KURIE ELEHSON ME
Larry J. Swain
x99swain at wmich.edu
Thu Jul 15 12:46:13 EDT 1999
Most of this discussion has to do with how one splits hairs. Let me deal first with
the analogy suggestion-that a phrase such as Kyrie Eleison ME should be compared to
other phrases such as id est or que sera sera. However, the former is not a good
comparison since Latin has been the educated person's friend since time immemorial
in the West, the fact that id est comes over into English and "no one" thinks of it
as English really doesn't compare to a Greek phrase which is chanted daily as part
of the Mass by people who KNOW NO GREEK and only know the phrase in a specialized
context. Further, I would warrant that few if any on this list when they use "i.
e." in writing have even a passing thought that this stands for "id est" which is
the neuter pronoun of is, ea, id and the pres act indicative of esse. I don't think
anyone gives it a second thought. Which brings up the question then, if we use it
so glibbly, even knowing its origin, can we truly say any longer that i. e. is Latin
only?? Latin in origin to be sure, but who thinks about the origin of it? Only in
discussions like this....
Or que sera sera....my mother who knows no foreign languages uses this phrase
frequently, she told me when I asked that it was quite the saying in her youth
because of the Doris Day song....she doesn't stop and think, "well this is a foreign
phrase, French I think, and I'm pretending to be educated knowing it and what it
means...." No, she uses it in everyday speech and considers it English.
Which brings me to Medieval Latin. It is no surprise whatsoever that classical
Latin dictionaries and even Souter do not have reference to the phrase, by
comparison to what Jim is speaking of these reference books are quite
early....rather like using a Platonic lexicon to attempt to understand the letters
of Michael the Stammerer. Try an ecclesiastical dictionary. IDOU! You'll find it.
Latin Literature?? Now there's the rub. I did a brief perusal of the Patrologia
Latina this morning and did indeed discover that the phrase occurs in three senses:
a) In the liturgy itself.
b) As a proper name for that section of the Liturgy
c) in other writings which refer to that section of the liturgy or when someone is
attempting to be intelligent.
Id est, the phrase is taken over into Latin authors of the Middle Ages in a
specialized way. However, there isn't any indication in the authors I checked that
they were aware or thought about the phrase as being Greek, or any liturgical
manuscripts I'm aware of (which is limited to be sure) that gloss the phrase as
Misere nobis Domine or something like it. Which demonstrates what Jim was
saying....it became so much a part of the Latin vocabulary of the Middle Ages that
it could be considered Latin from a certain perspective.
So I reiterate my original comment-you're both right. Greek sentence translating a
Hebrew sentence (thanks to someone!) taken up into Latin liturgy and down to Carl's
Sunday morning service where I'll warrant as the best of us here he doesn't think
about liturgical history, translate the phrase back into Hebrew, or into Latin, or
really into English when he hears Eleison Kyrie, but instead says a hearty AMEN!
Peace Gentleman, call it pax and have done.
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