February 05, 2011

Sapientis non est bis labi in eodem lapide


Recording also available at iPadio using this link.

Today's saying is Sapientis non est bis labi in eodem lapide. In English: "A wise person does not stumble over the same stone a second time."

I thought this might make a good proverb to follow up on an earlier post about the positive value of making mistakes: Errando discitur, "We learn by making mistakes." Mistakes are essential to learning - in a sense, making mistakes is really the only way to learn! The wise person, therefore, is someone who is able to avoid making the same mistake twice, or, as the proverb puts it, to avoid stumbling on the same stone a second time. You might know the English saying, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." The idea is basically the same here: there is no shame or blame in making a mistake. The goal instead should be to learn from that mistake in order not to repeat it. That is what makes someone wise. Sapientis non est bis labi in eodem lapide.

In terms of the Latin grammar, what is worth noting here is the idiomatic use of the genitive with an infinitive. In English, we might use a "for" construction to express the same idea: "It is not for (someone) to do (something." In Latin, you use the genitive instead, the idea being something like, "It is not characteristic (of somebody) to do (something)."

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

Sapientis non est bis lābī in eōdem lapide.



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