Imagine this: you’re standing around a warm fireplace on Christmas Eve, bundled up in a woolen sweater, with some after-Christmas-feast eggnog in your mittened paws. Aunt Ruth kindly points out that everyone in the extended family would LOVE to sing some Christmas Carols, so some brave soul rallies the troops from all corners of the house, and strikes up the immortal Christmas anthem: “Angels We Have Heard on High”.
As the family screeches through the extended “Glooooooooooo-ooo-ooo-ria!” section, and rounds the bends towards the “In Excelsis Deo“, the carol dissembles into meaninglessness. Aunt Ruth screeches “In Egg-Shell-Sheesh Deo!”, Cousin Sam warbles “An Ex-Celtic Duo!”, while Uncle Bud bellows “I’ll Egg Chelsea’s Daewoo!”
“In Excelsis Deo” – I have heard all kinds of pronounciations for this Christmas-time staple. And every year, thousands of families across America launch into spirited debates about the pronounciation of this Latin phrase.
Okay…maybe that’s just my family.
Be that as it may, I was tired of getting into ceaseless debates with relatives about the matter during the Christmas Holiday Season. So I decided I needed to turn to an authority on this matter -
I started to do some research. Here are some different opinions:
“There is a third pronunciation – ‘ExSHELsis’ that is supposedly more correct.”
“There is a ‘common Latin’ vs. a ‘classical Latin’. While nobody knows how classical Latin was really pronounced, centuries of verbal tradition in the Catholic church and in church music favors the ‘ch’ or the ‘sh’ over the ‘soft c’ version of ‘excel’.”
“I am not interested in Catholic tradition, or how near 2000 years of church choirs might have corrupted the pronunciation. All it would take is one person with a speech impediment, whose identity is lost in antiquity, to permanently corrupt pronunciation of a language only seldom used.”
Well! It looks like nobody really knows how to pronounce it. But I wasn’t ready to give up, so I headed for Phonetica Latin, the apparent self-proclaimed authority on how to pronounce Latin.
And I was not to be disappointed.
Actually, I was to be disappointed. Because it turns out that they have all kinds of different ways to do it.
Vindication at last!
Listen to my take on this song at my myspace page