Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Parvo et humilis




Reading the excellent, comprehensive, astonishingly informative Macrobiotics for Dummies last night, I came across a phrase I didn’t know: ‘Vivre parvo’.  

Parvo (Latin) means ‘small’ and vivre (French) means ‘to live’.  They have it down as a Latin phrase, in which case I think they might have lost an ‘e’ somewhere, and meant to say vivere parvo.  Though I think it should be vivere parva.  So a bit of a mongrel phrase, really!  They translate it ‘Take the minimum required’, saying that to achieve maximum health you should not ever pig out, but eat only what your body needs for nourishment in the context of your personal lifestyle.  As a guide, take the capacity of your stomach (same as a heaped amount in your two cupped hands) and eat no more than that (you can have less!)  Frugal feeding.  Sounds like wisdom to me.

Anyway, for some reason, the word parvo wanted to team up in my mind with the word humilis, and tagged itself to the song Panis Angelicus.  A little digging around turned up that the phrase I was thinking of in Panis Angelicus is in fact servus et humilis, more fully pauper servus et humilis – ‘poor and humble servant’ being the most usual translation.   Interestingly, both pauper and servus can be either adjective or noun, so I’m not sure if it really means ‘poor and humble servant’ or ‘a poor person of lowly servant status’ (which clearly would be too clunky a translation to serve up).

So having scratched around in this dust of ages for a while, I came back to the phrase that had formed in my mind, parvo et humilis, which had apparently turned up by itself then, and means ‘small and lowly’.  Humilis is a great word (where ‘humble’ and ‘humility’ come from – as well as ‘bumble-bee’, which used to be ‘humble-bee’ did you know?)  It comes from the same source as humus - earth, compost, so implies substance of earth, close to the earth, dusty, bumping along the bottom - all that.

And I thought that as well as vivre parvo (I’m worried about that phrase now – what language does it think it is?) being good practice for healthy eating, parvo et humilis is what I want to be: small, insignificant, close to the earth, of no account.

Unsurprisingly like most people I have wild ambitions to be rich, famous and  enormously important too, but that’s just the gibbering ego, the froth on the wave.

Parvo et humilis is what I want to be.  Now what I really need is Julia Bolton Holloway to check my Latin!  

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Thank you for checking my Latin, Julia!  The phrase I need, Julia says, is parvula et humilis.  Thank you!

Oh, but wait!

Julia says: "Parvo would be something that's small, Parvula would be a little girl, the dictionary being for, belonging to, Parvulorum, little boys studying with the Carmelite hermit in Lynne.  
Latin has three genders, feminine, masculine, neuter."  

And Julia gives a link to the relevant place on her website, here.

I am so grateful.  I think it is 'parvo' I want - something small - rather than 'a little girl'.  What I am looking for is a small unremarkable object, a thing of no account - that kind of parvo. 

16 comments:

Ganeidaz Knot said...

Oh, I'm so pleased someone else gets hooked on little things they can't let go of till they sort it satisfactorily in their own mind.

The older I get the more I just want to let it all go. Stuff prevents lightness of soul. I'm officially over it.

Ember said...

:oD

Accuracy? Prevents lightness of soul? Oh dear! And I still have to augment my income taking editing jobs! What to do . . .

Julie B. said...

Youem beum too smartacus pro meum. xxoo ;)

Paula said...

No, no. Accuracy doesn't prevent lightness of soul. Think of hitting the mark, Pen, and not over-obsessing about it. Get it right and move on.

I worked as an editor for 15 years, and now am lucky to not have to, since I have a perfectionist streak that damages my health if I am not really watchful. My catch phrase is, "Does anal retentive have a hyphen?" That helps me stop obsessing. <3

Ember said...

Ah Smartacus - yes, I remember him . . .

Anal-retentive? Well it depends whether one is editing for the US or UK market in part. I'm not sure I know what over-obsessing is - to me a thing is right, or not; I like to look into it until I have understood. Where to would I move on?

What an interesting conversation!

Paula said...

Ha! Pen, you and I are two peas in a pod. "It depends" is indeed the right answer! But over-obsessing is worrying that one must get any hyphen right in EVERY occurrence, when the "laws" of language are looser than the laws of physics. Our local newspaper is so hyphen-happy that they use it when it is not needed (i.e., the sense of the sentence is clear, nobody else bothers with the hyphen, and use of it may be "correct" but calls too much attention to itself).

The purpose of language is communication. An editor needs to remember that and not get hung up on so-called rules. :)

Rebecca said...

"parvo" for me, too, please. (No capital "P" necessary.)

Ember said...

I love the people who comment here!

Paula, that phrase - about not drawing attention to oneself - is something I grew up with, it's in my marrow, and I do believe it is key to spiritual path and simplicity. This is essence is why I prefer plain to Plain.

And that links with Rebecca's comment - yes, exactly - 'parvo' with no capital P.

How about 'Vivere parvo et humilis' - live small and humble, close to the earth ? :0)

Buzzfloyd said...

Paula, I like the distinction you make. Some things are worthwhile for their own sake, but I guess rules are an example of something that is only worthwhile as long as it serves its intended purpose. The point of a hyphen is to increase clarity. If it doesn't do that, there is no point in applying it. I believe Jesus said something along these lines to the Pharisees? The Sabbath was made for man etc.

Ember said...

:0)

Lynda said...

The only parvo I know is parvovirus :o)

Ember said...

Hmm. I wonder if we could start a humilis virus to go with it?

Anonymous said...

Also reminds me of parve or pareve a Hebrew term for without meat or dairy foods considered neutral that could be eaten with either meat or milk dishes. I remember puzzling over its meaning on food labels when I was a kid.
DMW

Ember said...

Cool. I like that too! x

margaret said...

Yes... parev goes with everything so someone who is parev/parvo lives peaceably with everything :)

Ember said...

:0)