How Grammar Became Glamour

Whether insoluble political realities or inner spiritual sickness is more to blame for the fall of classical civilization is, finally, beside the point. The life behind the works we have now been studying – the passionate nobility of Virgil, the cool rationality of Cicero, the celestial meditativeness of Plato – this flame of civilization is about to become extinguished. The works themselves will miraculously escape destruction. But they will enter the new world of the Middle Ages as things so strange they might as well have been left behind by interstellar aliens. One example will suffice to illustrate the strangeness of books to medieval men. The word grammar – the first step in the course of classical study that molded all educated men from Plato to Augustine – will be mispronounced by one barbarian tribe as “glamour.” In other words, whoever has grammar – whoever can read – possesses magic inexplicable.

Cahill, How The Irish Saved Civilization, pp. 59-60

Photo by Esther Wechsler on Unsplash

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