I am in love with a third declension noun


Child: Mom and Dad, I’m in love!

Father: That’s great, dear. We’re so happy for you. Tell us all about it.

Child: I’ve never felt this way about another person. I’m giddy with joy at the idea that we can be together forever!

Mother: Who is it? Do we know the family?

Child: I can’t wait for you to meet. I know you’ll love each other so much.

Father: Go ahead; describe your new love.

Child: I hope you will approve. Will you?

Mother: What do you mean? Of course we will approve.

Child: I mean… Well… I’ll just say it: It’s… a third declension.

Father: What?! I can’t believe it… our child falling in love with one of them?

Mother: Calm yourself, dear. I’m sure we can get our child to see reason.

Child: Reason? I’m in love!

Father: But see here, you know this is a shock to your mother and me. You must understand… Her family has been first declension for generations, and my own family has been second declension longer than anybody can remember.

Child: But we’re all NOUNS, right? Can’t we accept one another, no matter what declension we are?

Mother: Of course we’re all nouns, dear, but…

Child: And don’t we all have gender, number, and case?

Father: Yes, that all goes without saying, but the third declensions… Well…

They’re a DIFFERENT KIND of noun.

Child: But aren’t first and second declensions also different from one another in some ways?

Mother: Yes, of course we’re different in small ways, but we are compatible. It’s just… Well, you know what they say about third declensions… They’re… Well, they’re irregular.

Child: Are you prejudiced against the stem change? Is that it? Just because they have stems and endings a little bit different than yours doesn’t make them monsters.

Father: Yes, but a group that has all three genders is a bit tough for us traditionalists to handle.

Child: Don’t be hypocritical; what about some of my second declension uncles and aunts on your side who are masculine or feminine, depending on the context?

Father: Please, I told you not to mention them in polite company. Let’s not discuss that.

Child: And what about some of my first declension cousins who have what look like masculine endings, but are feminine? I won’t mention any names, but you know who they are. And now that I think about it, what about some of my cousins who are masculine first declensions (that’s your side Mom), who have what look like feminine plural endings? Do you call them irregular? Do you love them any less because of that little quirk?

Mother: Of course we love them, dear. They’re our family, bless their hearts. We accept them… But third declensions… I just don’t know. And what would our friends say?

Father: Now see here; we have known some third declensions, but never socialized with them, let alone become intimate with them. I just can’t imagine having them permanently in our lives. Would we invite them to the beach house? Imagine a bunch of them lying out there sunbathing – and

FULLY DECLINED – I don’t know if I could bear the sight. Sorry, I know that my saying this hurts you, but I’m only being honest.

Child: Well I love my third declension, and we’re going to marry and raise a family and be happy together for the rest of our lives, whether you like it or not.

Mother: You would have children with a third declension?

Child: I love my third declension, Momma! Don’t you remember what first love is like? Don’t you remember the thrill of first exploring all the cases of your beloved, both singular and plural? Remember when you first saw Daddy’s dative plural?

Mother: [sighs] You’re right. That gave me the shivers, in a wonderfully happy way. Yes, new love is a beautiful thing. And really, we all ARE nouns, aren’t we? And we should not let something like this break up our family.

Father: Yes, dear; you’re right, too. [sighs] I remember the thrill when your vocative first crossed my lips. What love! Our child is right; we must love everyone in our family, regardless of the status of their stems or endings. Love is love. Besides, our older children have already married within their own declensions, so I guess it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the youngest brings in someone different. Dear child, I’m sure we will learn to love your spouse. You have our blessings.

And they all lived happily ever after.


Nude winged man playing aulos on a dolphin. Red figure
Red-figure Lekythos: Eros Riding a Dolphin and Playing the Double Flutes (Auloi)

Daniel B. Levine (BA Minnesota 1975; PhD Cincinnati 1980) is University Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Arkansas, where he has taught Classical Studies, Humanities, Greek, and Latin since 1980. His publications include essays on Greek comedy, tragedy, and epic poetry, and modern literary receptions of ancient Greek and Roman literature, including works by Rita Mae Brown, V. T. Hamlin, and Michael Chabon. He has received teaching and service awards from the Society for Classical Studies, the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, and the University of Arkansas. He has directed 19 study abroad programs.

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