It was the House Master's residence celebrating some triumph or other of Eliot House in the Master's dining room. Sherry was served. John Finley stood at the head of the table with others standing around, including students. Someone said something in or about Latin. Finley immediately leaned back as if looking into a distance that none of us could see. He stood there a moment and then said, to no one in particular and as if reading from an invisible text beyond the ceiling of the dining room, “Latin is like a pinball machine.”
Everyone quieted down—we all knew an extended metaphor was on the way.
“The pinball after a push bumps around and lights blink. Suddenly it goes into the right hole and everything is flashing lights, ringing bells, and buzzers.”
The quotation is to deon and may not be exact. Finley also may have said this, roughly, at many other times and places.
The gist surely rings true for those doing more elaborately worked Latin.
Those who knew John Finley personally will understand immediately that there was an implied contrast with ancient Greek.
In memory he is still standing there, and has been, in this and other scenes for more than fifty years.
E. A. Costa 31 December, 2014 Granada, Nicaragua.