Friday, November 17, 2006

Latin Via Proverbs 9

Here is Group 9, you will find both first and second declension nouns and adjectives. The real danger, of course, is confusing the neuter plural forms, which end in "a" with first declension forms. I'll comment on any particularly confusing forms below. You might also want to review the notes about nouns in the previous posts for background on both the first and second declensions.

I hope these notes will help you tackle this group of proverbs in Latin Via Proverbs. Please note: to read the proverbs in Latin, you need to acquire a copy of the book from! What I am providing here in the blog are notes to help people who are making their way through the book either in a Latin class or on their own.

Group 9

109. Life is a dream. (This notion took its most famous expression in the title of the play La vida es sueño by the seventeenth-century Spanish playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca.)

110. Life is an unceasing battle. (There is a famous Latin saying which expresses a similar sentiment: Vivere militare est, "To live is to be at war," a saying made famous by the philosopher Seneca.)

111. My life is wind. (This comes from the Book of Job.)

112. Your words are fiddle-sticks. (Gerrae are literally "wattled twigs," or a flimsy construction made of twigs woven together.)

113. Something real, not a story. (In other words: for real, not just a story. This phrase turns up in Petronius: Omnes naves naufragarunt, factum, non fabula, "All the ships were wrecked. For real; it's not just a story.")

114. Bad chicken, bad egg. (I've always heard the expression "bad egg" in English, but I've never heard it blamed on the poor chicken! Compare this similar saying about the crow: Mali corvi malum ovum, "Bad egg of a bad crow.)

115. Iucunda poma, si procul custodia. (Fruits are sweet if the guard is far away. Notice that poma is neuter plural, so the adjective modifying the fruits must also be neuter plural, iucunda. The word custodia, on the other hand, is a singular noun. It is a first declension noun, feminine in gender, so the "a" ending here is singular, not plural. The most famous apples under guard were the mythological apples in the garden of the Hesperides which Hercules had to collect.)

116. Outwardly hypocrites are golden, inwardly they are filthy. (The words extra and interius are both adverbs. As you can see from the 'y' in hypocrita, this is a word that the Romans borrowed from the Greeks. In Greek, a "hypocrita" was an actor, a stage performer. I've got a Bestiaria Latina blog post about the incredible importance of masks and theatrical vocabulary in the modern vocabulary of identity. Notice that while hypocrita is a first declension noun, it is masculine, rather than feminine, and takes masculine adjectives: aurati and lutei. Although the vast majority of first declension nouns are feminine, there are a few masculine nouns in that declension as well.)

117. Not with the sword, but with kindness. (Since there is no verb here, you can supply whatever seems best, based on the context in which the saying will be used: "we achieve our goals not with the word, but with kindness," etc. The parallel structure lets you know that both gladio and gratia are in the same case: ablative.)

118. The cover is worthy of the pan. (In other words: "like father, like son," or "like master, like man." The Latin adjective dignum takes the ablative case, so patella is in the ablative. This saying made its way into Erasmus's Adagia 1.10.72.)

119. The fire is close to the smoke. (In other words: where there's smoke, there's fire. You can find this phrase used in Plautus's Curculio.)

120. Things in the middle are untouched by envy. (In other words, if you do things in moderation you will not attract envious attention. This saying can be found in Livy. You can read more Latin proverbs about "envy" at the Bestiaria Latina blog.)

121. For the lazy folks, it's always vacation. (The Latin noun feriae appears only in the plural. This saying makes it way into Erasmus's Adagia, 2.6.12.)

122. Pious people are a care for the gods. (The Latin word order can be confusing for English speakers. The word pii is the subject, and you can tell because the verb is also plural, sunt. The word cura is the predicate, which as often in Latin comes first in the sentence, and the dative diis forms a phrase with cura, "a care for the gods," "an object of concern for the gods." This phrase also is found with the dative curae, "pious people are [for] a care.")

This blog post is part of an evolving online guide for users of the book Latin Via Proverbs.

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