A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 21, 2017
“Latin is a language as dead as dead can be. It killed the ancient Romans and now it’s killing me”

Students of Latin has long said versions of this rhyme:

“Latin is a language
As dead as dead can be.
It killed the ancient Romans
And now it’s killing me.”


A version printed in the Los Angeles (CA) Sunday Herald in June 1909 was credited to the Boston (MA) Traveller.


Chronicling America
20 June 1909, Los Angeles (CA) Sunday Herald, Junior Section, pg. 7, col. 4:
LATIN
Latin is a dead language,
As dead as it can be;
It killed the ancient Romans,
And now is killing me.

“Non paratus,” Freshie dixit,
With a sad and mournful look,
“Omne recte,” Prof. respondit,
“Nihil,” scribit in my book.
-- Boston Traveller.

4 February 1917, Shreveport (LA) Times, pg. 7, col. 4:
Latin is a dead language,
As dead as it can be:
It killed the ancient Romans
And now it’s killing me.
-- From the Ward-Belmont Hyphen.

30 November 1919, Washington (DC) Post, “Aunt Anna’s Page for Boys and Girls” conducted by Cecilia Reynolds Roberts, pg. A12, col. 2:
Latin is a language
As dead as dead can be.
It killed the Ancient Romans,
And now it’s killing me.

Chronicling America
22 October 1921, The Sea Coast Echo (Bay St. Louis, MS), pg. 1, col. 2:
ODE TO LATIN.
Latin’s a dead language,
As dead as dead can be;
It’s killed the ancient Romans
And now it’s killing me.

All are dead who wrote it;
All are dead who spoke it;
All die who learn it;
Blessed death, they earn it!

Google Books
The Lore and Language of School-Children
By Iona Archibald Opie and Peter Opie
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
1959
Pg. 173:
Latin is a subject
That no one enjoys;
It killed the ancient Romans
And now it is killing boys.
Kirkcaldy High School.

Latin is a dead tongue,
Dead as dead can be,
First it killed the Romans,
Now it’s killing me.
All are dead who wrote it,
All are dead who spoke it,’
All are dead who learnt it,
Lucky dead, they’ve earnt it.
Selhurst Grammar School. Versions of this are also repeated by American children.

Los Angeles (CA) Times
Latin in Uphill Battle to Stay in British Curriculum
May 17, 1987 | MARCUS ELIASON | Associated Press
(...)
No Latin primer was ever complete without this time-honored ditty scribbled on its flyleaf:

“Latin is a language as dead as dead can be. It killed the ancient Romans and now it’s killing me.”

Twitter
John Morrison‏
@JoMoMMS
Replying to @DarrenLaing123 @policescotland
Latin is a language as dead as dead can be. It killed the ancient Romans and now it’s killing me. (Latin Higher class sometime last century)
8:28 AM - 19 Sep 2017

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityEducation/Schools • Thursday, September 21, 2017 • Permalink