March 17, 2009

Calidum et frigidum ex eodem ore efflat

In English: He blows hot and cold from the same mouth.

Yes, I'm back blogging here again. I finally figured out how to salvage the old posts from this blog and to start adding new ones again (details here if you are curious). To get back into the swing of things, I'm going to work my way through the proverbs that are included in the Aesop's Fables in Latin book that just came out - it's got around 130 proverbs interspersed with the fables (list of proverbs here).

The one I picked out for today about blowing hot and cold out of the same mouth can be found in Erasmus's Adagia (1.8.30) and goes with the Aesop's fable of the satyr who found a man frozen in the snow. Here's one version of that story in Latin:
Satyrus Viatorem, nive obrutum atque algore enectum, misertus ducit in antrum suum. Refocillantem manus anhelitu oris percontatur causam; “Ut calefiant,” inquit. Postea, cum accumberent, sufflat Viator in polentam. Quod cur ita faceret interrogatus “Ut frigescat,” inquit. Tunc continuo Satyrus Viatorem eiiciens: “Nolo (inquit) in meo ut sis antro, cui tam diversum est os.”
The Satyr took pity on a traveller who was overwhelmed by snow and laid low by ice, and led the man into his cave. As the man warmed his hands by blowing on them with his mouth, the satyr asked why he did this, and the man said, "To warm them." Then when they sat down to dinner, the traveller blew on his porridge. Asked why he did this, he said, "To cool it." Then straightaway the Satyr threw the traveller out, saying, "I don't want you to be in my cave, since your mouth goes this way and that way."
When the satyr thinks that the man can blow hot and cold from the same mouth, it terrifies him. Yet it is also worth noting a quite different use of the same metaphorical materials in the Bible, from the Book of Revelation. In Chapter 3, this is the message to be addressed to the church in Laodicea:
Scio opera tua: quia neque frigidus es, neque calidus: utinam frigidus esses, aut calidus: sed quia tepidus es, et nec frigidus, nec calidus, incipiam te evomere ex ore meo.

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
So, you can see there are perils in both directions - you need to beware of people who blow both hot and cold... and also to beware of people so tepid that they don't blow one way or the other.

1286. Calidum et frigidum ex eodem ore efflat.

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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