When Isidore Starts Horsing around, His is a Slow but Steady Gait [12:40-42] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Etymology Dashes Straight from the Gate
A Nagging End
Closing

{This horse must be gritting its teeth because it’s been captured standing still. Image from the National Library of the Netherlands Medieval Illuminated Manuscript Collection.}

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Abstract

As quickly as a horse runs, Isidore speeds through entries on Arcadian asses and two kinds of horses.

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Translation

[40] “They are called Arcadian asses, those that are ridden from Arcadia, these are big and tall. But small asses are very necessary for agriculture, as they do not refuse to take hard labour and near indifference.

[41] “Horses (equi) they are called, those which are yoked in teams of four, made equal (aequabantur), joined with a like form and share of running.

[42] “Nags (caballus) were formerly called hacks (cabo), because that they press an imprint of their hoof into the ground when walking, which the other animals do no leave/do.”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:40-42)

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Recordings

Latin:

Modern English:

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Etymology Dashes Straight from the Gate

The Arcadian ass is the first instance of an animal being named because of its geographic location, at least in this section of the Etymologies. In fact, the etymology that’s given for the horse is also pretty straightforward.

The horse’s name in Latin, “equi,” sounds like the Latin word for “equal” since horses, when yoked to a chariot are made equal in terms of their load of the work to pull that chariot (12:41).

This is an etymology that might not stand up to the scrutiny of modern physics, but it’s a nice thought. Though, it doesn’t quite elevate horses to the realm of humanity in the same way that lambs, cattle, and deer have been raised to that level. After all, the horses don’t divvy up the work themselves, they’re yoked to the chariot in such a way that they are made to be equal, or so St. Isidore asserts in that entry.

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A Nagging End

The last entry in this section of the bishop’s work doesn’t offer such a direction etymological connection–at least not to a non-native Latin reader.

The connection between “caballus” and “cabo” is clear enough (12:42), but, left to a guess, something about Highland games and the caber toss might have gotten involved. At any rate nags must really be heavy hoofed animals if a clause about them being the only animal to leave such an imprint closes off their entry.

Though as older horses, maybe nags are a bit more worldly and experienced, maybe they’ve picked up some computer programming skills. Maybe, the impression that they leave is just their own small way of ‘hack’-ing the earth.

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Closing

That’s all that Isidore wrote for this week (he’s saving himself for next, just wait). But part two of the tale of Wiglaf’s armor (check out part one here) is still in store for Thursday’s entry, so be sure to come check it out.

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