July 27, 2007

Auribus oculi fideliores sunt

In English: The eyes are more trustworthy than the ears.

Since I have been posting sayings about the ears this week, I thought this would make a good post to finish up that topic. You could compare this Latin saying to the English expression "seeing is believing," the idea being that if you see something with your own eyes, you can be sure of it, but if you have just heard about something, it could simply be a groundless rumor.

You can find an extremely wide range of ways to express this fundamental idea in Latin. For example, instead of stating that the eyes are more reliable than the ears, you can turn it around and say that the ears are less reliable than the eyes: Aures quam oculi minus fidei digni sunt, "Ears are less worthy of trust than eyes."

Also, instead of referring to eyes and ears, you can refer instead to the senses of sight and hearing: Visus fidelior auditu, "Sight is more trustworthy than hearing."

Still, I like better the versions of the saying that involve eyes and ears! Here is a good one that takes a first-person perspective: Arbiter est oculus certior aure meus, "My eye is a more definite judge than my ear."

There are also versions of the saying which put the idea in the context of the legal system and witness testimony, what we could call "hear-say" in English: Testis ex auditu alieno fidem non facit, "A witness testifying from hearing something from someone else does not generate confidence."

You can also express the idea of an "eye-witness" in Latin, as in English: Pluris est oculatus testis unus quam auriti decem, "An eye-witness is worth more than ten ear-witnesses." Of course, we don't have this nice phrase "ear-witness" in English, but it works quite well in Latin.

Meanwhile, so that you can indulge both yours ears and your eyes at this blog, here is today's proverb read out loud:

665. Auribus oculi fideliores sunt.

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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Anonymous said...

Hi Laura,

I continue to love and look forward to your daily offerings. Heartfelt thanks!

However, some 30 years ago I wrote on the lintel of my studio door - complete with serifs - "Fideliores sunt oculi auribus" (I found it in Elementary Latin: The Basic Structures by Grace A. Crawford, et al). I must say I still find that word order a touch more expressive.

Incidentally, wouldn't your translation of "Aures quam oculi minus fidei digni sunt" ("Ears are less worthy of truth than eyes") be more understandable if you wrote 'belief' instead of 'truth'?

Please excuse pickiness. Hope you go on forever.

Best regards,

Laura Gibbs said...

Aha, Peter, thank you - that should be TRUST instead of truth. I have fixed the typo! Thank you so much for your help (I am the world's worst at proofreading...)

And as for word order: it is an absolute delight in Latin! I used to have my students rearrange proverbs into whatever word order they liked best, just to feel that freedom!