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Winnie and the Vocative Table

Sir Winston Brings Up a Good Point!

Sir Winston Brings Up a Good Point!

Because at this point in tax season, I am approaching brain death, I will be posting quoted material of interest from other websites. The following anecdote is from The Futility Closet:

A schoolmaster gave a Latin grammar to the 10-year-old Winston Churchill and directed him to learn a series of words.

Churchill found it an “absolute rigmarole” but memorized the list and reeled it off when asked.

‘But,’ I repeated, ‘what does it mean?’

Mensa means a table,’ he answered.

‘Then why does mensa also mean O table,’ I enquired, ‘and what does O table mean?’

Mensa, O table, is the vocative case,’ he replied.

‘But why O table?’ I persisted in genuine curiosity.

‘O table,–you would use that in addressing a table, in invoking a table.’ And then seeing he was not carrying me with him, ‘You would use it in speaking to a table.’

‘But I never do!’ I blurted out in honest amazement.

“Such was my introduction,” he later wrote, “to the classics from which, I have been told, many of our cleverest men have derived so much solace and profit.”