January 10, 2007

Plures necat crapula quam gladius

In English: The hangover kills more than the sword.

Well, I could not resist including this proverb as a follow-up to the proverb from yesterday, Plures necat gula quam gladius, "The gullet kills more than the sword." As you can see, today's proverb is simply a variation on the same theme, substituting the word crapula, "hangover," for the word gula, "gullet, gluttony."

If you would like to see this proverb in context, consider the always delightful Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton, a masterpiece of 17th-century English, peppered with Latin throughout, including today's proverb, as you can see in this excerpt from "Man's Excellency, Fall, Miseries, Infirmities; The causes of them" here:
If you will particularly know how, and by what means, consult physicians, and they will tell you, that it is in offending in some of those six non-natural things, of which I shall dilate more at large; they are the causes of our infirmities, our surfeiting, and drunkenness, our immoderate insatiable lust, and prodigious riot. Plures crapula, quam gladius, is a true saying, the board consumes more than the sword. Our intemperance it is, that pulls so many several incurable diseases upon our heads, that hastens old age, perverts our temperature, and brings upon us sudden death. And last of all, that which crucifies us most, is our own folly, madness, (quos Jupiter perdit, dementat; by subtraction of his assisting grace God permits it) weakness, want of government, our facility and proneness in yielding to several lusts, in giving way to every passion and perturbation of the mind: by which means we metamorphose ourselves and degenerate into beasts. All which that prince of poets observed of Agamemnon, that when he was well pleased, and could moderate his passion, he was -- os oculosque Jove par: like Jupiter in feature, Mars in valour. Pallas in wisdom, another god; but when he became angry, he was a lion, a tiger, a dog, &c., there appeared no sign or likeness of Jupiter in him; so we, as long as we are ruled by reason, correct our inordinate appetite, and conform ourselves to God's word, are as so many saints: but if we give reins to lust, anger, ambition, pride, and follow our own way; we degenerate into beasts, transform ourselves, overthrow our constitutions, provoke God to anger, and heap upon us this of melancholy, and all kinds of incurable diseases, as a just and deserved punishment of our sins.

The Latin word crapula, like the words for so many of the finer things in life, is borrowed from Greek, "kraipale," meaning a headache, and in particular, a drunken headache. By extension, the word then comes to refer not just to the effects to drinking to excess, but to the drinking itself. Today's proverb could thus be translated as "Excessive drinking kills more than the sword does." But it sounds more fun to just say hangover!

And yes, if you are looking to improve your English vocabulary, "crapulous" is indeed an English word, along with a whole long list: crapulence, crapulency, crapulental, crapulosity, and crapulousness. Eegad, I love the Oxford English dictionary!

In English, the word is further extended to mean excessive drinking or excessive eating, bringing us around again to yesterday's proverb. I would suspect that is also why Burton translated the word as "board" in the commentary cited above. Some of the citations in the OED are clearly related to drinking (such as this reference from 1845 to "Men who spend their evenings over their wine and awake crapulous in the morning"), but some are clearly about eating (e.g., 1538 Rule of Honest Life "Eate without crapulosyte").

So with hopes that you did not awake crapulous on January 1, here is today's proverb read out loud:

1175. Plures necat crapula quam gladius.

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.
Keep up with the latest posts... Subscribe by Email. I also post a daily round-up of all the Bestiaria Latina blogs: fables, proverbs, crosswords, and audio.


Solfinker said...

Magnificent blog

Liam said...

My family and friends have a tradition going back a few years now. After the Easter vigil, we gather at our house for drinks, food, and celebration. We refer to it as the "praeparatio crapulae pascalis."

Laura Gibbs said...

Ha ha, that is great! There are some hilarious "drunkard's Masses" in the parodic texts of the Middle Ages and all kinds of funny poems about drinking. Here's a little poem about hangover:

Postquam crastin surrexebant
Omnes caput coluebant,
Et nullus horum recordebant
De factis heristernia.

"After everyone got up the next day, their heads all hurt, and not one of them could remember anything about what happened the day before."