Help! I Can’t Decipher Two Words

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Sunday, August 18, 1912: When I woke this morning, it was with the knowledge that it was raining, but that didn’t keep me from going to Sunday School. Don’t let that deceive you though for I’m not a very _____  ____  after all, even if I do go to S.S. rather regular.

Diary entry for August 18, 1912. (Click on it to enlarge for easier reading.)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

This diary was found in Grandma’s house after she died in 1980. At that time, it was passed around to various relatives so that we would each have an opportunity to read it. When I had it, I made a copy before passing it on.

Sometimes the copy is really hard to read. I can’t decipher two words that Grandma wrote a hundred years ago today.

It looks like it says puatla  bona. But I can’t find those words in a dictionary, so  maybe I’m not reading it right.

Based on the context, I think Grandma was saying something about not being very religious, even though she regularly attended Sunday School.

But I’d feel more certain if I could read those two words.  Any ideas??

16 Responses

  1. That’s a hard one, I’ve been on google trying to figure this out…’bona fide’ is latin for ‘in good faith’….that might have something to do with Sunday School…maybe your minister could help with the first word if it is also Latin or Greek.

  2. It probably isn’t what is written there, but for some reason, the first word looks like “puella” to me, which is Latin for girl. The second word looks like “bona” to me too. “Puella bona” means “Good Girl” in Latin. :) Did your grandmother know a little Latin?

    • I didn’t read this entry until today – needed to catch up on some I missed and my first thought was puella bona. Glad to see others agree.

  3. I agree – I think your grandmother was writing “puella bona” which fits the context, too.

  4. boy you have some smart readers–

  5. Hi Sheryl. I looked at translations, too. It was a good puzzle! I’m curious to know your thoughts now that you have an ideas of what was written!

  6. Very interesting…and yes you have some very smart readers!

  7. Didn’t they usually study Latin in school in those days? I think it probably is “good girl”.

  8. Yes, I think it was ‘puella bona’ and here’s the web page I found it:

    http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/latin/qt/nominative.htm

    Latin was commonly studied in my town until the late 1960s, so I imagine that’s where she learned it.

    Cool puzzle—you DO have smart readers!

  9. I agree that she was using puella bona, which in Latin means good girl. In my school district, they required Latin until the late 1960s, so that’s probably why she used it. Here’s the site I used to find it:

    http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/latin/qt/nominative.htm

  10. Thank you all for your wonderful suggestions,and research. Puella bona makes sense to me. It seems to fit the context of the diary entry really well.

    (An aside–I wonder why Grandma wrote that she wasn’t a good girl.)

    As to the quesiton about whether she knew Latin—So far in the diary she has not mentioned Latin, but she probably knew some. The really strange thing is that I’m working on posts a few days out in the future (after school has started for the the year)–and she mentions something about learning Latin grammar. (I don’t usually mention things that occur in the “future” in the diary–but this time I just couldn’t help it.)

    • I think you were close with “puatla bona.” Having taken three years of Latin in High School, the word “puella” stood out to me.

  11. Oh wow… what a fabulous post Sheryl… and amazingly clever readers you have :-) re: you question as to why Miss Muffly “wrote that she wasn’t a good girl”, seems to me be part of her nature. i.e. rather self deprecating, at times, and admitting to “dear diary” her irritations/ jealouses etc., especially with “Rufus”… ? Of course I could be “barking up the wrong tree” :-D

    • I do have some really smart and clever readers! I’m amazed how they were able to figure it out.

      I think that you ‘re probably right that she sometimes was rather self-depreciating–and that she sometimes set really high expectations for herself that were impossible to live up to.

  12. I think you’ve got it for sure. I think she was saying something like “I’m no angel but…” Many people feel that they don’t want to be type cast as “goody-goody”…. But I think she really did love to go to Sunday School and I think what she learned there and the discipline it gave her were valuable to her.

  13. [...] . . . though she apparently had taken some Latin in previous years because she used the Latin term puella bona (good girl) in a diary entry that I posted a few days [...]

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