August 21, 2007

Discipulus est prioris posterior dies

In English: The following day is the student of the previous day.

Like yesterday's proverb about school and learning, I thought this would be a good selection for those of you who are embarking on a new school year this week, as I am. You could call today's proverb the motto of lifelong learning in Latin!

You can see this motto accompanied by a very cute bunny rabbit from an unusual pack of Tarot cards, the The Fairy Tarots by Antonio Lupatelli.

The person commenting on the card at that webpage makes a bit of a muddle of the Latin: "Prioris refers to the first of two things - but it is the genitive case (belonging to the first of two things). Posterior is the later of two things and is an adjective modifying Dies = day. So I think it means something like - discipline is the first priority at the end of the day. But I am not secure in that."

The problem is that while the Latin word discipulus looks something like the English word "discipline," it is actually the Latin word for "student" (and also the origin of the English word "disciple"). So no, the motto does not mean that "discipline is the first priority at the end of the day." Instead, it means simply that the posterior dies, "the following day" discipulus est, "is the student" prioris "of the preceding day."

In other words, yesterday is the teacher of tomorrow!

There is an even more simple version of this saying, but one that is so simple as to be a bit enigmatic: Dies diem docet, "Day teaches day."

So, hoping that in the course of your day today you have learned a good lesson that you can put to use tomorrow, here is today's proverb read out loud:

581. Discipulus est prioris posterior dies.

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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