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March 19, 2012

“Charity begins at home” — along with beating, Homeland Security and obesity…


THE SAYING THE ROMAN PLAYWRIGHT DIDN’T ACTUALLY SAY:

“Charity begins at home.” 
       Proverbial saying often attributed (wrongly) to
Terence (c. 190-159 B.C.)
      
Many websites and books say this old saw dates back to the ancient comic play Andria (The Girl from Andros), written by the Roman playwright Publius Terentius Afer, called Terence for short. However, the Latin line in the play the traditional attribution is based on is “Proximus sum egomet mihi” — which doesn’t actually translate as “Charity begins at home.” The literal translation is “I myself am closest to myself.” (Proximus means “closest” or “nearest” in English, sum means “I am,” egomet is “myself” and mihi translates as “to me.”) 
     The connection between Andria and the English proverb may have started with a footnote in the classic 1887 translation of the play by Henry Thomas Riley. Riley translated “
Proximus sum egomet mihi” as “I am the most concerned in my own interests.” But in a footnote he said this was: “Equivalent to our sayings, ‘Charity begins at home;’ ‘Take care of number one.’”   
       Early versions of “Charity begins at home” date back to the 14th century in English literature. It appears to be one of those proverbial sayings with no clear origin. There are
various and conflicting explanations of what the saying means. In Terence’s play Andria, the words “Proximus sum egomet mihi” are said sarcastically by the character Charinus about a friend he thinks betrayed him and acted selfishly. Some explanations of the English idiom “Charity begins at home” give a similar, self-centered meaning for the familiar proverb. More often, it is said to mean you should be concerned about and generous to your own family first, before worrying about and helping other people. It is also used as a way of suggesting that people learn to be kind — or unkind — from how they’re treated and taught at home while growing up. 
       One thing is clear:
“Charity begins at home” is not what Terence wrote.


THE ENGLISH PLAYWRIGHT’S VERSION:

“Charity and beating begins at home.”
      
John Fletcher (1579–1625)
       English playwright 
       The most famous line from his play
Wit without Money (written around 1614, first published in 1639), a work sometimes attributed jointly to Fletcher and his frequent writing partner Francis Beaumont.


THE AMERICAN PLAYWRIGHT’S VERSION:

“Censorship, like charity, should begin at home, but, unlike charity, it should end there.”
      
Claire Boothe Luce (1903-1987)
       American playwright, journalist and U.S. Congresswoman
       A quote
attributed to Luce by many sources, though without a specific citation. (Some indicate that it may come from one of the series of articles she wrote for McCall’s magazine in the late 1940s.)


THE BRITISH ANTHROPOLOGIST’S VERSION:

“The ethnographer has first to register a striking fact. Aggressiveness, like charity, begins at home.”
      
Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942)
       British anthropologist
       In his book Freedom and Civilization (first published in 1947)


THE ANTI-TERRORISM VARIATION:

“Homeland Security Begins at Home.”
      
Public Service Announcement created for the Illinois Terrorism Task Force


THE ANTI-FAT KID VARIATION:

“FAT PREVENTION BEGINS AT HOME. 
AND THE BUFFET LINE.”
 
       Poster slogan
created for the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta “Strong4Life” program

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