Mirabile dictu! Lingua Latina superavit!*

<i>*Wonderful! Latin has triumphed! 'Amo, Amas, Amat...' storms book shops</i>
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A novelty teach-yourself Latin guide expected to have a tiny readership has snowballed into one of the most unlikely literary successes of the year.

Amo, Amas, Amat... And All That: How to Become a Latin Lover has been hailed as this year's Eats, Shoots and Leaves - a quirky stocking filler, selling tens of thousands of copies in the run-up to Christmas.

A bidding war in the US has already topped a quarter of a million dollars - for a book which, when first published here last month, had a print run of only 4,000. Like Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots ... the book is now predicted to start a deluge of copycat titles, and the publisher has ordered several reprints to stay ahead of demand since the book was published last month, a relatively late start for any title hoping to benefit from the Christmas market.

To engage non-devotees of Latin, the book's author, Harry Mount, has tackled contemporary issues for his translations. The first sentence that readers analyse is: Paulus gasconius uxorem suam Sherylam percussit ("Paul Gascoigne beat his wife Sheryl").

"Latin is a very beautiful language, but there is also its amazing influence; 65 per cent of the English language is Latinate and if you know how a word is structured you become much more deft at using it," Mount said. "It is much easier to play with words when you know them inside out."

Waterstone's has been displaying it prominently. Buyer Andrew Lake said: "It is a way of learning Latin that is far more engaging than when I was at school. It also gives people a chance to show off brazenly in pub quizzes."

Latin primer

'Amo, Amas, Amat... And All That' is a user-friendly guide to the Latin you never bothered to learn at school. Here is the 'IoS' cut-out-and-keep guide to some other modern phrases you might find more useful:

Am I bothered?

Vexatus sum?

I bet you look good on the dancefloor.

Te solo in saltationis speciem bellam praebere certo.

May the force be with you.

Vis cum te sit.

Do you have this dress in size zero?

Vestem hanc magnitudine in nihil habes?

You are the weakest link, goodbye.

Annulus infirmissimus es. Vale.

Two pints of lager and a packet of crisps please.

Duo sextarii cerevisiae et fasciculus plantarum frictarum, si placet.

I'll be back.

Recurram.

Mind the gap.

Lacunam exspecta.

I'm the only gay in the village.

Virorum solus amator in vico sum.

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