Latin Hack 2: Gender & i-stems


Once the kids are acquainted with the basic charts, the workbooks move on to irregulars. For this, we use targeted memory tricks.  We find that having the accumulated irregular gender nouns, i-stems, and ablative prepositions memorized is super-helpful. My kids can’t reason it out every time. We learn the reasons, but we don’t USE them constantly.

In Thomas Aquinas’s letter to his brother on memory, he recommended that the material we memorize be:

  1. Full of unusual sense images
  2. Ordered by location
  3. With interest and emotional energy
  4. Repeated practiced

Most of us get the “repeating” part. Caswells do a catch-all on the first three by being TACKY.  If you are a pearl-clutcher in the face of bathroom humor, crime scenes, and gender jokes, buckle up buttercup.

Noun Gender Irregulars

In doing 3rd Declension noun gender, one can usually rely on 2 rules:

  1. Latin is sexist. (my middle schoolers love to say that) All leaders, soldiers, kings, and the like are DUDES. Groups of men, not so much. But if it was “outside the home” in ancient times, it’s a dude word in Latin. Oh, and even the SUN is a dude. Head-shake.
  2. Otherwise s-o-x (F), er-r-or (M), and l-a-n-c-e-t (N).

Our irregulars are assigned to 3 bathrooms in Grammy’s house. Anytime we learn a new one, we add it to the correct bathroom:

Downstairs Gender Swap Bathroom

All these nouns have male or female letter ends, but they’re the other one.

bridge over the sink, fountain coming out of the fish vase, hill of tp in the trash, mountain of poo in the potty, bread loaf on the toilet paper roll, avocado tree in the corner.

Downstairs “Either/Both” Bathroom

All these nouns are both male and female.

Two dogs (one dressed as boy, one as girl) and two citizens (wearing sashes, fresh from voting) playing ping pong in the shower.

Upstairs Neuter Bathroom.

All these nouns look boy/girl by their endings, but they’re neuter.

Chalk outline of a body on the floor, died from a wound, chalk outline feet moving to take a journey back in time.

What about i-stems?

  • Gender Swap Bathroom is all i-stem except for the TREE.
  • Either/Both Bathroom is all i-stem.
  • Nobody in the Neuter Bathroom is i-stem.

And then we add one more wacky image:

On the twin bed in the corner of the playroom at Grammy’s

There is an enemy tribe on the far right. They run across the bed and  slaughter the city on the far left. (We imagine buildings, not people or the next part is REALLY gross.) Finally, they throw the city’s parts (windows, chunks of buildings, roads) off the edge of the bed into the sea.

So when my kids go to translate something on the -is chart:

  • Remember sexism.
  • Look at the last letter.
  • Check your stories.
  • Use your chart.