Veni, Venite, or Coming to Terms with Proper Latin Pronunciation at Christmas

One of the significant changes that has come to this blog in the year fast ending is the incorporation of proper WordPress statistics for the webmaster to contemplate.  This gives me a better idea of where my readers are coming from and what interests them (better than Google Analytics, I might add).

This blog (and all of my sites are pretty much the same way) doesn’t live primarily off of the new content, although the visits do get a kick from time to time from popular pieces of the moment.  It’s more centred on content of perennial interest, like this.  That’s because my general instinct is towards education, and real education is sorely needed these days.

That in turn leads me to a place where some further instruction is in order.  Two years ago I posted Gloria in excelsis Deo. Now Let’s Get That Pronunciation Right! which set forth the proper pronunciation of the Latin words that creep into our Christmas carols.  Evidently I’m not the only one who thinks something is amiss with our Advent repertoire because the interest in that piece is pretty steady.

With that time of year, when choirmasters and music ministers alike prepare to butcher the language of Cicero and Tertullian, it’s time to issue a reminder that you don’t have to be wrong about this.  In the earlier piece I focused on “Angels We Have Heard on High” but this time I’d like to remind readers of the following:

I think it’s time that we pitch this so-called “ecclesiastical” pronunciation of Latin which plagues such classics as “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel,” (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel) “Adeste Fideles,” (O Come, All Ye Faithful)…and pronounce the language the way the Romans did when Our Lord actually laid in the manger in swaddling clothes.

In the case of these two classics (both of which started out in Latin) the most egregious problem is the way the various forms of the Latin verb venire (to come) are pronounced.  The proper way to do this, as set forth by the source for the original piece, is to pronounce the “v” like a “w” (yes, we know the Germans do it this way…)

It’s time to “come to the party” on this issue, and I don’t mean the one where the eggnog is served.  I’m also aware that the nature of the eggnog is in dispute as well, but, as I like to say, that’s another post.

2 Replies to “Veni, Venite, or Coming to Terms with Proper Latin Pronunciation at Christmas”

  1. …so, what is your position? It’s unclear whether you advocate pronouncing the “v” in “veni” like a “w” or not.

    Also, the Germans do not “do it this way.” They pronounce the letter w like a v, and they pronounce the letter v like an f.

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