November 23, 2006

Optima medicina temperantia est.

In English: Moderation is the best medicine.

I thought this might be a good proverb to post on this day famed for over-eating. So, if you have not already had seconds on the pumpkin pie yet, you could use this proverb as a warning to put down that fork!

This proverb comes early on in my Latin Via Proverbs book given that the grammar is staggeringly simple. There is no verb except for the simple est, "is," with only first declension noun phrases: optima medicina, "the best medicine," and temperantia, "moderation." This is the kind of proverb that Latin students can learn on their very first day of Latin class.

This proverb is also representative of a huge body of Latin proverbs praising the middle way, the "golden mean," aurea mediocritas in Latin, not too much and not too little. The key word here is temperantia, "moderation," which is derived from the Latin word tempus, which means "time," but which also refers to the right time, the appropriate time, etc. You can think about the musical term "tempo," also derived from Latin tempus, via Italian. As anyone who plays music knows, the right tempo is about going not too fast, but not too slow.

So, if you want to translate this Latin proverb with English cognates you could say "the optimum medicine is tempo," not too fast, and not too slow.

And here is today's proverb read out loud:

20. Optima medicina temperantia est.

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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