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Labor gloriae pater

Original post date: Tuesday, February 06, 2007

In English: Hard work is the father of fame.

In yesterday's post, inscitia mater arrogantiae, and in the previous day's post repetitio mater memoriae, I discussed two Latin proverbs based on the theme of the symbolic mater, and promised that I would then do a pater proverb. So, here it is: labor gloriae pater, "hard work is the father of glory."

The reason the word pater is used in today's proverb is that the subject of the proverb is labor, a masculine noun. The grammatical gender of the noun, labor, determines which symbolic parent it becomes: a father.

If you were to rephrase the saying to focus on gloria, you could say that gloria laboris filia est, "fame is the daughter of hard work." Because the word gloria is a feminine noun, it would be the "daughter" of hard work.

I really like these proverbs that set up family relationships - father, mother, daughter, son - between abstract nouns! It is a very efficient and powerful way to express the relationship between these nouns.

Take today's proverb, for example. There is another Latin saying that expresses a very similar idea, but with many more words and much more difficult grammar! Solet sequi laus, cum viam fecit labor, "Praise is accustomed to follow when hard work has opened the way." This saying expresses the same basic idea: hard work first, glory afterwards. It also uses a metaphor to do that: hard work clears the path, makes way for glory. Yet I still prefer the simple three-word proverb: labor gloriae pater. It's a bit more like a riddle this way. The words are easy to understand, so it takes a minute to stop and think just what it means - but when you've grasped the meaning, it's easy to remember. Just three little words, but a serious bit of advice: get to work if you want to get famous!

And now, before I get back to work (not sure about if and when this labor will bring me any gloria, ha ha), here is today's proverb read out loud:

269. Labor gloriae pater.

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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