To vent means to express a strong emotion. I am about to vent in the hopes of ending my perseverating. To perseverate, a psychological term, means to repeat a response after the cessation of the stimulus. In my case, right now, perseveration means continuing a thought obsessively, going over and over the same thing, without any resolution.
Both words come from Latin. Your furnace vents, ventilation, a vent (slit) in the back of a skirt, and venting a complaint all derive from ventus, the Latin word for wind. You see the connections, right? Like the wind, air circulates in vents and ventilation and might cool off the back of your legs if your skirt has a vent. The verb, the metaphorical venting I’m doing through this blog post, is releasing pressure, letting my windy complaints blow out.
My Vergil class recently encountered the word ventus in one of my favorite passages from The Aeneid. Aeolus, the god of the winds, releases the tempests from the mountain where they’re entrapped to sink Aeneas’s ships. Juno has ordered him to do so because she hates Aeneas and the Trojans. Her grudge goes back to the Trojan Paris, who chose Venus over her in a beauty contest, thereby winning Helen from the Greeks and starting the Trojan War. Regarding the storm, Vergil writes (more or less), “The East Wind forces three ships out of the deep into the shallows and sand bars (wretched to see) and dashes them on the shoals, surrounding them with a mound of sand…Swimmers appear far apart on the vast abyss, men, weapons, planks, and Trojan treasures lie spread over the waves.” The released venti, like Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, wreak havoc.
I’m hoping by venting here, not to wreak havoc, but to put an end to my perseverating. That’s from the Latin persevere, meaning to persist. For the last few days, I’ve had obsessively persistent thoughts about two students who are headed for failure in my class. They complete their homework by copying from sources online and do their quizzes by copying straight from the textbook. When I asked one of them, for example, to count to ten in Latin, he was unable to do so. This is his sixth month of Latin study.
On hearing my friendly warning that he was about to fail the course, he went to my department head to complain about me. He wants a chance to retake the quizzes he’s failed so far. The other student showed up to her tutor today (a relationship arranged by me to help her) with more homework copied from the internet.
I can’t reason with them. They seem to think that if they write words down on paper, they are deserving of credit. Whether the words are copied verbatim from somewhere or make no sense doesn’t seem to matter. Here are some sentences they have turned in an attempt to translate Latin: If you wish for grevious war the life change him in a few hours and Caesar not precipitate his force fund. Sic. Force fund. I did not make these up.
I hasten to say, these students do not represent the general run of my students. They are egregious examples (from the Latin ex + grex—outside of the flock).
I’m finished venting. Maybe now I can stop perseverating.