carpe twittum – (‘seize the tweet’)



    in what must be one of the most unusual jobs ever, michigan monsignor daniel gallagher, translates pope francis’ spanish tweets into latin, for the more than 230,000 people who follow his twitter feed in that classic language. he is the only american among seven specialists in ‘the office of latin letters at the vatican secretary of state.’ 

gallagher attended the university of michigan, (my alma mater, where we did not cross paths), and studied the sciences, graduating with a microbiology degree. while here, he also took a few latin classes and considered going into medicine, but after graduation, he went in another direction completely and entered the seminary. this led him to rome, (‘all roads lead to rome?’), where he went to study latin and eventually began working in the vatican offices translating latin documents into english.

with the recent onset of the papal step into social media, his new job was created, and it’s clear he loves it. he averages about 4 papal tweets/translations a week and says, ‘it’s a language that transcends cultures and nations, and so many people, especially young people, still crave latin, because it is so much fun. the popularity of the pope’s latin twitter account shows that latin is far from dead.’ (now, how many people can say that?)

gallagher says the learning curve is quite long, with no turnover, and therefore expects it to be a lifelong thing, though he serves at the will of the pope. pope francis stops by his office and invites him to mass occasionally, and he finds him to be quite humble and pleasant.

the pope now has almost 12 million twitter followers.

his latin twitter handle is: @Pontifex_In


all of this has me wondering. i wonder if his mother is disappointed that he didn’t become a doctor? i wonder if he has any connections, and can help our UM wolverines pull off a big win in march madness? i wonder how he sees latin as ‘fun’?’ why are a quarter of a million people choosing to read twitter in latin?’ as a former childhood catholic, am i going to be hit by lightning for wondering these things? just some of the deep questions i now have. and if i spoke latin, could i tweet him to ask for answers?.

Quidquid latine dictum, altum videtur.
Translation: “Whatever is said in Latin seems profound.”
latin quote credit: Strauss, Emanuel (1994). Dictionary of European proverbs Routledge. p. 965. ISBN 0415096243.
 title/faux latin translation credit: me

77 responses »

  1. I have to admit that I’m in agreement re Latin. It is fun in it’s way and it is the root of many of the languages spoken today. I am however having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that the pope tweets and if his following is so big it leads to the question of does god or jesus tweet – can you imagine the amount of followers for those two and then of course the opposition [you know ‘him’ all brimstoney and carries a pitch fork] and now like you do I need to fear a smiting [considering I’m not christian that could be a problem].


  2. When I was little, the mass was in latin, and my family was catholic. Latin went, and so did my family. Latin is a lovely, mystical language. It sounds great.

    But fun? Seriously? Perhaps you have to be celibate to believe that one.


  3. What a random job. I cannot believe there are so many people who can speak Latin. As for his mother I’d say she and all his aunties are among the followers. 🙂


  4. You have one phrase here that proves Latin rocks. And that, of course, is your fantastic title Carpe Twittum, Beth. And you have another that shows English can be quite profound: “as a former childhood Catholic.” Yes, indeed.


  5. What? The pope doesn’t know Latin? I thought that was a job requirement. Hard to believe there are that many (or any) people who prefer to read Latin. I took 4 years of Latin in high school but would certainly never opt to read anything today in Latin. Maybe all those followers are Latin students.


  6. The Beatles of 40+ million likes on Facebook. How ironic it would be if the Pope and The Beatles dominated Facebook and Twitter in light of Lennon’s comment decades ago about The Beatles being more popular than Jesus.


  7. What a crazy job to have. I don’t know how I would reflect on my time spent on my deathbed if I spent my job retweeting tweets…wait…I guess a lot of the world does that, don’t they?


  8. That’s very cool. I’m happy he’s happy. And getting to hang with the pope is cool. I don’t know if you read or watched the Harry Potter books/movies but a lot of her “spells” were very Latin-esque, which I thought was cool.


  9. There’s so, so much for me to love here, but of course I have to start with, I’m a Michigan grad too! Not undergrad, but PhD. My first babies were born in Michigan. I love Michigan more every year we’re apart, which means quite a lot since I loved it when I was there, too. Sigh.


  10. Wow, can you imagine being 12 years old, thinking, “Gee – I’d like to Twitter in Latin for the Pope some day.” What a career path! I’m certain the Pope does speak Latin, but he probably doesn’t do any tweeting on his own in any language. Here’s another question: How many tweeters does he have to tweet in foreign languages for him? Now that would be something interesting to discover. Hmmm, going to Google it right now! I’ll let you know what I find out. 🙂


  11. Latin is such a bitch. I had it for 5 years in high school, and never even came close to mastering it…not being a grammar geek did not help. That said, it makes learning Roman languages so much easier. Once I knew French and had Latin as back up, I became rather fluent in Italian within a year…


    • i’m kind of a word freak, and love alphabets, words, phrases and languages of all kinds. understanding the roots of words helps me understand a bit of what i see, read, hear, and try to solve in crosswords. wow, i suppose if you do have a romance language base, you could probably learn and understand the others without too much trouble – that’s really cool )


      • I love languages, the sound of foreign languages. It’s great to be able to speak and understand them, but there is also great magic in not being able to understand a word, or just very few words…

        Regarding Latin as base for Romance languages: it also builds on each other. If I don’t know a word in Italian, I use the French or Latin, whichever comes to mind first, and pronounce it in an Italian sounding manner…now if I could make myself like Spanish, I would be set I guess…but I just can’t. 🙂


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