Latin, eh?

What connects a Wallsend metro station, an ATM in the Vatican City, Asterix and Wikipedia?

Latin, of course!

Originating in Italy, it was spoken in Ancient Rome and spread through the Mediterranean into much of the then known world. Although now considered a dead language,  many students, scholars, and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and it is still taught in some primary, secondary and many post-secondary educational institutions around the world.

Latin is still used in the creation of new words including in English, and in biological names. Changing versions between vulgar Latin and Classical Latin, declining into a misspelled medieval form, revived and refined in the Renaissance period,  it was used as the international language of communication until well into the eighteenth century.

Apart from the spells of Harry Potter et al,  the mottoes of many American states and plant labels, Latin crops up today in some off-beat places.

Wallsend Metro station is the only public facility in Britain in which the signage is in Latin. This is a nod to its location near the Segedunum Roman fort at the end of Hadrian’s Wall. The station also includes a number of photographs of local shops and facilities which have been digitally altered so that their names appear in Latin.



The Vatican City is also home to the world’s only ATM that gives instructions in Latin.




Asterix is the famous cartoon character featured in the works of Uderzo and Goscinny. The comic but stouthearted Gaulish warrior is always getting one over the Romans. Not quite sure what he’d make of himself speaking Latin, especially as a legionary


Vicipaedia Latina is the Latin language edition of Wikipedia. As of November 2012, it has about 82,000 articles. Content is in Latin, but discussions are run in modern languages such as English, French, German or Spanish since many users  find this easier.

Wikipedia reports, ‘Professional latinists have observed a gradual improvement in the encyclopedia: according to Robert Gurval, chairman of the UCLA classics department, “the articles that are good are in fact very good,” even though some articles by beginning students contain grammatical errors.
The Latin Wikipedia began dominated by topics from classical history, but beginning in 2006 a group of new contributors greatly expanded the coverage of 20th-century topics, such as pop culture and technology.’


Wallsend – Courtesy of Chris McKenna [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Vatican ATM – Courtesy of Seth Schoen [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is out now.

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