February 05, 2007

Inscitia mater arrogantiae

In English: Ignorance is the mother of conceit.

I chose today's proverb as a follow-up to yesterday's proverb about repetitio mater memoriae because of the parallel use of mater in today's proverb. Repetition is the mother of memory... while ignorance is the mother of conceit.

This is definitely a proverb that rings true in my experience. Spending most of my life in the academic world, I've had more than enough of the conceit bred by people's ignorance. Sadly, admitting ignorance - which is often the first step on the road to learning! - is something that is much frowned upon in the academic world. Rather than rejoicing when we discover our ignorance, we are made to feel ashamed. What a loss! When you find a pocket of ignorance (or a chasm of ignorance!), that is a great moment: it lets you know which way to go and what to focus on.

The reason I picked this proverb as a pair is to show the wonderful use of Latin mater to show how gender plays a role in these proverbs. The word mater, "mother," is used here not in order to make some statement about women being more prone to conceit or needing more repetition in order to remember things. The gender is instead driven by the grammatical gender of the subject of the sentence. Repetitio, "repetition" is a feminine noun - which means it is the mater, "mother" of something ("repetition is the mother of memory"). Likewise, inscitia, "ignorance," is a feminine noun - which means it is the mater, the "mother" of something ("ignorance is the mother of conceit").

Tomorrow I'll be sure to post a proverb with pater instead of mater so you can see some more examples of how this elegant turn-of-phrase works in Latin!

So here is today's proverb read out loud:

233. Inscitia mater arrogantiae.

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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