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Inflat se tamquam rana

Original post date: Monday, August 27, 2007

In English: He's puffing himself up like a frog.

I've been working on Aesop's fables for another project lately (an edition of Barlow's Aesop for Latin students - Bolchazy-Carducci has agreed to take it on!), so I thought I would indulge myself by doing some proverbs here in the blog that go hand-in-hand with some Aesop's fables.

This saying about the frog can stand on its own, of course. Everyone knows how funny a frog looks when it puffs itself up, which provides a fine metaphor for a person puffed up with his own sense of self-importance.

Thanks to Aesop, there is also a great little fable that tells a story about a frog who puffed herself up to extremes! Here's the version in Steinhowel's Aesop, and you can see some great Renaissance illustrations from several different editions online:
In prato quaedam rana vidit pascentem bovem, putabat se posse fieri talem, si rugosam pellem inflaret. At natos suos interrogavit: Sum ne ipsa quantus est bos? Dixerunt: None. Iterum inflavit se potius et dixit suis: Quid modo? Responderunt: Nihil simile. Tertio cum se inflaret rupta pelle mortua est, ideo vulgo dicitur: Noli te inflare, ne crepes.

In a meadow a certain frog saw a bull who was feeding there. She thought she could be like the bull, if she pulled up her wrinkly skin. She asked her children: Am I not as big as the bull? They said: No. She puffed herself up again even more and said to her children: What about this way? They said: Nothing like him. The third time when she puffed herself up, her skin burst open and she died, hence the common saying: Don't puff yourself up; you might burst.
There are many versions of this story in both the ancient Latin and Greek traditions. As always, the wonderful 17th-century writer Sir Roger L'Estrange provides a lively English version:

As a huge over-grown Oxe was grazing in a Meadow, an old envious Frog that stood gaping at him hard by, call’d out to her little ones, to take Notice of the Bulk of that monstrous Beast; and see, says she, if I don’t make myself now the bigger of the two. So she strain’d once, and twice, and went still swelling on and on, till in the Conclusion she forc’d herself, and burst.
THE MORAL. Betwixt Pride, Envy, and Ambition, Men fansy themselves to be bigger than they are, and other People to be less: And this Tumour swells itself at last till it makes all fly.


So, hoping your day has been free of puffed-up frogs, literal or metaphorical, here is today's proverb read out loud:

1278. Inflat se tamquam rana.

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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