Lupus In Fabula: Wolf, Devil… | A Phrase – Speak Of The Devil


Lupus in fabula, Speak of the devil, Mi o
vuku… – these are all same phrases, and we use it as a reference to someone who appears
unexpectedly while being talked about. Although its definitely much older, first
recorded version of that idiom is from 17th century.
In the past this proverb had different meaning. It was part of superstitious belief that it
was dangerous to mention something evil by its name (whatever that evil was; different
countries had different representations of it), because that evil (devil, wolf…) may
actually appear. As if the power of saying their name out loud will summon them.
(But, we should say that in that case the proverb negates itself, because if you for
example say to someone “Speak of the devil and the devil shall appear” to warn them
not to speak of the devil then you have already broke the rules by saying the word “devil”.
Maybe that is the reason why these evil “creatures”, so to speak, had so many alternative names.
For example synonyms for the Devil were Old Nick, Prince of Darkness, the Horned One etc.
Or, for example, in Serbian culture where the wolf is in the center of the story, the
wolf (or: vuk) had names such as: Neimenik, or Onaj, meaning Nameless one, and That one.)
Now, notabene this difference in meaning of this proverb through centuries: Today it is
simply acknowledging the coincidence of someone arriving at a scene just at the time that
they are being talked about. And in the past it was a warning that something will appear
because it is mentioned by name. The warning came out of fear, and what is
interesting about that fear that something evil will appear when being talked about,
is, like we said earlier, that the object of it, was different in various cultures.
Devil is off course in many religions and many cultures considered personification of
evil, and certainly something that people feared and still probably do.
The phrase “Speak of the devil” appears for the first time in work by a Italian writer
Giovanni Torriano: Piazza Universale, 1666. (I don’t know if three 6s are coincidence
or not.). There the proverb goes: “The English say, Talk of the Devil, and he’s presently
at your elbow.” Or in ‘Cataplus, a mock Poem’, 1672 – which was re-printed in Hazlitt’s
Proverbs: “Talk of the Devil, and see his horns.”
The wolf however is in some cultures (primarily with Slavic people) respected and at the same
time feared animal. In Slavic mythology wolf is the embodiment of Slavic god Dažbog (we
will probably talk about wolf in Slavic mythology on one of the future videos) who was a well
worshiped and respected god. But for the people who for example keep sheep as a livestock,
the number one enemy is a wolf, so it makes sense that they refrain from saying its name.
One interesting version of the proverb is in Spanish: “Hablando del Rey de Roma, por
la puerta asoma” meaning “Speaking of the King of Rome, through the door he appears”.
It had originated in fourteenth century during Avignon Papacy, and Rey de Roma, or King of
Rome, is referring to Pope himself. The hated Pope in question was probably Clement V, but
it also could be one of his successors. There are plenty variations of this proverb
and the object of fear goes from lion, to troll, to shadow, to Chinese warlord Cao Cao…
And Now i leave you with few other versions of this phrase
That’s all for now. Thanks for watching.

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