October 31, 2009

Infra tuam pelliculam te contine

In English: Keep yourself within your own skin.

I thought that since yesterday's saying was about a diminutive (edentulus), I would choose another saying with a diminutive today: pellicula, which means "skin" or "hide," which is a diminutive form of the noun pellis.

Using the metaphor of skin, the proverb advises you to stick to your limits, to be yourself, to not overreach yourself. Of course, when it comes to your skin, this is easy: there is nothing you can do that will take you out of your own skin; literally speaking, going beyond your own skin is a physical impossibility. Metaphorically, of course, we are tempted to go beyond our own skin all the time - living beyond our means, pretending to be something we are not, striving for some goal which is far beyond our reach. This proverb instead urges us to be content with our limits, and stick to who we are.

You can find this saying stated in two different ways: intra tuam pelliculuam, and infra tuam pelliculam. The word intra means "within, inside" while the word infra means "underneath, on the under side." Of course, they both convey the same idea, albeit from different metaphorical vantage points, and you can also find the preposition in used also, as in this similar proverb: p. In propria pelle quiesce, "Be at peace in your own skin." Ovid has an interesting variant where he replaces the word "skin" with "Fortune" - intra Fortunam debet quisque manere suam, "each person should remain within his own Fortune."

The word pellicula, meanwhile, might be familiar to those of you who are Spanish speakers, as pelĂ­cula, the word for "film," in the sense of moving film, or a movie. In Italian, pellicola refers to photographic film. In English, however, the word "film" comes via the Germanic filminjan, meaning "skin, membrane," from Germanic fell, meaning "hide" - a word that is cognate with Latin pellis, but not derived from it.

So, hoping that you are feeling happy within, beneath or in your own skin at the moment, here are today's proverbs read out loud:

2379. Infra tuam pelliculam te contine.

2463. In propria pelle quiesce.

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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