I’m reading Erich Auerbach’s article “Figura” (and every time I read Auerbach, I think I should be reading more Auerbach; I still haven’t made my way very far into Mimesis [see this LH post]), and I came across a quote from Varro that I liked so much I have to share it: “fictor cum dicit fingo, figuram imponit,” which Auerbach translates “The image-maker (fictor), when he says fingo (I shape), puts a figura on the thing.” (He has earlier rendered figura “plastic form.”) I’ve always been a sucker for varying verb stems (as a young Latin student, I used to go around muttering “fero ferre tuli latus,” enjoying the knowledge that latus was once tlatus and showed the zero-grade form of the root of tuli), and the conjunction of fic-, fing-, and fig- in one sentence was deeply satisfying to me.
On the next page, Auerbach, still discussing Varro, says:
We have, as he says in De lingua latina (9, 21), taken over new forms of vessels from the Greeks; why do people struggle against new word forms, formae vocabulorum, as though they were poisonous? Et tantum inter duos sensus interesse volunt, ut oculis semper aliquas figuras supellectilis novas conquirant, contra auris expertes velint esse? (“And do they think there is so much difference between the two senses, that they are always looking for new shapes of furniture for their eyes, but yet wish their ears to avoid such things?”).
Needless to say, I liked that as well.