October 05, 2006

Est unusquisque faber ipsae suae fortunae.

In English: Each and every person is the maker of his own luck.

There's a hard choice to make in an English translation of this wonderful saying: is each person the maker of his own luck? or of his own fortune? The Latin word fortuna can be translated either way. I've chosen the "luck" option since that is a more striking and surprising statement. The idea of "making a fortune" has become almost a cliche in English, meaning, sadly, "to make money." But making your own luck: that's a much more challenging idea!

Luck is something that allows you to put things beyond your own control or responsibility: if something bad happens because of bad luck, it's not your fault; if something good happens because of good luck, you get the benefits although you might not get to take full credit for this happy circumstance.

So, to make your own luck, to be the maker of your own fortuna, would mean to be the person who takes responsibility for the things that happen to you, both good and bad.

In a sense, this saying is the more complete version of yesterday's saying: Homines plerique ipsi sibi mala parant, "Many people themselves prepare evils for themselves." Yes, people are the makers of evil against themselves, their own bad luck - but they can also be the makers of their good luck as well, their own "fortune."

In Rome, Fortuna was also personified as a goddess, and there is a delightful Aesop's fable about how angry Fortuna gets about being blamed for things that, she insists, are not her fault.
A workman had thoughtlessly fallen asleep one night next to a well. While he slept, he seemed to hear the voice of Fortuna, the goddess of luck, as she stood there beside him. "Hey you," the goddess said, "you'd better wake up! I am afraid that if you fall into the well, I will be the one that people blame, giving me a bad reputation. In general, people blame me for everything that happens to them, including the unfortunate events and tumbles for which a person really has only himself to blame."
So even though it looks like today's saying might put her out of business, I think Fortuna herself would agree that each person is the one who brings their own "fortune" into being.

And here is today's proverb read out loud:

942. Est unusquisque faber ipsae suae fortunae.

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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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

As italian: you're right, 'fortuna' means luck.
There's just one problem, the pronunciation of the sentence is terrible!

The two vowels together (diphthong) "ae" (and "oe" too, btw) must to be pronounced as "e", instead the woman who reads the sentence pronounces "a" and then "e".

Anyway, good work, this is absolutely my favourite latin proverb (the author was Appius Claudius Caecus) and I'm very happy you translated it here.

Well, I'm sure at this point I have to apologise for my english :-)

Laura Gibbs said...

No need to apologize for your English, but you do need to apologize for your rude remarks about the pronunciation. It is not terrible pronunciation - it is simply not the ecclesiastical style of pronunciation that is still used by many Italians. Personally, I think ecclesiastical pronunciation is fine, but it is almost never taught in American schools, and I do not use that ecclesiastical style of pronunciation here. The style of Latin pronunciation in American schools respects the diphthongs; ecclesiastical pronunciation ignores the diphthongs.

I am glad you like the proverb, but instead of telling other people how you expect them to read Latin, perhaps you should just put your own Latin audio online - and believe me, some rude Americans will probably tell you that your pronunciation is all wrong. I wish people could simply accept the fact that Latin is pronounced in different ways for different reasons by different people, instead of acting as if there is only one pronunciation. If you want to create some Latin audio online using ecclesiastical pronunciation, that would be great - I promise not to tell you that your pronunciation is terrible. I wish you would show others the same courtesy.

Anonymous said...

Calm down

Laura Gibbs said...

What I love is the irony of this... the proverb tells us that each person is the maker of their own fortune: but heaven forbid they create their own audio, ha ha. Every week I get anonymous comments about the audio I've put online: this fellow says the pronunciation is terrible because it is not ecclesiastical, other people complain (anonymously of course) that the accent is too American, for other people the audio is too loud, for other people it is too soft... so while I would love to hear more audio online (there is precious little of it - although YouTube has proven to be a good venue for audio, too), I certainly understand why most folks don't want to waste their time in such a venture. Probably BECAUSE there are no native speakers of this dead language, the many Momuses out there think they are an expert in how OTHER people should pronounce it. Well, I've never told anyone how they should pronounce Latin, and I never will. Instead, I'll stick to the philosophy of est unusquisque faber ipsae suae fortunae ... et recitationis suae quoque! :-)

Lisa Morrow said...

you need to calm down with your overtly sensitive posts. Instead of passive aggressively remarking how people need to calm down, take a chill pill and remember this is the internet. You're not going to please everybody.

Laura Gibbs said...

Ditto. :-)