memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

O Table

When the young 8-year-old Winston Churchill first went away to school, his glamorous mother rather vaguely took him there in the middle of the term. As her grand car disappeared down the drive, the headmaster took Churchill into his office, gave him a Latin Primer and told him to study the first page, then left the room.

Page one, in the time-honoured way of such primers, dealt with a declension of the substantive feminine noun: Mensa (table): nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative and ablative: (a table, o table, table, of a table, to a table and by/with/from a table).

The young boy studied this in silence and, on the master’s return, he was sitting looking slightly bemused at this new information. The headmaster asked:

–              Well, young man, any problems?

–              No sir, I don’t think so sir, but I am rather puzzled by the vocative case …

–              Well the vocative is used when one addresses the object directly, for example «o table» … but you still don’t look convinced.

–              No I understand, sir; it’s just that in our house, we don’t generally speak to our furniture.

Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill

Winston Churchill, later in life, won the Nobel Prize for literature.

Comments on: "O Table" (12)

  1. This is the first thing I have read this morning. It is always nice to start the day with a smile. : ) Thank you, Thomas! I hope your day and your week will be happy. ~ Lily


  2. This is very good!

    I remember Latin – vaguely! – I failed 0 level miserably, but I did always love the ablative absolute!! Could never get to grips with all that poetry scanning. And stories about Xerses, and about Hannibal crossing the alps! LOL:)

    Maybe it I’d been less interested in boys …!



  3. I have never studied Latin, but I believe I have found a clue to some of life’s problems…I never knew you didn’t talk to the furniture…lol

    Be encouraged!


  4. nice! I talk to mine all the time though, otherwise i find it gets lonely.


  5. Adrian C Eakins said:

    Must admit I was not very attentive in Latin at Prep school and never really saw the value of it until later in life. However, it is good to see that study of Latin in the UK is experiencing a little bit of a revival.


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