Francesco Filelfo, Letter to Lorenzo Medici (Part 8)
“Not long afterward, he instructs us about what happened concerning a new word of Sisenna: ‘Sisenna, though, as if he wished to be a corrector of familiar speech, was unable to be deterred by the accuser Gaius Rusius from using unfamiliar words.’ For when Gaius Rusius was accusing Gaius Hirtilius, Sisenna, who was defending Hirtilius, said that some of his charges were to be spitonable [to be spit on]. He used this word, I think, because the charges were to be spurned and rejected as the image of spit. Gaius Rusius joked about this new and unfamiliar word saying, ‘I will be surrounded, judges, if you don’t help me. I won’t know what Sisenna is saying – I fear an ambush! Spitonable, what is that? I know what spit is, but I don’t know onable.’ Therefore, it was not absurd that the greatest laughter was excited, though Sisenna thought that he spoke Latin correctly when he spoke in a strange manner.
Therefore, Caesar was wise to suggest in his first book de Analogia that ‘you should avoid an unheard and unusual word like a sailor avoids a reef.’
Who could find fault with the fact that he was subjected to laughter, when he held this speech in front of the city prefect: ‘This Roman knight eats apluda and drinks floces.’ Ancient yokels used to call the bran of grains apluda, and they called the dregs of wine floces.
So we read in Caecilius, ‘Goddammit, I don’t want the froth or the dregs, I want WINE!’
Nec multo post, quid de novo Sisennae verbo acciderit, docet: “Sisenna autem quasi emendator sermonis usitati cum esse vellet, ne a G. Rusio quidem accusatore deterreri potuit quo minus inusitatis verbis uteretur”. Nam G. Rusio accusante C. Hirtilium Sisenna, qui illum defendebat, dixit “quaedam eius sputatilica esse crimina”; hoc ea nomine appellans, ut existimo, quod sputorum instar contemnenda reiiciendaque forent. Ad quod quidem verbum et inusitatum et novum cavillatus, G. Rusius: “Circumvenior” inquit “iudices, nisi subvenitis. Sisenna quid dicat nescio, metuo insidias. Sputatilica, quid est hoc? Sputa, quid sit, scio, tilica nescio”. Non igitur absurde maximi risus commoti sunt, cum Sisenna putaret recte loqui latine cum inusitate loqueretur.
Prudenter igitur Caesar, libro primo de analogia, “tanquam scopulum” inquit “sic fugias inauditum atque insolens dictum”.
Quis enim vituperet eum iure habitum risui, qui apud urbis praefectum orationem habens: “Hic eques romanus” ait “apludam edit et floces bibit”. Apludas frumenti furfures prisci rustici dixere, floces vero vini fecem.
Itaque apud Caecilium legitur: “Edepol ego neque florem neque floces volo, mihi vinum volo”.