Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Many Languages

I would like to be able to speak more than one language. At secondary school in the Republic of Ireland in the 1960's, I was "taught" Irish, French and Latin and never learned to speak any of them. Later, I learned some Esperanto and, when I saw that a guy was wearing the green star of Esperanto, I managed two lines of dialogue -

Me: Cu vi parolas Esperanton?
Him: Jes, jes, flue! Kaj vi?
Me: Ne, ne flue!

- which did not get us very far.

In Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, Clodia says, "'Da mi bassia mille.'" (Chapter xii, p. 94) Holger responds, "'Det var som Fanden!'" (ibid.) We have access to the meanings of both these sentences. Googling reveals that Clodia quotes a poem by Catullus addressed to her. See here. In Anderson's Three Hearts And Three Lions (London, 1977), Holger, on arriving in another world, mutters the same phrase and we are told that it "...means, roughly, 'What the hell!'" (Chapter One, p. 13) - so we do not need an explanation when we read the same phrase again in A Midsummer Tempest!

Sorry, folks, but real life is intervening here.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

One thing to remember about Holger Carlsen was how he realized, to his surprise, that he spoke the language used in the Carolingian universe. This is how Chapter 2 of THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS described the language Holger found himself using, to his bafflement: "It was a strange tongue, hard and clangorous in his own mouth, an archaic French with a lot of Germanic words mixed in, one that he might have been able to unravel slowly in a book, but could surely never have spoken as if born to it."


David Birr said...

Paul and Sean:
On the topic of Holger realizing he knew things he couldn't recall having learned, I particularly remember the part where he tries to mentally list Charlemagne's paladins, and is startled by his recollection of Huon de Bordeaux. What Holger DOESN'T seem to properly register is that he remembers Huon in terms of someone he's PERSONALLY known, "the dark strange face ... the sardonic humor which had so often irritated the others..." rather than someone he's read or otherwise about.

Incidentally, PA threw in an apparent salute to Arthur Conan Doyle when the Faerie duke quotes a bit from "the great epical chansons about the Emperor Napoleon and his heroes." The bit quoted concerns a valiant "brigadier" named Gerard -- and Doyle wrote a number of short stories about the adventures of "Brigadier Gerard." In French, however, "brigadier" is a junior NCO rank, not a synonym for "brigadier general" (général de brigade) as Doyle used it.

There was a real-life Napoleonic officer named Gerard, but he rose to Marshal of France rather than stopping at général de brigade, so it's likelier the Faerie lord was speaking of Doyle's character.

Paul Shackley said...

I bow to the historical knowledge of Sean and David.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, David!

Very interesting, your comments about Holger Carlsen. I do wish I had remembered the bit about Huon of Bordeaux.

And I definitely had not known about Poul Anderson's apparent familiarity with Arthur Conan Doyle's stories about Brigadier Gerard! Darn!