Undergraduate Humanities Forum 2005-6: Word & Image

Document Type


Date of this Version

April 2006


2005-2006 Penn Humanities Forum on Word & Image, Undergraduate Mellon Research Fellows.

URL: http://humanities.sas.upenn.edu/05-06/mellon_uhf.shtml


Writing at the end of the first century C.E., Quintilian discusses the use of archaic words in contemporary Latin at the end of Book I, Chapter 6 of his Institutio Oratoria,. He writes, "Archaic words not only enjoy the patronage of distinguished authors, but also give style a certain majesty and charm." (Verba a vetustate repetita non solum magnos assertores habent sed etiam adferunt orationi maiestatem aliquam non sine delectatione). But Quintilian cautions writers to limit the use of archaic words to certain words in certain contexts. He writes, "such words must be used sparingly and must not thrust themselves onto our notice, since there is nothing more tiresome than affectation," (Sed opus est modo, ut neque crebra sint haec neque manifesta, quia nihil est odiosius adfectatione). Yet while Quintilian urges caution in using archaic words on aesthetic grounds, he also warns that these words may make writing or speech difficult to understand. He claims that speech, "whose prime virtue is clearness," (cuius summa virtus est perspicuitas), should never need explanation.



Date Posted: 30 July 2007