January 29, 2011

Repetitio mater memoriae


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Today's saying is Repetitio mater memoriae. In English: "Repetition is the mother of memory."

I promised last week that I would cover this Latin saying about repetition, which is of course very similar to the English saying, "Repetition is the mother of learning." I think I prefer the Latin phrase to the English one, because memorization is a kind of learning which really is best aided by repetition. There are other methods you can use to commit things to memory, but repetition is one of the best. Plus, don't think that repetition just means when you repeat something over and over again. There are other kinds of repetition that are an aid to memory, as you can see in the phrase mater memoriae, "the mother of memory." In both the Latin and the English there is the repetition of the "m" sound, and this kind of alliteration - a sound repetition inside the thing itself - actually makes it easier to remember. So, repeat after me: Repetitio mater memoriae, "Repetition is the mother of memory."

In terms of Latin grammar, it is worth noting that the reason repetition is the mother, mater, of memory is because the Latin noun repetitio is feminine in gender. There are lots of these "family" proverbs in Latin, and whether a particular abstract noun gets to be the father or the mother of something depends on the grammatical gender of the noun. In the proverb Labor gloriae pater, "Work is the father of glory," the noun labor, masculine in gender, gets to be the father of glory, just as repetitio, feminine in gender, is the mother of memory.

For those of you who are fans of macrons, here is the Latin written with macrons:

Repetītiō est māter memoriae.



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