Sunday, August 30, 2020


A Medieval Latin Proverb?

Robert A. Hall, Jr., A Life for Language: A Biographical Memoir of Leonard Bloomfield (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1990), p. 51:
Part of the strong condemnation expressed in the last sentence quoted above was an outgrowth of Bloomfield's disgust with the inexactitude and inaccuracy of the folklore taught in our schools as "grammar" (e.g., "a noun is the name of a person, place, or thing"). He used to say that it would be better for school children to remain totally ignorant of grammar than to be taught such traditional but false doctrines. On more than one occasion, I argued with him about this opinion of his, and tried to point out that, if a child is to recognize the desirability of analysing language at all, this must be demonstrated to him at an age when he is interested in such matters. Even if what the child learns is wrong, he can unlearn it later. But, once he has passed beyond the stage of acquiring his native language (normally wholly outside of awareness), he no longer sees any need for discussing or analysing it. I wish I had known the mediaeval Latin aphorism Melius invenitur veritas ex errore quam ex ignorantia 'it is easier to get at the truth starting from a wrong notion than from no notion at all', so as to quote it to Bloomfield.
Apart from writings by Hall, I can't find this proverb elsewhere. I don't have access to Hans Walther, Proverbia Sententiaeque Latinitatis Medii Aevi, 9 vols. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1963-1986).

Tim Parkin draws my attention to Francis Bacon, Novum Organum 2.20:
citius emergit veritas ex errore quam ex confusione.

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