Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Christmas Nerd Story

When I was in grad school, studying medieval European history, I had to master medieval Latin as a degree requirement. For most history graduate language requirements, the deal was that you had to pass a class called "Readings in _____ (Latin, Spanish, French, whatever)." But for my advisor, Dr. Patterson, passing the Readings in Latin class merely bought you a ticket to his personal exam. It was a nasty timed translation test based on sources from the middle ages and late antiquity. You could use a dictionary, but if you needed it, you probably wouldn't have the time to finish. Many, many history nerds had sat for Dr. P's exam multiple times.

Well, I passed the Readings class, and went into the "real" exam. It became pretty obvious by about halfway through that this was my warm-up attempt. There was a lot of translation to do, and the clock was not my friend. With about 3 minutes to go, I had one big, ugly paragraph to go. No chance. But I figured I'd at least start it. Shepherds...watching... at night. HA! It was Luke chapter 2 from the Vulgate Bible! Translation, nothing--this one I can do from memory. Dr. P, would you rather have that in King James or NIV? Just muddy it up around the edges a bit to give it the appearance of having actually been translated. It was a Christmas miracle! Thank you, Linus!

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