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Est unusquisque faber ipsae suae fortunae.

Original post date: Thursday, October 05, 2006

In English: Each and every person is the maker of his own luck.

There's a hard choice to make in an English translation of this wonderful saying: is each person the maker of his own luck? or of his own fortune? The Latin word fortuna can be translated either way. I've chosen the "luck" option since that is a more striking and surprising statement. The idea of "making a fortune" has become almost a cliche in English, meaning, sadly, "to make money." But making your own luck: that's a much more challenging idea!

Luck is something that allows you to put things beyond your own control or responsibility: if something bad happens because of bad luck, it's not your fault; if something good happens because of good luck, you get the benefits although you might not get to take full credit for this happy circumstance.

So, to make your own luck, to be the maker of your own fortuna, would mean to be the person who takes responsibility for the things that happen to you, both good and bad.

In a sense, this saying is the more complete version of yesterday's saying: Homines plerique ipsi sibi mala parant, "Many people themselves prepare evils for themselves." Yes, people are the makers of evil against themselves, their own bad luck - but they can also be the makers of their good luck as well, their own "fortune."

In Rome, Fortuna was also personified as a goddess, and there is a delightful Aesop's fable about how angry Fortuna gets about being blamed for things that, she insists, are not her fault.
A workman had thoughtlessly fallen asleep one night next to a well. While he slept, he seemed to hear the voice of Fortuna, the goddess of luck, as she stood there beside him. "Hey you," the goddess said, "you'd better wake up! I am afraid that if you fall into the well, I will be the one that people blame, giving me a bad reputation. In general, people blame me for everything that happens to them, including the unfortunate events and tumbles for which a person really has only himself to blame."
So even though it looks like today's saying might put her out of business, I think Fortuna herself would agree that each person is the one who brings their own "fortune" into being.

And here is today's proverb read out loud:

942. Est unusquisque faber ipsae suae fortunae.

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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At 8:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As italian: you're right, 'fortuna' means luck.
There's just one problem, the pronunciation of the sentence is terrible!

The two vowels together (diphthong) "ae" (and "oe" too, btw) must to be pronounced as "e", instead the woman who reads the sentence pronounces "a" and then "e".

Anyway, good work, this is absolutely my favourite latin proverb (the author was Appius Claudius Caecus) and I'm very happy you translated it here.

Well, I'm sure at this point I have to apologise for my english :-)

At 8:34 AM, Blogger Laura Gibbs said...

No need to apologize for your English, but you do need to apologize for your rude remarks about the pronunciation. It is not terrible pronunciation - it is simply not the ecclesiastical style of pronunciation that is still used by many Italians. Personally, I think ecclesiastical pronunciation is fine, but it is almost never taught in American schools, and I do not use that ecclesiastical style of pronunciation here. The style of Latin pronunciation in American schools respects the diphthongs; ecclesiastical pronunciation ignores the diphthongs.

I am glad you like the proverb, but instead of telling other people how you expect them to read Latin, perhaps you should just put your own Latin audio online - and believe me, some rude Americans will probably tell you that your pronunciation is all wrong. I wish people could simply accept the fact that Latin is pronounced in different ways for different reasons by different people, instead of acting as if there is only one pronunciation. If you want to create some Latin audio online using ecclesiastical pronunciation, that would be great - I promise not to tell you that your pronunciation is terrible. I wish you would show others the same courtesy.

At 9:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, I'm sorry for saying the pronunciation is terrible. I still believe it is wrong but, of course, not that bad. I was joking about it and in fact I complemented you for the explanation (or at least I thought I did).

Of course I can start my own blog where i can pronounce as I want every sentences I like but..

YOU choosed to give the possibility to comment your work by anonymous people, so i'll give you the same advice:
if you don't want people to comment your work, take away that feature from the blog.

"Quot homines, tot sententiae"

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Laura Gibbs said...

I'm certainly not one to shut down comments just because a few people leave rude comments, and do so anonymously. You are free to leave all the rude anonymous comments that you want! I didn't delete your comment, and took the time to reply to you, explaining to you that not everyone reads Latin as the Italians do. I do think that if people are going to leave rude comments, they should not do so anonymously. It's your choice of course - whoever you may be!

Anyone can leave comments at this blog; I left that option open on purpose. Criticizing pronunciation based on your own set of assumptions doesn't reflect very well on you, I think, but you are anonymous - and as for me, it doesn't matter one way or the other.


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