January 12, 2007

Publica fama non semper vana

In English: Common gossip is not always groundless.

I thought this would be a good follow-up to the post from yesterday, about how too much chit-chat can often be deceiving. Today's post is about Latin fama, which gives us the English word "fame," but which also refers to any kind of general "talk," "report," or even "rumor" or "gossip," as in today's proverb. I was complaining yesterday about how some people talk about others behind their back, spreading gossip that is not true. Today's proverb, however, points out that rumors sometimes really are true!

My favorite example of this is the amazing website snopes.com, a kind of clearing-house for urban legends. If you have never taken a look at this website, I highly recommend it. They use a color-coding system to indicate which urban legends and rumors are true, or not, or in-between. Here's how they explain the system:
Green bullets are used for two similar but distinct types of entries: claims that are demonstrably true, and urban legends that are based on real events. For the former, "demonstrably true" means that the claim has been established by a preponderance of (reliable) evidence; for the latter, a green bullet indicates that the legend described is based on an actual occurrence.
Yellow bullets generally describe disputed claims — factual items which the available evidence is too contradictory or insufficient to establish as either true or false. This category also includes claims that have a kernel of truth to them but are not literally true as stated. Some legends also fall into this classification when it cannot be determined whether the legends preceded similar real life events, or vice-versa.
Red bullets mark claims which cannot be established as true by a preponderance of (reliable) evidence. Some urban legends are also placed into this category because they describe events too implausible to have actually occurred, or too fantastic to have escaped mention in the media of the day.
Multi-colored bullets identify claims which are a mixture of truth and falsehood.
So if you were wondering whether putting in the digits of your PIN code in reverse at an ATM really will summon police, go to snopes! Thinking there might be dangerous levels of lead in your lipstick? Ask snopes!

And as today's proverb warns you... it COULD be true! Here is the proverb read out loud:

18. Publica fama non semper vana.

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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