"Estis virum facit."
Or, for those who aren't fluent in Latin - clothes make the man. It's an old proverb, and by old, I mean very old, given it appeared in a book called Collectanea Adagiorum in 1500. The proverb was one of 800 Greek and Latin proverbs featured in the book, collated by Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus - a Catholic priest, scholar and social critic of his time.
I know this because Erasmus was one of the key characters to feature in my A Level Religious Education studies back when acid-wash jeans and crushed velvet were considered in vogue. Despite actually passing that exam, and even going on to university to continue my studies in Religion, I actually can't remember much more about Erasmus nowadays, nor can I recall the last time I needed to remember how to spell his name, let alone write 500-plus words on his contribution to the Renaissance. In fact, the one thing I thought I remembered from my studies might not even be correct.
For years, when the name Erasmus came up (so basically twice in the past two decades) I smugly stated that he always wore a large, oversized hat to disguise the fact he had a particularly small head, because back then people thought intelligence was directly related to head size, so the large hat made him look more learned. Clothes maketh the man - and a hat maketh the brain size perhaps?
However, in writing this column and therefore quickly Googling this quirky fact about him, I can come up with no evidence whatsoever to back me up. So either my teacher told me a lie, or I completely misread something in the textbook and have spent many years mentally maligning poor Erasmus, who may actually have had a perfectly normal-sized head after all.
I've been watching the "Kingsman" series of movies, and while a Savile Row tailor's shop is very much part of the storyline, it is manners, not clothes, the audience is constantly told maketh the man throughout the three movies.
My father, the quintessential English gentleman, would likely agree, I certainly remember manners being a regular subject at the dinner table of my childhood. Actually, he would agree clothes do too. After all, we are talking about a man who has never in his life owned a pair of jeans, acid-washed or otherwise, and there was more than one occasion he sent my teenage self to change into something "more appropriate".
So maybe it's clothes and maybe it's manners that maketh the man (and woman of course, man in this context is purely a leftover from the Old English word used to mean humankind), but the one thing that doesn't make the person? Marks and grades.
Students across the country have just received their NCEA marks and while some will be rejoicing, others are likely to be disappointed. Right now, the sting of that perceived failure will hurt, it might mean a change in plans regarding university or career choices, it might mean not being able to continue classes in a particular subject, or it might mean feeling they are less than their friends and peers in some way. To those who have done well - well done, but to those who haven't, please remember exams and assessments are simply a snapshot of how any individual is doing at one specific point in time. Your grade doesn't even necessarily reflect how many hours you spent studying - one of the many unfair facts of life is some people are simply quicker to learn something than others.
Most importantly of all, your NCEA grade doesn't capture the essence of who you are. Your calculus grade doesn't reflect your efforts on the rugby field, and your geography grade doesn't show how you are a gracious loser when your netball team doesn't win. Your final science mark might show what you know about the life cycle of a butterfly, but it gives no indication of the kindness you show your siblings.
Your grades might feel like they are the making, or breaking, of you right now, but don't fall into the trap of thinking they are all that defines you. Just like my acid-washed jeans, the feelings you have about your results right now will eventually be just a distant memory. Grades don't define us any more than a hat size defined Erasmus, which is just as well given I probably dropped a few marks in my religion exam by mentioning that apparently false fact in my answer.