No sooner were my spirits raised by reading your quotation from the Oxford English Dictionary on the meaning of to parse than they were dashed by this sentence in the New York Times: “‘It’s not just, “Can you parse this sentence in the subjunctive?'” said Mrs. Cipolone, who had 36 Latin students when she began teaching 28 years ago and now has 140″ (“In America’s Schools, Latin Enjoys a Renaissance,” New York Times, November 27, 1998). We dare not endanger the newborn enthusiasm for Latin, but what can it mean “to parse this sentence in the subjunctive,” as the eighth-grade Latin teacher puts it? But then, the article informs us, her students are busy recreating Virgil’s Underworld, but a step away from Dante’s Hell—and lets not forget that Dante chose Virgil as his guide. If these are the saviors of Latin, maybe we should remain damned.

You asked whether anyone was interested in seeing the rubric Dictations continued. Yes, the corruption of the language is probably the most insidious instrument of repression: the lie par excellence. Anyone—and there are few—who has the sensitivity (psychological and cultural) to recognize it should be encouraged. Even if it is Humpty Dumpty.

        —Olga Ragusa
New York, NY

On Viagra and the Military

I was bemused (but not amused!) by your item “Strong Defense” (Epicycles, January).

As a veteran of World War II, I cannot help wondering how we managed to win that epic struggle without the help of this “sex pill.” Can’t you just see our guys parachuting into the black night over the Cotenton Peninsula or, the next day, jumping off the landing craft into the living hell of Omaha Beach, each with a packet of Viagra pills in his knapsack in case he should meet some comely French babe? Maybe that is why we won: Our men saved their energies for fighting instead of well, you know.

As for the present-day Army (or Air Force, or Navy—maybe not the Marines), one wonders how it would stand up in mano a mano combat with another force of fighting men who have not been emasculated. Perhaps that is why our feminized, homosexualized military must depend so heavily on high-tech w capons. The “gender” or “sexual orientation” of button pushers does not matter. What happens, though, when they run out of Tomahawk missiles and have to go in with cold steel?

        —Joseph P. Wall
Philadelphia, PA