May 17, 2007

Nemo non formosus filius matri

In English: No one fails to be a beautiful son for his mother.

Here's another proverb built on the Latin nemo, as we've seen in the previous days' sayings. Today's saying says that there is nobody who is not beautiful, at least so far as his mother is concerned! Quintilian asks the rheotorical question, quis enim non est formosus filius matri?, "who indeed is not a beautiful son for his mother?" The answer, as today's proverb, tells us: nemo, there is no one who is not a beautiful son in his mother's eyes.

There are many Aesop's fables about the special love between a mother and her children, or a father and his children, which might seem ridiculous to an outside observer. My favorite example is the story of the frog and his slippers as told by the medieval preacher Odo of Cheriton:
Contigit quod animalia celebraverunt concilium. Bufo misit illuc filium suum. Sed oblitus sotulares suos novos, quaesiuit Bufo aliquod animal velox, qui posset ad concilium accelerare; videbatur sibi quod Lepus bene curreret. Vocavit eum et, mercede constituta, dixit ei quod deferret sotulares novos filio suo. Respondit Lepus: Quomodo potero discernere filium tuum in tali concilio? Dixit Bufo: Ille qui pulcherrimus est inter omnia animalia est filius meus. Dixit Lepus: Numquid Columba uel Pavo est filius tuus? Respondit: Nequaquam, quoniam Columba habet nigras carnes, Pavo turpes pedes. Dixit Lepus: Qualis est igitur filius tuus? Et dixit Bufo: Qui tale habet caput quale est meum, talem ventrem, tales tibias, tales pedes, ille pulcher filius meus. Illi deferas sotulares. Venit Lepus cum sotularibus et narravit Leoni et ceteris bestiis qualiter Bufo pre ceteris filium suum commendavit. Et ait Leo: Si quis amat Ranam, Ranam putat esse Dianam.

It once happened that the animals were holding a council. The toad sent his son there, but his son forgot his new shoes, so the toad sought some fast animal who could hurry to the council. It seemed to the toad that the rabbit could run quickly so he summoned the rabbit and, having a reward had been agreed upon, he told the rabbit to take the new shoes to his son. The rabbit replied, "How will I be able to recognize your son in such a council?" The toad said, "The one who is the most beautiful among all the animals is my son." The rabbit said, "So is the dove or the peacock your son?" The toad replied, "Not at all! The dove has black flesh and the peacock has ugly feet." The rabbit said, "What is your son like then?" And the toad said, "The one who has a head like mine and a belly like mine, and legs and feet like mine, that good-looking creature is my son. You should take the shoes to him." The rabbit came with the shoes and told the lion and the other beasts that the toad had praised his son more highly than all the others. And the lion said, "If someone loves a frog, he thinks that frog is the goddess of love."
The last bit depends on a bit of rhyme in Latin: Si quis amat Ranam, Ranam putat esse Dianam, "if someone loves a frog, he thinks the frog is Diana" (who is a goddess, but not the goddess of love; Diana's virtue here is that she rhymes with rana, "frog").

So, with best wishes to all you beautiful children out there and all you doting children, here is today's proverb read out loud:

332. Nemo non formosus filius matri.

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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