April 21, 2007

Medico male est, si nemini male est

In English: The doctor's bad off, if nobody is bad off.

I thought this would be a good follow-up to yesterday's saying about doctors and diseases. Today's saying emphasizes the paradoxical situation in which the doctor finds himself: if everybody is well, things do not go well for the doctor! For the doctor to do well, somebody has to be doing poorly.

You can find this saying in many different variants, such as Medico nunquam bene est, nisi male sit aliis, "it is never well for the doctor, unless things are going badly for others;" Heu quam habet male omnis medicus, cum nemo sese habet male, "Oh how bad it goes for every doctor, when no one feels bad," and so on.

This is a proverb I often think about when I lapse into occasional despair about how my students cannot write English very well, how they have so few computer skills... but if they already wrote wonderful English and had all kinds of computer skills, they wouldn't need me to teach them, would they? And like the doctor when everyone is feeling well, I would be out of a job!

Today's Latin proverb is a good way to learn a very useful Latin idiom that expresses the idea of being well, or poorly: bene/male est plus the dative. So the phrase medico male est means "the doctor is not doing well, things are not going well for the doctor, the doctor is sick," etc. Likewise, nemini male est means "nobody is sick, nobody is doing poorly, everybody is doing fine, etc."

So, if you want to say that you are doing well, you can say mihi bene est, "I'm doing well" - and, if not, then mihi male est, "I'm sick, things are not going well for me, I'm doing poorly," etc.

So, hoping that bene tibi est hodie, here is today's proverb read out loud:

328. Medico male est, si nemini male est.

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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2 comments:

Frank Fasano said...

Bene tibi est , Doctor Gibbs and thank you for yaking the time to rspond to my question about the "phaesant".
Ad multos annos.

Laura Gibbs said...

Hi Frank, I am really grateful for the question about the pheasants - I never even realized that they were missing from the "Aesop Zoo" so to speak. It's hard to notice the absence of something until somebody points it out. Now I am definitely on the quest for Aesopic pheasants, and you will be the first person I notify if/when I find some!!! :-)