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Canis est audax iuxta proprias aedes

Original post date: Saturday, March 10, 2007

In English: A dog is bold by his own house.

I though this would be a good follow-up to yesterday's proverb, which used the word cani meaning "grey, grey hairs." Today's proverb is about a dog, Latin canis, a third-declension noun. The idea in today's proverb is very insightful: the dog barks loudly and boldly by his own house... but if he were to find himself in strange surroundings, he would not be very bold at all!

There are many variants of this saying, such as Canis domi ferocissimus, "At home, a dog is most fierce;" in claustro domini furit acrior ira catelli, "in the home of his master the puppy's wrath rages more fiercely;" in foribus propriis canis est audacior omnis, "in his own door every dog is more bold;" omnis canis in porta sua magnus est latrator, "every dog is a great barker in his own door;" and ausus maiores fert canis ante fores, "a dog proposes much bolder moves in front of his own door." (I like that last one in Latin especially because it rhymes!)

It's also worth saying something here about the constellation of possibly confusing words in Latin, canis, meaning "dog," canus, meaning "gray" and meaning "gray hairs" in the plural (cani), and also the verb cano, canere, meaning "to sing," a third-conjugation verb. There's even a second-conjugation verb, caneo, canere, meaning "to be white, to be gray," although this is a very uncommon word. The other three words, however, canis, canus, and cano, are all extremely common. So, watch out! You don't want to get them mixed up!

From the Latin word canis we get the English word canine. The English word "kennel" is also derived from this same root. The English word "canary" even comes from this same root. That is an interesting story. The canary bird is a little bird that lived on the Canary Islands, off the north-west coast of Africa. The name for this place was Insula Canaria in Latin, so called because there were fabulously large and vicious dogs that lived on the island - at least they made such an impression on the Romans who visited the island that they called it "Dog Island"! Over time, the bird from the Canary Island became known as the "canary." So yes, canary birds do chirp and sing, but their name does not come from the verb canere, "to sing;" instead, it comes from the word canis, meaning "dog."

So, in honor of dog's whose bark is worse than their bite, here is today's proverb read out loud:

444. Canis est audax iuxta proprias aedes.

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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