October 17, 2007

Qui non laborat, non manducat

In English: He who does not work, does not eat.

Last time, I posted a saying in honor of our little vacation this weekend, and I thought today's saying would be a way to mark my return to the world of work! In this form, the saying is presented as a simple statement of fact, with both verbs in the indicative: the man who does not work (non laborat), does not eat (non manducat). This saying is probably best known for its use in Rabelais' Gargantua.

A simple English saying gets right to the point: "No work, no eat." The radical utilitarian Jeremy Bentham in his essay Pauper Systems Compared actually refers to the "no-work-no-eat principle." A Google search of the phrase "no work no eat" will show that it has been used in a whole range of circumstances, some perhaps well-meaning and others brutally harsh.

You will also find this saying in the subjunctive form: qui non laborat, non manducet (although classical purists will shudder a bit at the non with the subjunctive): "He who does not work, let him not eat." Instead of being a simple observation of fact, this one has a frightening additional authority, meaning that even the bread of charity should be denied to this person. This is the saying which makes its way into Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The Bible itself provided the prompt for this subjunctive form, in 2 Thessalonians Chapter 3: si quis non vult operari nec manducet, "if someone does not want to work, let him not eat." Of course, the book of Genesis already tells us that Adam was going to have to work to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow and - as the English saying has it, "the sweat of Adam's brow hath streamed down ours ever since."

So, hoping that you are earning your bread these days without too much sweat, here is today's proverb read out loud:

1298. Qui non laborat, non manducat

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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Anne McKimmy said...

I'm not trying to be picky. I just want to strive to pronounce Latin by observing macrons. It sounds like "non" is pronounced with a short "O", and all the texts and dictionaries I have list it with a long "o." Thus, shouldn't non be pronounced "nohn?" I really appreciate your scholarship and the fine work you are doing!

Laura Gibbs said...

Elsewhere I have posted about this: Americans substitute vowel quality for quantity because we do not have vowel quantity in English - if you want to substitute vowel quality as a way to create vowel differences in Latin, you can do that - but it is artificial and it is not necessarily what the Romans were doing at all. It's also very artificial to English ears since it is not a natural part of our language. Unfortunately, vowel length (quantity) is not a part of any of the modern Romance languages either - the Roman vowel quantity system is LOST to us, and if people want to create new, artificial, speculative systems to simulate that, they are free to do so. It does not interest me very much, except insofar as we know that vowel quantity was linked to word stress. I care very much about word stress because that is one of the most fundamental and recognizable features of English phonology, and we do know, with a fair amount of accuracy, where Latin words were stressed. I think students benefit greatly from learning to stress words consistently; forcing them to learn a speculative, artificial way of pronouncing the Latin vowels is something that personally I do not place a great of importance on.