Monday, July 16, 2012

"Sine Die"

These words were spoken (in the usual butchered Latin) at the recent conclusion of the 77th triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church. They are normally pronounced by the President of the House of Deputies as "Syney Dye", as "PHoD" (the President of the House of Deputies) adjourns the Convention, and most folk probably think that the words terminate the Convention. Isn't "adjournment" a fancy word for the end of the meeting? Not exactly! Let's first get the pronunciation right. Well, no-one really knows how the Romans pronounced their words. When I was studying Latin, we were informed that there were two main streams of opinion on how to pronounce that language, and we would learn the modern system. Since this was over three-quarters of a century ago, teaching may have changed, but my guess is that the words are probably still pronounced by most Latinists "sinnay dayie". Of one thing you can be certain: "die" is a word of two syllables. ("Dies irae" means "Day of Wrath", and that should confirm the point.) The literal meaning is clear: "without a day". This means that adjournment takes place without a set date for continuation: it doesn't mean termination, although that is normally the reality. In theory, Deputies and Bishops could be recalled, and their work would technically be considered a continuation of the same Convention. "Adjournment" actually implies an interval, usually to a "time certain". The Latin roots of the word imply "to another day". This "teaching moment" is hereby adjourned...

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