Friday, December 01, 2006

Latin Via Proverbs 14

Note for the month of December: You can find Latin Christmas Carols, with a new one for each day, at my Latin Carols Blog. December 1: Rudolphus Rubrinasus, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Today's group of proverbs continues to feature third declension nouns. Also, remember that in Latin the verb is often optional. Especially if the verb is a form of "to be" (est, sunt, etc.), it is often omitted. In English, we rely on a verb such as "is" to separate the subject of the sentence from the predicate ("The house IS big"), but in Latin you have to use other clues to identify which part of the sentence is the subject and which part is the predicate.

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 14

179. Hunger is the best cook. (Notice that the subject is fames and the predicate is optimus coquus. You know that optimus belongs with coquus, because both are masculine; fames, however, is feminine. Notice also that the verb est is plunked right inside the adjective-noun phrase which is the predicate of the sentence!)

180. Hunger is the best seasoning. (Compare the English saying, "hunger is the best sauce.")

181. The stomach is the best time-keeper. (In other words, time may seem to move quickly or slowly depending on what you are doing, but your stomach always knows when it is dinnertime.)

182. Poverty is a difficult burden. (You can tell that the adjective durum goes with the noun onus because both are neuter; paupertas, however, is a feminine noun. A fuller form of this saying is Paupertas durum onus miseris mortalibus, "Poverty is a heavy burden for wretched mortals.")

183. Poverty is inventive. (In other words, if you are lacking in money, you have to be inventive to survive.)

184. Time is the best medicine. (There is a similar English saying: "Time heals all wounds." Compare a similar Latin saying, Optima medicina temperantia est, "The best medicine is moderation," which is included in Latin Via Proverbs Group 2.)

185. Time is the best judge. (In other words, in the course of time, the truth will out. You can tell that optimus goes with iudex because they are both masculine; tempus, however, is a neuter noun. A fuller form of this phrase is Tempus est optimus iudex rerum omnium, "Time is the best judge of all things.")

186. Death is the final reckoning. (The adjective ultima, grammatically speaking, could go with either mors or with ratio, as both are feminine nouns, but the sense of the saying tells you that ultimate does belong with ratio.)

187. Death is the most extreme punishment. (The Latin word supplicium literally means a "bowing down" or "bending over," and criminals were beheaded in a kneeling position.)

188. Death is impartial. (This line is found in Seneca's play, The Trojan Women. As you can see, the Latin word order is quite different from what you would expect in English, where the verb est would be used to distinguish between subject and predicate, instead of coming at the end of the sentence as it does here.)

189. The spirits of the dead are holy. (You can read more about the Roman Manes, "the good ones," the spirits of the dead ancestors, at wikipedia.)

190. Average is best. (This phrase certainly sounds strange in English, since we have come to associate "average" and "mediocrity" with failure or triviality, but in Latin mediocritas referred to the "golden mean," meaning not too much and not too little. The saying can be found in Cicero's De Officiis.)

191. Man is a godly animal. (The idea is that the human species stands between the divine realm on the one hand, and the animal realm. Man is like the other animals, but has spiritual gifts that are divine.)

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

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