One of the odd things about the world of Google is that improvements often arrive unannounced. Google Docs, for example, is a simple but capable online word processor that becomes more capable by invisible increments. It was only today that Dr. Boli discovered one of the more surprising improvements.
He had occasion to write something that included a Latin quotation, and it was only after having finished the document and read it through once that it occurred to him to notice: there were no wavy red lines under most of the Latin words.
The obvious first assumption was that Google recognized the text as being in a foreign language, and simply gave up on trying to check the spelling. But that assumption wrecked against the rock of the evidence that there was a wavy line under one of the Latin words. In fact, not to keep our readers in suspense, Google did indeed recognize the Latin, and it was perfectly capable of checking the spelling without even asking the writer to specify the language.
The passage in question was Tacitus’ famous description of Nero’s persecution of the Christians. You can try it yourself by pasting this paragraph into Google Docs:
Sed non ope humana, non largitionibus principis aut deum placamentis decedebat infamia, quin iussum incendium crederetur. ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos et quaesitissimis poenis adfecit, quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Chrestianos appellabat. auctor nominis eius Christus Tibero imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat; repressaque in praesens exitiablilis superstitio rursum erumpebat, non modo per Iudaeam, originem eius mali, sed per urbem etiam, quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt celebranturque. igitur primum correpti qui fatebantur, deinde indicio eorum multitudo ingens haud proinde in crimine incendii quam odio humani generis convicti sunt. et pereuntibus addita ludibria, ut ferarum tergis contecti laniatu canum interirent aut crucibus adfixi [aut flammandi atque], ubi defecisset dies, in usu[m] nocturni luminis urerentur. hortos suos ei spectaculo Nero obtulerat, et circense ludicrum edebat, habitu aurigae permixtus plebi vel curriculo insistens. unde quamquam adversus sontes et novissima exempla meritos miseratio oriebatur, tamquam non utilitate publica, sed in saevitiam unius absumerentur.
Dr. Boli had copied this paragraph out of the on-line edition of Tacitus in the Latin Library. The one word Google Docs flagged was Tibero. “Did you mean Tiberio?” Google asked.
And the answer was yes. Yes, there is a misprint in the Latin Library edition of Tacitus’ Annals. Tibero should be Tiberio (the ablative of Tiberius).
Are you frightened by Google yet?