December 01, 2003

religion and grammar

With Geoff Pullum regaling us with naughty tales of his frolics in the fleshpits of Nevada and illicit noun-noun compounds, it seems that a dose of old-time religion is in order. Bertrand Russell, in "Has religion made useful contributions to civilisation?", notes:

Pope Gregory the Great wrote to a certain bishop a letter beginning: "A report has reached us which we cannot mention without a blush, that thou expoundest grammar to certain friends." The bishop was compelled by pontifical authority to desist from this wicked labor, and Latinity did not recover until the Renaissance.

Curiously, according to the biography in The Catholic Encyclopaedia, Pope Gregory excelled in grammar as a young man, before he became a monk.

Posted by Bill Poser at December 1, 2003 11:57 PM