Hexameter.co—My New Vice

A colleague reminded me of hexameter.co, the point-earning competitive ancient Latin (and Greek) scanning site complete with leader boards home to the 5 minute rapid scan challenge.

Damnit.

I hadn’t logged in for years, but immediately became hooked once again these past two days. It’s either going to be a healthy break during the school day, or an obsession that leaves me feeling like I have a gambling addiction (i.e. you do lose points, and I’ve caught myself saying “just one more” to regain my highest rating). Here are some observations:

I Heart Meter
I really do love meter, and the rhythms of Latin poetry. I started this blog as a place to share my work on the topic, and even have a whole tab devoted to rhythmic fluency! I must say that my simplified scansion hasn’t caught on even though it’d really improve the poetry experience since teachers are still spending a lot of time teaching traditional scanning, and I still see people struggling to use macrons (which wouldn’t be necessary at all if everyone had been hearing Latin all these years), or struggling with pronunciation of long & short syllables because they don’t use them. No big deal, but I’ll be teaching poetry in January, every Monday, and students will get the feel, and catch elisions no problem, etc., but enough about that. Some people just don’t heart meter (“dē gustibus nōn est disputandum,” right?).

I Don’t Heart Feet
I don’t think in terms of feet (i.e. divisions of long and short syllables in the meter). Technically, there are 6 of these in hexameter, but I prefer to look at the whole line of poetry in two or three cola (i.e. segments between the natural pause(s)/break(s), the caesura(e)). As such, I can read aloud poetry with more of a flow, but hexameter.co doesn’t care about that. Thinking in terms of dactyls (i.e. long short short) and spondees (i.e. long long), or what hexameter.co has us thinking as D and S, respectively, really messes with that flow for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve recited a line effortlessly, but then typed DSSD instead of DSDS or something. It’s a bit of cognitive load, that’s all.

I Don’t Know Greek
At the higher levels, earning points relies more and more on knowledge of Greek. There are many proper nouns in Virgil and Ovid that I hardly encounter, if I ever have before, especially Greek names. My rule has been to not look up any words before I scan a line. Since lines of poetry repeat, I also rely on memory of scanning the line incorrectly before to help with the second, or third, or fourth time around. I dunno, I might have to ditch that rule whenever there’s some dude’s name, but the line between cheating and learning is thin. The leader board is high stakes…isn’t it?

Processing Input
I haven’t processed a single complete message of Latin in these past two days!

Lol, it’s true! Scansion is an obscure skill, and hexameter.co treats the skill a bit like a guitarist competing against their friend in Guitar Hero. That is, you can’t really apply the video game skills really well to playing an actual guitar, and many guitarists get frustrated by aspects of the video game. Similarly, scanning lines of poetry doesn’t really affect interpreting any Latin, and has messed a little bit with a flow I’ve developed to recite poetry. Scanning really only improves scanning in the traditional sense.

But, it’s mostly fun. You should join up and scan!

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