November 12, 2008

Ex granis acervus

In English: From grains, a heap.

I was so surprised to realize that I had never posted about this proverb here at the blog, since it has to be one of my "top ten" favorite Latin proverbs of all time, one that I constantly apply to my own life. In fact, blogging itself is a wonderful example of the "ex granis acervus" principle, since by posting just a little bit every day, you eventually end up with a big pile of writings, something that would have been intimidating if you set out to write that much, but which is so easy when you write it post by post by post.

Another thing I really like about this proverb is its abbreviated form, not even needing a verb. A fuller form of the proverb spells things out more clearly: de multis granis acervus erit, "from many grains, there will be a heap" or de minimis grandis fit magnus acervus, "from the smallest grains comes a big heap," where the contrast between the tiny grains and the big heap is made explicit. So, if you are worried that your audience might not understand the abbreviated form of the proverb, you can fill in the gaps for them - but personally, I prefer the elegant little ex granis acervus form of the saying.

There are other metaphors, too, which convey the same ideas the tiny grains and the big heap that results. For example, you can think about the many little drops of rain that make a rain shower: Minutae guttulae imbrem pariunt, "Tiny droplets generate the rainshower." That saying makes nice use of the possibilities of the diminutive in Latin, with droplets, guttulae, in place of the standard form guttae, drops. I like diminutives so much that I'd be tempted to go even farther: Minutulae guttulae imbrem pariunt - with not just "tiny" droplets, but "teeny-tiny" ones.

Meanwhile, hoping that your harvest is piled up in plentiful heaps, here is today's proverb read out loud:

97. Ex granis acervus

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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