Friday, June 02, 2006

Still Keeping My End of the Bargain

In the Spring of 1966, I was flunking Latin at Baltimore City College. My teacher, the legendary Mildred Sheff, offered me a deal: She would pass me with a "D" if I promised never to take Latin again. I am proud to say that I have kept my end of the bargain for almost 40 years. (I am also happy to report that I recently saw Mrs. Sheff, now in her 90's, at the supermarket and she's still quite energetic. )

I don't think that it's a violation of the terms of the deal to report on a new website that collects opinions given by the Maryland Attorney General's Office to the various clerks of the court. The site is here. One of the opinions, dated August 2, 2002, by Julia Andrew, delves deeply into Latin scholarship as follows:
Over the past several months, I have received inquiries from a couple of your offices regarding the meaning of the initials "sct" appearing at the top of the formerly-used form of marriage application/license/certificate of marriage. A copy of the old form is enclosed. Apparently, persons in interest needing a foreign language translation of their marriage certificate have inquired about the meaning of the abbreviation.

I have determined that "sct" stands for "scilicet," although it is an improper abbreviation. Knowing that some official documents, such as wills, use to commence with the formal greeting: "Know All Ye Men By These Presents" and recollecting from my high school Latin studies that "scire" means "to know,"I did a bit of checking in Black's Law Dictionary, 7th ed., under "scire" and variations thereof and found the following:

scilicet (sil-a-set or -sit). [fk. Latin scire licet "that you may know"] That is to say; namely; . . . .
Abbr. sc.; scil. ; (erroneously) ss.

Black's Law Dictionary, 7th ed., p. 1347. Now it is more common to see "to wit," which also means "That is to say; namely." See Black's Law Dictionary, 7th ed., p. 1498.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions concerning these matters.
I do not consider my publication of this information a breach of contract. I think (and hope) that Mrs. Sheff concurs.

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