This article considers proverbs used as translation sentences, in the context of the teaching of Latin in the medieval schoolroom. Its enquiry focuses in particular on one folio of such latinitates, in Cambridge, St. John’s College, MS F.26 (with further discussion of Cambridge, University Library MS Additional 2830). Its argument concerns, first, the question of what happens to the nature of proverbial wisdom when modulated from the (supposedly) oral, vernacular, folk context of its primary application, to the secondary (supposedly) written, Latinate, authoritative context of the classroom; when common, workaday wisdom shares the pedagogical page with Cato. Second, it extrapolates from this example to trouble the assumptions that still cling so tenaciously to this linguistic binary, arguing that presuppositions that Latin was not oral, vernacular, or homespun, or conversely that English was not written, authoritative, or bookish, are spurious. Finally, it considers the same proverbs that appear here as translation sentences when they are incorporated elsewhere into poetry, pondering the comparable ways in which that genre used them to construct authority, vernacularity, and orality.


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