September 13, 2006

Cogito, ergo sum.

In English: I think, therefore I am.

This is one of the most famous sayings in Latin; I would guess it is one people easily recognize even today. Unlike the proverbs I've discussed in the past couple of days, there is no special sound play or word play at work in this proverb. Instead, it is the simple and straight-forward Latin version of Descartes's philosophical statement in French, Je pense, donc je suis. You can read more about Descartes and his philosophy at wikipedia.

The reason I felt compelled to include this particular proverb is that at our Harrius Potter reading group last week, someone told a very funny joke about this. This is a joke that I had not heard before, although quite a few people in the group had heard it. Apologies to those of you for whom this is already an old, old joke!
One evening René Descartes went to relax at his local Starbucks. The barista smiled and said, "Ah, good evening, Monsieur Descartes! Will you have the usual?" The philosopher was in the mood for something new, something exciting, some entirely new coffee experience! So he looked at the barista and said in reply, "Hmmm... I think not..." - and promptly vanished!
Ha! I often contend that proverbs have a lot in common with magical spells and incantations, ritual words that exert an actual effect on reality. So: watch out! Be careful how you use or misuse the proverbs, even unintentionally!

Meanwhile, if you are curious about the rather mysterious Latin word cogito, I have some notes up about that in an entry at the Bestiaria Latina blog. It's a shame that English did not whole-heartedly adopt this Latin word. You will find the word "cogitation" in the English dictionary, but it's not much in use. Too bad: I kind of like the sound of "I cogitate, therefore I am!"

Last but not least, here is today's proverb read out loud:

1029. Cogito, ergo sum.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

If you are reading this via RSS: The Flash audio content is not syndicated via RSS; please visit the Latin Audio Proverbs blog to listen to the audio. You can also hear this saying read aloud at a Polish website: Wladyslawa Kopalinskiego Slownik wyrazَw obcych i zwrotَw obcojezycznych (weblink).

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