Saturday, April 09, 2005
Errare Humanum Est
To Ayer is Hume'n is of course a pun on To err is human, in Latin Errare humanum est. Robert Hendrickson, QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, 2nd edition (New York: Facts on File, 2004), p. 244, claims that humanum est errare (which he misprints as humanum et errare) "dates back to at least the fourteenth century in its Latin form."
Maybe it should be the fourth century. Henerik Kocher, in his indispensable Dicionário de expressões e frases latinas cites St. Jerome, Letters 57.12, as the source of Errare humanum est (more precisely it's 57.12.3). But in Hilberg's edition of St. Jerome's letters I see
Errasse humanum est et confiteri errorem prudentiswithout any variants in the critical apparatus.
To have erred is human and to admit one's error is the mark of a wise man
Maybe someone with access to a well-stocked library can track down the precise origin of Errare humanum est.