Earlier today I tweeted a quote from an article by the University Orator, Rupert Thompson, in our Faculty newsletter. The Orator gives speeches in Latin when honorary doctorates are conferred – and writing speeches in Latin to honour the work of particle physicists, Hollywood actors, and the like, is not always straightforward. It’s an almost unique challenge, faced only by the orators and Cambridge, Oxford and Trinity College Dublin, plus a handful of people working in the Vatican.
I thought Rupert’s thoughts on how to translate “tweet” were of particular interest to the blogosphere, and others seemed to agree (though not everyone liked his translation).
So how would you say “twitter”? The Vatican calls its twitter feed pagina publica Papae breuiloquentis: neither breviloquent nor particularly eloquent (unlike, it must be said, the Latin of Pope Francis’s actual tweets). Others have suggested pipare for ‘to tweet’, but that describes the noise of small birds, not the act of sending short, often pointless messages over the air. Sometimes serendipity comes to the rescue. By chance while reading some Plautus I stumbled across the verb missiculare, simultaneously a frequentative and diminutive of mittere, ‘to send little and often’, which seems to me the uerbum proprium.