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In Iron Man 2 Pepper and Tony are discussing Natalie there's a discussion over Latin. Pepper explains that you can read Latin but you can't speak it?

Is this correct? I thought Latin was commonly spoken and in churches, law and medicine until very recently?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

Well, I don't remember the scene exactly, but I'm pretty sure, that this was meant rather sarcastic.

Latin is really not an easy language and has a rather complex grammar. Besides that it's not really spoken in everyday life anymore and only read from ancient texts or used in quite specialized contexts (law and medical terms, recitated prayers), but not spoken in direct dialogue. That's why it's commonly referred to as a "dead language".

So what she probably means is, that somebody who claims to speak Latin (fluently) is either an impostor or some weird genius (or works in Vatican, which doesn't make it any better ;)).

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Ah but Black Widow can speak Latin –  TylerShads May 4 '12 at 12:24
Or, a time traveler! –  Keen May 4 '12 at 14:12
You don't need to be a genius to major in the classics. –  Dan Neely May 4 '12 at 14:31
@DanNeely Indeed, but to speak and hear it freely in a dialogue is another thing than reading or writing it, I guess, where "thinking time" isn't that limited. It is just not that usual to find enough "practice situations". Pepper's comment (and my answer) was maybe a bit over-generalizing, but I have yet to meet someone myself who can speak it fluently. –  Napoleon Wilson May 4 '12 at 15:09
Jamie lee Curtis also tells Kevin Kline who says that 'Monkeys don't read Plato!', 'Yes they can, they just don't understand it.' in A fish called Wanda. –  EdChum May 4 '12 at 17:36
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