Setciències

I was going over some notes from my Catalan class the other day (I am in danger of getting seriously rusty over the summer while the course is on a break), when I came across a great insult that I’d forgotten all about:

Setciències.

m. i f. [LC] Persona que presumeix de saber molt.

Literally meaning ‘seven-sciences’, in English we’d call this kind of person a ‘know-it-all,’ and Spanish-speakers do exactly the same, using ‘sabelotodo’.

Unlike its English and Spanish counterparts, setciències has interesting historical origins. It is a reference to the seven sciences (or liberal arts) of classical antiquity: the Trivium of logic, grammar and rhetoric, taught first, and the Quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy that completed one’s education.

I often hear people, including Catalan speakers themselves, say that it is difficult to fire off a good insult in Catalan. I completely disagree. The language has some incredibly scathing insults such as this one, which have a nasty sting in their tail but which at the same time allow you, the insulter, to sound refined and cultured even while you disparage your target… And what could be more satisfying than that?

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