June 10, 2007

Qualis grex, talis rex

In English: As the flock, so the king.

I thought I would do this as a follow-up to yesterday's proverb about the sheep and the flock. Today's proverb is something like the English saying, "like father, like son," but instead it is about the flock (the community), and its leader, the king. Since the Latin has such a nice rhyme, maybe it would be fair to render it in English as "as the horde, so the lord."

The Latin word grex (gregis) has given us a whole range of wonderful English words. For example, there is "gregarious," which literally means "living in flocks," but which has come to mean "fond of company, consorting with others."

It's with the compounds, however, that things get really exciting. There is "aggregate," for example, meaning "to gather into a mass, into a group" - or into a flock.

If you go to church, you are part of a "congregation," a "flock," led, of course, by a "pastor," which is Latin for "shepherd."

If people are "segregated," that means they are divided up into separate groups, or separate flocks.

The best one of all, though, has got to be the English word "egregious." It now means something "extraordinary in a bad way, exceptionally bad." Historically, though, it means simply something "exceptional" in any way, either good or bad. Something "egregious" is something that stands e grege, "out of the flock."

So, hoping this audio is not too egregious, here is today's proverb read out loud:

964. Qualis grex, talis rex.

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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