December 10, 2006

Aquilam volare doces

In English: You are teaching an eagle to fly.

I thought after the doves of yesterday, it would be appropriate to do a proverb today about an eagle. The eagle is the greatest of the high-flying birds, so if you are teaching an eagle to fly, you are wasting your time. The eagle knows how to fly. It does not need to be taught!

Other animals have their inborn traits and abilities of course, and you can find similar sayings about other animals based on other traits. For example, another Latin saying states, delphinum natare doces, "you are teaching a dolphin to swim." Once again, a waste of time - because the dolphin knows how to swim. Earlier this year, I wrote about another proverb of this type: pisces natare doces, "you're teaching fish how to swim."

As you can see, proverbs are a highly productive system, where you can take a basic pattern and generate all kinds of variations. If you are Latin teacher, you might consider using this a classroom exercise, to help students start writing their own Latin compositions - composing proverbs! It's easy to find the names of animals in Latin (I have a list of some common names at my Bestiaria Latina site). In order to create the proverb, you just have to pair the name of the animal, in the accusative, with an appropriate infinitive that expresses one of the inborn abilities of that animal. It's fun and creative, and it's a great way to begin learning Latin composition. Even if it's just three words long, a newly invented proverb like this is indeed an original Latin composition!

Meanwhile, here are today's proverbs read out loud:

1546. Aquilam volare doces.

1548. Delphinum natare doces.

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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