Thursday, November 03, 2005


A Latin Proverb

I always enjoy the Latin Proverb of the Day feature at rogueclassicism. But one of the recent proverbs struck me as odd -- Tot capita, tot sententia [sic], translated as "There are as many opinion [sic] as there are heads!" The pronunciation guide (kwoht KAH-pih-tah, toht sehn-TEN-tee-ah) makes it clear that sententia is not a typo, but intentional. It is ungrammatical, however, even if you can find over a hundred hits on Google for Tot capita, tot sententia and Quot capita, tot sententia.

Henerik Kocher in his dictionary of Latin proverbs gives the following variants of this proverb:
  1. Quot homines, tot sententiae. (Terence, Phormio 454)
  2. Quot capita, tot sententiae.
  3. Tot capita, tot sententiae.
In all of these, we have the plural sententiae (opinions). Tot capita, tot sententia makes no sense, and is a mistake for Tot capita, tot sententiae.

Everyone has heard of the vulgar modern equivalent of this proverb: "Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one." Or in Latin, Quot culi, tot sententiae ("There are as many opinions as there are assholes").

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