativity, things like drawing an object without lifting the pencil from the paper, or drawing something upside down. Giving the mind a different way to do things, by preventing it from falling into its regular patterns of activity, forces it to work harder to create. The purpose is not to create something better, but create something from a completely different starting point.

Reading to a child (or anybody, for that matter), in Latin is a creative excercise for their mind. Children have long heard the story of the Grinch, and many can probably recite it from memory, but delivering the familiar story in an unfamiliar way gives their brain a little extra workout. Translating the words directly into thoughts is to let the brain fall into rut, the way reading normally happens. When the brain is allowed to go off-road, leaving the worn tracks of thought behind, new creativity is born.

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