Emmettus Wilsonius


If you recall, last month I had a question for Angela the Archivist at Stetson University about Emmett’s law school diploma; specifically: Was Emmett’s law school diploma in Latin?

She said she’d get back to me after she and another archivist over at the law school dug around a bit more. Angela got back to me yesterday with an update.

The answer: Most likely.

Angela said that in the digital archive, there are several actual diplomas (Bachelor of Law degrees) from the 1920s and 1930s, but they are in English. Although there are some Bachelor of Arts diplomas from the 20s and 30s in Latin, there are no diplomas from Emmett’s time.

However, the law school archivist found something very interesting from the Stetson Weekly Collegiate for April 30, 1904:

The diplomas appear to have been in Latin. Why Latinize a graduate's name and not the entire document?

The diplomas appear to have been in Latin. Why Latinize a graduate’s name and not the entire document?

With this information, I believe the diplomas WERE in Latin. Why go to the trouble to Latinize just the names and not the whole document? It wouldn’t look right. So, I’m going with the idea that Emmett’s diploma was, in fact, in Latin.

The professors identified in this article, by the way, are Edwin G. Baldwin, A.M., professor of Latin (and an avid beekeeper), and Mrs. G. Prentice Carson, instructor in domestic science. They were not Emmett’s professors. I take it these faculty members were drafted to the task.

Mrs. G. Prentice Carson is the first on the left, doing something 'domestic' in the Domestic Science Lab, basement of Flagler Hall, Stetson U. Image source: Florida Memory.com

Mrs. G. Prentice Carson is the first on the left, doing something ‘domestic’ in the Domestic Science Lab, basement of Flagler Hall, Stetson U. Image source: Florida Memory.com

I wondered what name Professors Carson and Baldwin ‘quibbled’ over? Who was the scholasticus ab difficile nomen?

Of course, the professors could have been wrestling with the name of a student graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree, but just for the heck of it (and for lack of infinite free time), I focused only on Emmett’s law school graduating class. To start with, I ran the law school graduation class names through the University of Notre Dame’s English to Latin Translator.

Here’s the list of the students that graduated in 1904.

Eight students in Emmett's graduating class. Source: Stetson University Archives.

Eight students in Emmett’s graduating class. Source: Stetson University Archives.

The Latinizer’s results:

J. Hall Brumsey = J. Atrium Brumsey
James Turner Butler = James Turner Promus
William Bloxham Crawford = William Bloxham Crawford
Harold Ernest Merryday = Harold Ernest Merryday
Edward Lee Powe = Edward Faecula Powe
Nicholas G. VanSant = Nicholas G. VanSant
Emmett Wilson = Emmett Wilson
Augustus Spencer Wingood = Augustus Spencer Wingood

As you can see, the translator doesn’t work with proper nouns, unless the names were also regular words, such as ‘butler’ or ‘hall’, which has a Latin equivalent.

So, I went to a second source on translation of proper names into Latin at this site, which clarified how proper names can be translated into Latin.

For example, if you had a name that was commonly used during Roman times, such as John or Mark, your translation is relatively simple: Iohannes and Marcus.

But one of the points made in the discussion is something I’m sure Professors Carson and Baldwin were wrestling over: What if you have an unusual name like “DeShawn”? How would you translate that into Latin?

In general (according to the experts in the Latin discussion thread), the proper noun should fit into a standard Latin declension, and it is best to keep the name as close to the original language as possible (i.e., John Cusack = Iohannes Cusaccus). One of the most common treatments of this is to add -us or -ius to the end of names ending in consonants; but, there are variations to this rule. Oy. Dan Nicholson, author of Orthography of Names and Epithets: Latinization of Personal Names, explains it more at this link.

After this little research side trip into what Emmett’s law school diploma probably looked like, all I have to say is that I can see why there was some quibbling. Latinizing a proper name wasn’t always about slapping a -ius at the end; the rules could vary. This was not an easy task for Professors Baldwin and Carson. I hope they were at least compensated for the effort.

Based on this information, I believe each student’s name was Latinized, and not left alone. For instance, the Latinization of William Bloxham Crawford’s name on his diploma would have been “Willelmus Bloxhamius Crawfordius”.

For Emmett, it was likely Emmettus Wilsonius.

I would love to find Emmett’s diploma. I was secretly hoping it would turn up in Stetson’s archive. 🙂 Maybe it will still turn up.

Thanks very much to Angela and her archival colleagues duPont-Ball Library and Hand Law Library at Stetson University for their help with this question.

PS: I think the student name that Carson and Baldwin had the problem Latinizing was that of Margaretha Elisabeth Duvinage Remmers (Bachelor of Philosophy). It was not only the longest name on the diplomas given that  year, but her third name, “Duvinage,” was unique.

Gratias Ago Tibi, Fr. Brock


The excellent Angela the Archivist over at Stetson has this to share with us today:

A 1936 Bachelor of Arts diploma from Stetson University -- in LATIN! Typical college diploma? Source: http://digital.archives.stetson.edu/cdm/ref/collection/Memorabilia/id/254

A 1936 Bachelor of Arts diploma from Stetson University — in LATIN! Source: http://digital.archives.stetson.edu/cdm/ref/collection/Memorabilia/id/254

I had mentioned to Angela that I suspected Emmett’s diploma was in Latin, but because I didn’t have anything on hand from 1904 (when he graduated), I wasn’t sure. Nowadays, of course, most U.S. universities provide diplomas are in English.

She’s checking with the law school to see if they have anything in their archive from Emmett’s time — but — and this is cool — she said that she saw a diploma from 1916, which looked much like this version from 1936, and it, too, was in Latin. (I love her email signature line: At the bottom, it says, “Go Hatters! Go Archives!”)

The diploma makes me curious about Emmett and Latin. Latin was offered in some high schools, but I doubt it was offered in the Chipley public schools in 1900.

A good source for information on public school in Florida. Source: Google Books

A good source for information on public schools in Florida. Source: Google Books

Reports about Washington County public education during the years Emmett was enrolled indicated that, on average, the schools operated only four months out of the year. Many county residents were upset about this; the problem was then (as it is today) about funding and staffing. Public school teachers (mostly single women) around 1900 were paid $25 a month. The average income for an adult (male) was about $400 a year. It was hard to attract good teachers when the state didn’t have enough money to pay a faculty member for a full year’s instruction.

Knowing this reinforces the idea (to me, anyway) that Latin would not have been a instructional priority, but mathematics, reading, English, science — absolutely.

I don’t think the county public school teachers during Emmett’s day were against teaching the classics, but we are talking about a community where a practical education would have to come first, especially if you know you have only a four-month ‘school year’ in which to instruct students.

Notice Greek AND Latin were required for FRESHMEN.  Source: FSU archives

Notice Greek AND Latin were required for FRESHMEN. Source: FSU archives

Thinking about how much I had to struggle with Latin reminds me of my high school Latin teacher: He was an ultra-serious Catholic priest named Fr. John Brock who took crapus magnus from no one. He was one of the two teachers I actually feared when I was at St. Joseph High School — the other was my typing teacher, a nun named Sr. Clarissa, a Sister of Mercy who was only 4’11”, but had no problem twisting the ear of a 6′ football player and dragging his ass down to the principal’s office if you were anything marginally disrespectful in her class.

Fr. Brock died about four years ago. I wish I'd thanked him while he was still around. Image source: SJHS

Fr. Brock died about four years ago. I wish I’d thanked him while he was still around. Image source: SJHS

Good times, my friends. Good times.

I say all this because everything I learned from both of these teachers has stuck with me all these years. Fr. Brock expected nothing but the absolute best our his students at all times. The subject was challenging, and Fr. Brock was challenging — and none of it was boring.

I wonder who was Emmett’s most memorable teacher, and if Emmett liked Latin. It is too bad his grade reports aren’t around anymore. I’d like to have known if his Latin grades were as bad — or better — than mine.