Quit Mispronouncing “Sine Die”

Commentary: Reagan Reed

The 87th Texas Legislative session has drawn to a close, with both chambers having adjourned “sine die”. But this nice little Latin phrase means more than just end of session parties on Sixth Street.

Sine die literally translates to “without day”, referring to the last day of Texas’ biennial state legislative session, since the legislature is adjourning without setting a date to return (although this year Governor Greg Abbott could be calling them back sooner rather than later.)

However, the rampant mispronunciation of this obscure Latin phrase among the plebs would probably cause a true Roman Patrician to turn up his aquiline nose and rend his toga in frustration.

In adjourning the House, Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), used the pronunciation for sine die common among the Txlege crowd: “sign-ee dye”. However, this pronunciation is incorrect.

On page XXXVII of the prestigious Latin textbook Wheelock’s Latin, Seventh Edition, there is a pronunciation guide for vowels:

Wheelock’s Latin Vowel Pronunciation

The “i” in “sine” is pronounced like in the English word “pin” or “sin”, while the “e” in the aforementioned Latin word is pronounced like in the word “pet”. In the Latin word “die” the “e” is long, being pronounced like in the English word “they”.

Thus the correct pronunciation of “sine die” would be more like “sin-eh di-ey”.

However, Texans are a stubborn lot, so I don’t expect that the correct Latin pronunciation of “sine die” will catch on anytime soon. In the meantime, perhaps Texas can solve its power grid issues by somehow figuring out how to harness renewable energy from Cicero and Cato spinning in their graves.

How the Texas Legislature butchers the Latin language.

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