May 22 • 3M


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Debra Esolen
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I love English — as you’ve probably noticed! One of its odder features is its three-fold or four-fold engagement with Latin. You see, the Caesars had annexed the south of Great Britain, up to Hadrian’s Wall, and so for three centuries you had people in England mixing it up with those oddballs who liked hot springs (at Bath), who set up walled camps and towns everywhere (at Lan-caster, Man-chester, Ro-chester, Wor-cester, and all those other places that had Latin castra, camp, in their names), who used coins (Latin moneta, which eventually became Old English mynt, the ancestor of English mint), and who strewed layers of gravel and stone to make roads, some of which are still in use, more than two thousand years later. The Latin word for spreading things out or strewing them broadside, or flattening somebody with a good left cross, was sternere, with its past participle stratus. So Latin via strata meant a paved way — and then it was just strata, for short.

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