In English: One favor gives birth to another.
In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I thought I would do some Latin "thanks" proverbs based on the fascinating Latin word gratia, which can mean, among other things, "thanks" - as you can still recognize in the Spanish "gracias." This particular saying, gratia gratiam parit can be found in Erasmus's Adagia.
The Latin word gratia actually has a whole wide range of meaning, which is quite difficult to capture in a single English word. This is because Latin gratia is one of those notorious two-way words, which works to define both the relationship you have to others, and also the relationship they have to you. (Another such notorious word in Latin hospes, which means both "guest" and "host.")
You can see this split in the two main headings for the definition of gratia in Lewis and Short. On the one hand, gratia is something that someone shows to you, not so much "thanks" but rather their "favor" to you, the "grace" they bestow upon you: I. A. Favor which one finds with others, esteem, regard, liking, love, friendship (syn. favor) B. Transf., objectively, like the Gr. xa/ris, agreeableness, pleasantness, charm, beauty, loveliness, grace.
Alternatively, Latin gratia can be the "favor" you do for someone else, the "thanks" that you give to them, a sign of your "gratitude," etc.: II. A. Favor which one shows to another, mark of favor, kindness, courtesy, service, obligation. B. In partic., a mark of favor shown for a service rendered, thanks (by word or deed), thankfulness, gratitude; acknowledgment, return, requital.
This reciprocal relationship embodied in the word gratia helps to expose the deep logic of today's proverb - and also the impossibility of translating it into English! When you say in Latin gratia gratiam parit, you are expressing that reciprocal relationship: a person's gracious favor engenders grateful thanks on your part; and your act of thanksgiving to that person, in turn, engenders their gratitude, and so on.
Isn't it lovely? English has derived many word from Latin gratia, such as "grace," "gracious," "grateful," "gratitude," and even "gratuitous" and "ingrate" - but all those separate words do not manage to convey the reciprocality inherent in the definition of Latin gratia itself.
This post is dedicated to Nancy Diven: she will know why immediately! :-)
Meanwhile, hoping you are expecting a happy Thanksgiving holiday, here is today's proverb read out loud:
1566. Gratia gratiam parit.
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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