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Author of the Month: Jon Stone

Published: May 17, 2010

Latin for the Illiterati

Jon R. Stone, Associate Professor, Religious Studies

Published in 2009 by Routledge, this second edition of Latin for the Illiterati is a compendium of nearly 6,000 Latin words, phrases, and abbreviations. The first edition was named 1997’s Outstanding Reference Source by the American Library Association. “The continued use of Latin has less to do with its mere survival and more to do with its basis for Western civilization,” said Stone, who joined the university in 2004. “One cannot navigate the Western intellectual world without some knowledge of Latin (and Greek).” As he began to learn Latin on his way to his 1990 doctorate from UC Santa Barbara, Stone realized he was finding out about more than how to speak ancient languages. “I found that I was educating myself in Roman law, Church and Anglo-Saxon law and even about medicine and homeopathy. It seemed like, everywhere I turned, there was Latin,” he said. Stone’s intention for Latin for the Illiterati is the same for its second edition as it was when the book first came out in 1996 – to be useful to someone who doesn’t know anything about Latin. “Say, students in a law or music class see a phrase in Latin they don’t understand,” he explained. “A regular Latin text will offer these readers grammar and structure. This book offers them a gathering of nearly all sources of knowledge in one place, from anatomy to world literature. Even readers puzzled by Dan Brown’s more arcane references in The DaVinci Code can find help here. The Romans were a practical people and Stone’s book reflects that. “The Romans build bridges and roads while the Greeks were more cerebral and speculative. There is a common sense aspect to Roman thought. It’s very concrete and that’s appealing to modern readers. You can say a great deal in a few words.” Stone encouraged potential readers to give his book a look. “It’s browse-able,” he said. Stone’s other titles include 2007’s Readings in American Religious Diversity with fellow Religious Studies professor Carlos Piar as well as The Craft of Religious Studies from St. Martin’s in 1998, Expecting Armageddon: Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy from Routledge in 2000, The Essential Max Muller from SMP/Palgrave in 2002 and The Routledge Book of World Proverbs in 2006.

Author of the Month