Wednesday, April 1, 2015

to Avoid Excessive Latinity

... or, don't be you too Norman.

A dear dear friend of mine who has been through a lot (and I won't tell you any more than this) was once frequently worn down by the maxim "Patience is a virtue". Like all propositions that happen to be true, it isn't at all a helpful thing to say unless one properly understands the proper meaning of all the words in it and their interconnections. Worse, some phrases become so culturally bound that they work, in conversation, like single words ("for all intents and purposes", anyone?). A triage nurse might have fun announcing "Patient has a vert hue", and it might be true, and it might be what the doctor hears, but that's not the true expression "Patience is a virtue".

Now, the hapless proponent of the virtue of patience may well have meant: "if you'll wait quiet a while longer, perhaps I'll praise you later on", because "patience" has come usually to mean "enduring delay", and "virtue" that which is praiseworthy. But that also is not the true meaning of "Patience is a virtue". For the True Meaning, we must translate the Latin into "plain brittish".

Suffering is Strength.

Ok, you will counter that "suffer", from latin "su(per)fero", or "bear up", is still Latin. Thing is, we don't read it as Latin anymore.

Next, you might complain "That's backwards. Suffering needs strength; you can't 'suffer' the way you mean if you aren't already strong". Well, yes and no; but the formation of strength requires exercise: you have to try first what you aren't good at before you get good at it. Then doing it well is proof of strength.

And, here's the odd bit. Doing it well need not mean "quit yer belly-achin'". It does mean "Despair not". It does not mean that the pain goes away, or becomes "bearable". It does mean you are lovable. And a good and loving neighbor will suffer with you, and so exercise his patience, too.


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