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From Discos to Dishwashers, a New Latin Dictionary

September 11, 1991

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ If they published glossy magazines in Caesar’s time, Cleopatra would have been an ″exterioris pagine puella.″

That’s Latin for ″cover girl″ - at least in a new dictionary of modern Latin soon to be published by the Vatican.

Thousands of new entries - ranging from Amnesty International to disco, dishwasher to slot machine - will be included in the first updating of a Vatican Latin dictionary in nearly 30 years.

″There is no reason why we can’t express modern terms in Latin,″ said the Rev. Carolus Egger, who heads the Vatican’s Latin Foundation.

The foundation was set up 15 years ago by Pope Paul VI to help keep Latin alive in the church as its use began to seriously wane.

But the new dictionary is more than a scholarly exercise. The Vatican has run into problems putting out documents on the sciences and other fields in what is still its official language.

The dictionary may also help to avoid embarrassing slipups in Latin terminology that have demonstrated the decline of Latin even at the headquarters of the Roman Catholic church.

Two years ago, the Vatican misspelled the Latin word for Sweden in a stamp commemorating Pope John Paul II’s trip to Scandinavia, one of several well- publicized Latin errors at church headquarters.

Egger hopes to have the Latin-Italian dictionary off the presses by the end of the year. The first volume will cover letters A-L.

An advance look given The Associated Press of some of the 18,000 or so entries showed a wide range of modern terms covered, including some English words that have crept into Italian.

Egger’s assistant, the Rev. Edmond Caruana, estimates that 75 percent are new entries. Many new terms are compounds of existing Latin words.

There’s a new entry for a device called ″escariorum lavator.″ That means something that washes dishes.

A disco is an ″orbium phonographicorum theca″ - a place to hear wordly music.

Amnesty International will be listed as ″societas internationalis ab amnestia.″

Slot machine translates as ″sphaeriludium electricum nomismate actum.″

Latin remains the Vatican’s official language in name only. Nearly three decades ago, the Second Vatican Council allowed Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular. An increasing number of clergymen don’t understand Latin.

In the United States, as in many countries, it is taught in Catholic seminaries generally as an optional course, said Anita Fusco, spokeswoman for the U.S. Catholic Conference in Washington, D.C.

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