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Beatles Song Translated Into Latin

November 9, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ All together now: ``Erat abhinc viginti annis hodie, Centurio Piper catervam canere docebat.″

What’s that? Don’t know the words?

There’s hardly a baby boomer alive who wouldn’t recognize the first line of the 1967 Beatles song ``Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band″ _ (``It was 20 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play″) _ if only it weren’t in Latin.

Benjamin Joffe, 23, a Cleveland native and senior at Yeshiva University in New York, managed to combine his two loves _ Latin and the Beatles _ by translating the 12 ``Sgt. Pepper″ songs into Latin.

Why? To get into the National Classics Fraternity.

The annual initiation rite, which dates to the 1950s, requires fraternity pledges to translate something from contemporary culture into Latin. Past inductees’ works include dialogue from ``Peanuts″ cartoons and testimony from the O.J. Simpson trial.

``I’m a huge, huge Beatles fan,″ Joffe said Monday. ``If I could, I would have majored in Beatles in college.″ He performed ``A Day in the Life″ at his induction last month, complete with a keyboard.

It took him a few weeks to translate the album. The hardest song, Joffe said, was ``Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,″ because ``so many words don’t exist in Latin ... like there are a number of references to cars, trains, buses and taxis.″

For ``car,″ he used a term that means a self-propelled vehicle. A ``train″ became a vehicle that runs on rails.

But besides getting him into the fraternity, what good is it?

``I don’t plan to go down to the Village and start my own band or anything. It was really just an academic exercise,″ Joffe said. Then he added, ``But if I could get to meet Paul McCartney out of this deal, now that would be great.″

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