David Wharton published an article back in 2004 on the meaning of the Latin phrase, Deo Vindice, (“With God as our Defender”). Presumably a Classics professor, Wharton proceeded to explain the Latin meaning of the words. In a predictable turn to the left, Wharton veered away from simply talking of the Latin, and instead launched on the (equally predictable) subject of racism.
How does racism play into Latin linguistics, you’re wondering? Easy. You see, said Wharton, the Latin can refer to a God who is a punisher. A God who, in short, punished the South for its racism. Wharton cites the writer Walker Percy, who never ceased complaining about being called a “Southern writer.” Percy considered racism the original sin of the South, apparently never bothering to investigate the Northern slave trade (from 1630 onwards).
Wharton ends his article with “So let the sons [sic] of the Confederacy engrave deo vindice on their seal, and let the Latin mean what it will.”
Yet not once in his article does Wharton actually explain the Latin. He merely gives his own translation and a few others. (Before jumping on the “God as punisher” bandwagon.)
How odd that one would write of a linguistic construction without explaining it. OK, pay attention. It’s pretty simple, and I’ll skip the boring stuff. But the phrase “Deo Vindice,” when used as the subject of a sentence looks like this: “Deus Vindex.” (Latin: nominative case of a second-declension noun followed by an adjective.)