The multifarious Conrad of Varieties of Unreligious Experience, dissatisfied with Latin’s “lexical conservatism” and “resistance to fancy,” has dug up “two attempts to make Latin interesting—the first in seventh-century Ireland, the second in High Renaissance Italy.” The Italian stuff is well worth looking at (“the legendary 1499 Hypnerotomachia Poliphilii” and “Teofilo Folengo, aka. Merlin Coccaius, a favourite of Rabelais’s”), but the one that caught my fancy was “the work of the mysterious Virgilius Maro Grammaticus, a grammarian of sorts from 7th-century Britain or Ireland”:
His treatises, the Epitomae and Epistolae, are full of odd collocations and deliberate perversions and obfuscations. He has been commonly taken as a parodist, though Vivien Law reads him rather as an arcanist. Words in his text are like gnostic spellwords, little observing Latin morphology—at one point he lists Twelve ‘Latins’, his jargon spewing out in a torrent of letters: assena, semedia, numeria (nim, dun, tor, quir, quan, ses, sen, onx, amin, ple), metrofia (dicantabat, bora, gcno, sade, teer, rfoph, brops, rihph, gal, fkal, clitps, mrmos, fann, ulioa, gabpal, blaqth, merc, pal, gatrb, biun, spadx), lumbrosa, sincolla, belsavia, presina, militana, spela, polema. Elsewhere he deliberates about the declension of ego, and specifically about its vocative case (how do you say “O I”?). He writes of word-scrambling, scinderatio fonorum—as if from Greek φωνη—
Scinderatio autem litterarum superflua est, sed tamen a glifosis sensuque subtilibus recipitur; unde et fona breuia scindi magis commodius est quam longa, ut Cicero dicit: RRR SS PP MM N T EE OO A V I, quod sic soluendum est: Spes Romanorum perit.
Somehow I’m not at all surprised that a speaker of Old Irish, the weirdest language I’ve ever studied, came up with those delightfully mad inventions.
Incidentally, it seems to me that some blogger I read regularly recently discussed the first-person vocative (“O I”), but I can’t remember who it was. Step forth in the comment thread and I will link to you forthwith.
The first-person vocative was recently discussed by Lameen of Jabal al-Lughat, who quotes Eco, who is referring to none other than the mad Irishman quoted above.