February 16, 2011

Qui pauca legit, pauca scit


Recording also available at iPadio using this link.

Today's saying is Qui pauca legit, pauca scit. In English: "He who reads little, knows little."

I thought this would make a good follow-up to yesterday's proverb that urged everyone to learn by reading, Disce legendo. Today's saying points out the negative consequences of not reading: "He who reads little, knows little." Because I am a voracious reader, I know lots of things. Yet my students, many of whom are reluctant readers, are often very ignorant about the world they live in. This worries me. I do not believe a "core curriculum" can fix this problem; every person needs to know different things. Any attempt to define a "core curriculum" is a dangerous illusion in my opinion, a fatal Siren song leading to educational disaster. Instead, we just need to make sure that everybody reads a lot. It doesn't matter what you read, so long as you read a LOT of it. He who reads little, knows little - but he who reads much, knows much.

In terms of proverb style, you can see a very elegant parallel structure here at work and, luckily for me, it is a parallel structure that works perfectly well both in Latin and English. You could express it as a formula: Qui X verb-A, X verb-B. There is indeed a kind of "algebra of style" when it comes to Latin proverbs, structures that make the expression somehow instantly familiar and recognizable, giving it a "proverbial" feel. You can even make up your own proverbs, something no one has said before, but it will have that proverbial feel about it if you use a proverbial style of expression. So, for example, in the spirit of an earlier proverb about learning through mistakes we could say: Qui multum errat, multum discit. So far as I know, no one has said this before, but it has the look and feel of a proverb, doesn't it? :-)

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

Quī pauca legit, pauca scit.



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