January 09, 2007

Plures necat gula quam gladius

In English: The gullet kills more than the sword.

I thought this would be a good proverb to cite in the aftermath of New Year's Resolutions, when so many people are trying to lose weight. This saying reminds us that for all the violence done with swords and other weapons, our gobbling of food might be our most dangerous enemy.

The charm of the actual Latin proverb depends on the great play on words between the words gula, "throat, gullet," and gladius, "sword." I can't really figure out a good way to get at that in English - maybe "palate" and "pistol"...? "gullet" and "bullet"...? Well, that's why it is so much more fun just to read the proverbs in Latin, enjoying the Latin without worrying about an English version.

The Latin word gula actually gives us the English word "gullet." It is also the origin of the Latin verb gluttire, "to swallow," which ultimately gives us the English word "glutton," the person who swallows everything!

As for the Latin word gladius, "sword," this is where we get the word "gladiator," the person who fights with the sword. It is also the origin of the word "gladiolus," a diminutive form meaning "little sword."

So, as a Latin aid to those New Year's diet resolutions, here is today's proverb read out loud:

1174. Plures necat gula quam gladius.

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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