October 12, 2006

Asinus asinum fricat

In English: One donkey scratches another donkey.

I thought this proverb would be a good follow-up to yesterday's proverb about the donkey putting blame on the jackass: asinus asellum culpat. In today's proverb, it is exactly the opposite situation, where a couple of donkeys are engaged in mutual admiration!

The Latin verb fricat, "scratches," also has the same connotations of the contemporary use of the English word "strokes." So when a couple of donkeys are scratching each other, you can imagine a situation in which two equally foolish people are lavishing praise on one another for their talents and achievements, giving each other "strokes."

I can't think of an English equivalent proverb that has quite the same connotations as this Latin saying. There is the phrase "birds of a feather flock together." Or you could compare the Latin saying to the English sayings "one hand washes another" (a saying also found in Latin: manus manum lavat) and "scratch my back; I'll scratch yours." While these English sayings do convey the sense of mutual loyalty and admiration, they lack the element of mockery that is a crucial element in the Latin saying about the donkeys. When you say "one donkey scratches another," you are making fun of those donkeys. And there are indeed plenty of donkeys out there to make fun of!

Here is today's proverb read out loud (but no hee-haws, I promise!):

1049. Asinus asinum fricat.

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 wyraz?w obcych i zwrot?w obcojezycznych (weblink).
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Anonymous said...

Mutual admiration society

Laura Gibbs said...

Ha ha! Inspired by the Latin, you might say "mutual ass-miration society."

Anonymous said...

True, there are no similars in English.

As far as I know that means idiots (insult) idiots and idiots tend to (insult) stick together in a group of idioacracy.

GP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura Gibbs said...

Oh, I came to leave a comment on the cute anecdote that you shared here (I was out of town and got so behind on email)... but it looks like you removed it. Anyway, I read the story in the email notification, and it made me laugh! :-)