February 06, 2011

Ex labore dulcedo

Recording also available at iPadio using this link.

Today's saying is Ex labore dulcedo. In English: "From the work, something sweet."

I thought this would be a good follow-up to yesterday's proverb, Nihil sine labore, "Nothing without effort." Today's proverb gives a positive twist on the importance of hard work: there is a satisfaction that comes from making an effort, a sweet feeling of accomplishment. The saying is a popular family motto and in the blog post you can see a lovely coat of arms for the MacInnes family which features a bee and a thistle. The bee is a very hard worker and from the bee's hard work comes the sweetness that is honey! The bee is a wonderful metaphor here, because the bee's work is transformative, just as learning is transformative. It is not that the bee finds the honey; the bee MAKES the honey. Knowledge is something very similar, I think. You don't just pick up knowledge lying around. Instead, you gather the raw materials, just as the bee does, and from those raw materials you create the honey of wisdom. Ex labore dulcedo.

In terms of Latin grammar, this is another one of those sentences without a verb in Latin, but just because it is without a verb, it still has a subject and a predicate. In order to indicate that little pause between the subject and the predicate, some people punctuate the sentence with a comma: Ex labore, dulcedo. "From effort (comes) the sweetness." In addition, you will see this saying spelled both ways: Ex labore dulcedo and also E labore dulcedo. Both forms are correct. Before a vowel, you must always use the form ex, but before a consonant, you can find both e and ex. For plenty of examples of ex before a consonant, see the (long) entry for ex in the Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary online.

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

Ex labōre dulcēdo.


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