Friday, October 16, 2009


Topper is an adverb in Latin. It doesn't look like a Latin word, which is probably why my nasty ex-boyfriend insisted upon looking it up when I mentioned it to him, rather than just admitting that I knew a Latin word he didn't.

It didn't look very much like Latin to the Romans, either. It's used in bits and pieces of really old (i.e., older than usual) Latin poetry that happen to survive only because an ancient lexicographer named Verrius Flaccus quoted them. Verrius Flaccus is an important guy, and there's even a street named after him in Palestrina:

Fig. 1: This way to fun-filled Latin lexicography!

Flaccus cited many different meanings for topper. Later writers abridged him, until eventually Paulus Diaconus in the 8th century CE winnowed the definition to a single word: "fast."

I have a friend (not the ex-boyfriend, ugh) whose last name is "Topper." And here is a limerick I wrote for that friend, whom I will call "John":
There's an entry in Paulus' epitome
Where of all topper's meanings, that litany,
One sense, that of "fast,"
Completely surpassed
All the rest. But John just says, "What's it to me?"
Come on, reader: you know the rhymes in lines 1, 2 and 5 are brilliant.

No comments:

Post a Comment