October 08, 2006

Alter frenis, alter eget calcaribus

In English: One person has need of reins, another of spurs.

In other words: Some people need to be reined in and other people need to be spurred on! I thought this metaphor would be a good follow-up to yesterday's proverb, which was also about horses and reins.

As a teacher, I would definitely say that this proverb about reins and spurs rings true for the range of learning styles and study habits that I see in my students. For the writing assignments in my classes, there is a minimum word count and a maximum word count limit. Both limits are important. For the students who need spurs, the minimum word count is a way, hopefully, to prod them along so that they actually spend some time on the assignment and have more to say in their writing. For the students who need reins, the maximum word count is equally important. Since I ask the students to read each other's work, it is important for people to focus on the most important things that they want to say, since the time that others have available for reading their work is not unlimited.

Consequently, each week I get many assignments which barely reach the minimum word count - but something is better than nothing! Meanwhile, there are students who turn in assignments exactly at the maximum word count, and you know that is the result of their having edited something down, which is a very good thing. I am sure that their final written work benefits from that process of distillation.

If you're curious what the students are up to - both those who need spurs and those who need reins - you can take a look at their Storybook projects, which are now really starting to move along. As always, there's a delightful array of topics in all three of the courses I teach: Mythology-Folklore, World Literature and Indian Epics.

Meanwhile, here is today's proverb read out loud:

1512. Alter frenis, alter eget calcaribus.

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

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2 comments:

CoolCat said...

Say, I was wondering: Is there any rhetorical reason the "eget" is in the second parallel phrase? Why not "Alter eget frenis, alter calcaribus"? I know Latin syntax means that, gramatically, it could be either or both places, so why was this particular one picked?
Vale,
CoolCat

Laura Gibbs said...

That's also a fun thing to consider with proverbs. The idea is that proverbs are a bit like riddles, so by postponing the verb to the second phrase, you kind of leave your readers guessing a little bit, like with a riddle.

To be REALLY riddling, it would also be possible to do this proverb without the verb at all, forcing people to figure it out completely on their own:
Alter frenis, alter calcaribus

(Although the first guess a person would make in such a case might be a more neutral verb like utitur, rather than eget... so you don't want to let your audience do too much guessing!)