nondum is a very powerful and positive word. The same is probably true of the expression ‘not yet’ in English, but it became more obvious to me when I began to speak Latin. Perhaps that was because I was surrounded by positive people, or it may have more to do with how good the word feels in the mouth. Try saying it out loud. nondum, nondum, nondum. Now try the same with ‘not yet’. Am I wrong? Doesn’t nondum just feel a whole lot better?
But why is it so positive? Imagine a Latin learner who desperately wishes to read Virgil’s Aeneid in the original Latin. They are asked, potesne Virgilium legere?, ‘Are you able to read Virgil?’. One possible answer is non possum, ‘I am not able’. It is definite and final. Another is nondum. It is full of promise and hope for the future, of plans that may well come to fruition.
Which reminds me of a wonderful book by William Fitzgerald, Professor of Latin at King’s College London. The title is ‘How to Read a Latin Poem: If You Can’t Read Latin Yet’. The italics are his. If you can’t read Latin yet (or not as well as you would like), that is fine. It is a long and enjoyable journey.
But first, today a certain sailor, not yet know to you, arrived at the town. This sailor is carrying a suitcase (sarcinam) in his right hand.