ricardienne: (york)
No good reason for dropping off the radar for so long -- just the usual anxiety-filled life of a dissertator. Well, and that a month ago I started a long post about Mozart's Clemenza di Tito, but it ballooned into a monstrosity, started to fall into the uncanny valley between scholarship and fanfic, and ultimately started to mutate into at least two posts. And I've been feeling guilty about posting anything until I finish it/them. I still haven't, but I will! (Maybe.)

In the meantime, here are 3 typos/slips of the tongue that I know I am going to make someday:

1. "Anals" or "analistic" or "analist" for annals, annalistic, annalist. (This one is pretty inevitable, I think; I still worry about it a lot)

2. "Carthak" instead of "Carthage." Thank you, Tamora Pierce! (I would add "Mithros" for "Mithras" because even just typing that I had to stop and think about it, but I'm not likely to have to say or write anything about that for a little while -- until I teach Roman History again, I'd guess.)

3. "Attolia" or "Attolians" for "Aetolia" and "Aetolian." (Of course, many people pronounce "Aetolia" with a schwah on the first syllable anyway. I say EE-tolian, because it's too confusing otherwise.)

[4. *imperio, *imperire for impero, imperare. I've sorted this one out, but I've had Latin students go all Harry Potter with this verb. For some reason, Harry Potter is more mentally subordinated than Tamora Pierce of Megan Whalen Turner: I may be slowly turning into the kind of person who is slightly bothered by "SEV--uh-rus" Snape... (but not really. Because that would be silly.)
ricardienne: (christine)
Is there a place for unsignaled fallibility in fiction?

What I mean is: real people have incorrect beliefs about things, sometimes from personal ignorance, sometimes from widespread misconception or trendy falsehood. I don't mean about existential questions, but about trivialities. The wrong date for something. An assumption about the nationality of some historical figure. A facile narrative about some scientific or sociological or historical topic. A misstatement about language or art. So when a character in a fiction errs and goes uncorrected, does the error signify an error of the writer, or does it serve to more richly characterize the character and her millieu as one in which such an incorrect belief is held? Does it matter? (The basic distinction here is Watsonian vs. Doyleist, I know.)
one example from a mystery series and two from Vorkosigan Saga fanfiction )
To conclude, I should confess what might be obvious: classical reference in particular makes me sit up and pay attention, and I like to put my pedanticism on display about it. In principle, I think that fiction would do well (and does well?) to dramatize the casual misinformation and misconceptions that float around in the world. I just started to read Plutarch's unbelievably tedious quomodo adolescens audire poetas debeat (text in Greek, Latin title by convention), but I suspect that it should give me more things to think about re: mimesis and what to do with things that intentionally or not misrepresent reality.
ricardienne: (library)
Suetonius, Lives of the Grammarians and Rhetors 22
Marcus Pomponius Porcellus, a supremely annoying enforcer of the Latin Language, kept on attacking a grammatical error made by his opponent in a certain trial (for he sometimes pled cases), so vociferously that Cassius Severus appealed to the judges and asked for a recess so that his client could bring in another grammarian, since he now thought he wouldn't be disputing with his opponent about a point of law but of usage.

This same Porcellus, when he had criticized a word in a speech of Tiberius and Ateius Capito affirmed that it was Latin and if it wasn't it certainly soon would be, then said: "Capito's lying. For you can give citizenship to men, Caesar, but you can't give it to words."
ricardienne: (library)
So obviously a 1919 Loeb of Martial, as I checked my reading against a translation, is going to engage in creative translation; in fact, I had been being rather impressed with how well you can read between the lines of "commits debaucheries" or "has relations with" -- but maybe that's just an index of how often one comes across translations like that!

But then I got to this poem, a not very nice epigram against Bassa, because she prefers women:

I.XC

Quod numquam maribus iunctam te, Bassa, videbam
Quodque tibi moechum fabula nulla dabat,
Omne sed officium circa te semper obibat
Turba tui sexus, non adeunte viro,
Esse videbaris, fateor, Lucretia nobis:
At tu, pro facinus, Bassa, fututor eras.
Inter se geminos audes committere cunnos
Mentiturque virum prodigiosa Venus.
Commenta es dignum Thebano aenigmate monstrum,
Hic ubi vir non est, ut sit adulterium.


Here is Walter C.A. Ker's version:

"In that I never saw you, Bassa, intimate with men,/ and that no scandal assigned you a lover,/ but every office a throng of your own sex round you performed without the approach of man—/you seemed to me, I confess, a Lucretia;/ yet, Bassa—oh, monstrous ! you are, it seems, a nondescript./ You dare things unspeakable/, and your portentous lust imitates man. /You have invented a prodigy worthy of the Theban riddle,/ that here, where no man is, should be adultery!"

First of all, there's the rather hilarious translation speech act of line 7, because what Ker calls "things unspeakable" that Bassa dares are actually very very explicit (cunnus is cognate with what you think it is, you non-Latinists).

But what the fututum (pardon my vulgar Latin) is going on with "nondescript" in line 6? In my language, "nondescript" means "plain, ordinary, not worth being described." Again, the opposite of what Martial is getting at! But there was something so strange and quaint about it, that I resorted to that wonderful last resort. No surprise but it turns out that "nondescript" originally means "not previously described," so, "anomalous, unusual." Which makes Ker's "you are, it seems, a nondescript" a pretty acceptable, if rather -- dare I bring modern usage back into it and say -- "nondescript" way of anticipating Martial's "unnatural" theme. Which Martial himself does, because "fututor" (again, cognate) is a masculine noun.

Do I need a tag for "anxiously edgy posts about ancient obscenity"?
ricardienne: (library)
My last load of library books included some really terrible ones. I'm not going to write about the sequel to this historical murder mystery because I have only gotten three chapters in, and I cannot read it rationally. At all. All I can think is: "WHAT GOOD DOES IT DO TO MAKE TACITUS A WILD-EYED EMPEROR-HATING IRRATIONAL INDIVIDUAL? ALSO: HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THE WORKS OF THESE PEOPLE AT ALL RECENTLY? YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!" (also: Tacitus unable to read critically? Tacitus?)

But I digress, because what I wanted to post was that I just finished Sarah McLean's The Season (ya, romance, regency), and it was terrible in an entirely different way. Or maybe in not such an entirely different way. I am not particularly a reader of romance, so I probably have an inherent bias against this kind of novel. Nevertheless. The characters were boring, the romance was contrived (by which I mean that it was contrived that they didn't just get together on page 1), and the "mystery" was not mysterious at all. So much not so that I don't feel any spoilery compunctions about complaining about the cliché of the Evil Uncle Who is Jealous That His Older Brother Got the Dukedom. Wouldn't it be nice if the younger brother were bitter and jealous and cranky but, in a twist, not evil and murderous? Or, if he were evil and murderous, but not because he was (*wah*) not loved as much as his brother?

And yet, that isn't even what I wanted to write about, because I ended up reading with my OED in hand, so to speak.

My first foray into worrying about words was while reading a series of mysteries set during the Wars of the Roses. One character described another as a "Puritan," and I thought, "Wait a minute. Does that even work?"(It doesn't.)

The line is hard to draw. In most historical fiction set more than a few hundred years back in an English-speaking place, there is an assumption that the characters are not really speaking the words that I am reading (or at least I read with that implicit understanding, and I hope the authors wrote with it!). In most fantasy, you assume that the characters are *actually* speaking some entirely different language; much futuristic sci-fi dialogue has to be *really* in, at the very least, some futuristic dialect of my language (and, obviously, they aren't really speaking English in Star Wars.)

So in one way, picking at anachronisms is crazy -- there may be an occasional historical novelist who can pull off "authentic" speech, but would a novel in the various dialects of 13th century England be readable by most people? A Lindsay Davis mystery in the painstakingly-reconstructed Hellenic-inflected vulgar Latin of the 1st century? So I try not to worry about it, just as I try not to get too antsy when one character in a heroic fantasy describes another as "Stoic" (really? Can you have Stoics without Seneca? Without Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus?)

But on the other hand, words do matter and do provide context. To a certain extent -- no, to a large extent what we read in dialogue is what we imagine the characters are saying. And so the intersection between our sense of words and their histories and their usage in a supposedly "historical" or "fantasy" novel does matter. I did an OH NO YOU DIDN'T double take and then giggled a lot when Tamora Pierce introduced "spintry" as lower-class slang for a male prostitute in her Provost's Dog novels. Because this is an exceedingly erudite word in the history of English: it has a few 17th and 18th century attestations, where it was clearly pulled straight from Tacitus and Suetonius (there might be a ref. in Juvenal and/or a later grammarian, too) as a highfalutin' literary term (it's not that relevant that we now think that the Latin word (spintria) probably referred not to a male prostitute or brothel but to (a female) one who specialized in exhibitionist group sex, but that's an interesting bit of information, so I'm including it anyway). Now obviously, none of this makes the word inappropriate for appropriation into Pierce's fantasy world. It's still funny, though.

The anachronism usually works the other direction, however. There were two really egregious slang usages in Sarah McLean's novel: "impact" as a conjugated transitive verb in a metaphorical sense. The OED doesn't give the verb "to impact" with any other examples than as a passive participle. We know that it is used differently now, but there are enough complaints from prescriptivists about it that surely someone would have flagged it! The other was "obscenely" in the hyperbolic meaning of "very." Obscene doesn't seem to have been used to mean anything other than, well, "obscene," until after the last print edition of the OED (obviously, print sources lag spoken usage, but I still really question a young noblewoman c. 1815 using it like this and it not sticking out).

Eponyms are obviously problematic, as are words taken from movements or particular historical events. (How would you describe Raglan sleeves in fantasyland? Could you describe some as a "Martinet" before Martinet?) But what about vaguer things? I got quite hung up when the main character of McLean's novel joked to her girlfriend that "they say women are more evolved than men." This seems to me like a very post-Darwininan kind of statement. On the other hand, evolution as a scientific term (having to do with developing and unfolding) was around from the 17th century, and there was probably some drift into metaphorical usage. I can see a conceivable meaning of "women are more cultivated than men," but I think that I'm bending over backwards for a sloppy author in doing so.
ricardienne: (library)
So we have OTOH and IM(H)O and YMMV, but is WRT (with respect to) allowed? How about TBtC (that being the case)? ISTMT (it seems to me that)?
ricardienne: (christine)
-I guess "presume" is the "correct" substitute for the evil "assume" because it acknowledges that the speaker's statement is 'presumptious'?

-Early Tamora Pierce is actually not nearly as bad either as I remember, or as her later stuff.

-Latin diplomas = win! (but don't bother congratulating me: I'm still in undergrad for one more semester, as I finish up my second major in spite of having graduated in the first one.)

-Why don't Naomi Novik's characters read any literature? All these scientific treatises don't actually seem to help at all, and Temeraire would probably learn more useful things, emotionally and socially, from things Aeschylus or Shakespeare or even Jane Austen. Also, it would be more fun if Laurence pulled out his Horace and Virgil to try to persuade his dragon that they need to sacrifice everything for king and country.

-Philosophers beating their slaves while maintaining perfect calm is a really weird and disturbing trope. But also rather fascinating.
ricardienne: (heiro)
Dear Self:

"Postcede" is not a word although it should be. STOP USING IT.

(But really: we have "antecede" and "precede": Why don't we have a corresponding word meaning "come after"?)
ricardienne: (Default)
An acquaintance from music camp, with whom I'm facebook friends, keeps posting "Obama is the most pro-abortion senator in the world" and "being "pro-choice" is like being pro-slavery" and "Obama wants 12 year olds to get abortions without telling their parents" notes (re: that last, I shall not of course point out that it's a little weird to claim that a fetus has rights over its body irrespective of it's mother's desires, but that a child doesn't), and it is getting ANNOYING.

So instead, I am going to post this bit of Quintilian (transl. D.A. Russell) complaining about people who point and giggle about *perfectly innocent* phrases:
...what is called cacephaton. This consists either in a phrase perverted by bad usage so as to give an obscene meaning, as by those who (if you can believe it) get a laugh out of ductare exercitus ["take the army home/to bed"] and patrare bellum ["finish off the war/pretty boy"], which are respectable but old-fashioned expressions in Sallust (this is not, in my judgement, the writers' fault but the readers', but it is none the less to be avoided, inasmuch as our moral decline has led to the lost of respectable words, and we have to yield even to vices if they are winning), or in a collocation of word which has an unfortunate sound: of we say cum hominibus notis loqui ("to speak with famous men") without the inserted hominibus [heh: inserted], we find ourselves falling into something objectionble, because the last letter of the first syllable (m), which cannot be pronounced without closing the lips either forces us to pause in a very unbecoming way, or, if joined to the next letter (n), is assimilated to it [sc: cum + notis = cunno... = like in English]... And it is not only in writing that this occurs: many people are keen to understand a sentence in an obscene sense, unless you take precautions (as Ovid says, "whatever's hiddne, they think best"), and to seize on indecency in words which are far from having any obscene meaning. Celsus, for instance, sees cacemphaton in Vergil's they are stirred and start to swell but if you take this iew, nothing is safe to say.
ricardienne: (Default)
What is wrong with this bit of sentence?


"X spoke in the future tense about what he would do…"
ricardienne: (Default)
So, I've been reading through dear E. Vulgarius. I can't find his big theological works (figures), but I did get his letter to Theodora. Eleanor Duckett concludes that although Liutprand and Vulgarius are both probably exaggerating, "we may think that Vulgarius sinned more deeply against truth." To which I say: O RLY? I mean, to be sure, he is trying to get protection/money from her, and so a certain amount of flattery is going to be involved. And yet, he switches to "tu" for the middle part of the letter, and gives a lot of spiritual advice including a reference to proverbs 7, which could actually be a hint at the kind of shocking behavior Liutprand goes after. Hm.

There's a rather depressing letter to a bishop named Vitalis, in which he cringingy talks about being old and afraid and not able to cope, and please won't you help me make this all go away! (This = dispute over validity of his ordination by Formosus with current pope). He's so desperate and servile: it's a bit embarrassing to read.

And then there are bizarre little bits about etymology. Like this:
"Glisco gliscis" means "I grow strong." It comes from a certain little animal: a "glis" (dormouse). In the same way comes "congruent" from "gruis" (crane) and many others. For they say that a dormouse sleeps for a certain amount of time and afterward grows twice as strong; thus "glisco" means "grow strong." Cranes, moreover, fly in an orderly fashion, and so we call "congruent" what are in order with each-other.


Isn't that awesome?
ricardienne: (Default)
I sort of randomly started translating Horace satire 1.2 tonight with a vague idea of submitting it to the campus translation magazine. And of course I found quickly that I can't actually translate those words (the italics indicate scariness). Even in the privacy of my own laptop, I can't bring myself to type them. And, obviously, I would freak out the entire department/circle of acquaintances (ironic how they're mostly the same, those two categories) if I did submit it, since at least some of them have demonstrated that they think that I Don't Know About That Kind of Thing at all.

I don't think I've every used the really taboo sexual obscenities, actually. I have a rather weird relationship to swear words, in fact. I clearly remember pondering the importance of "saying the big big D" in HMS Pinafore when I was little, investigating the significance, and realizing that since we didn't believe any of that stuff in my family, saying "damn it", or even "God damn it" couldn't really be very bad. I mostly confine myself to "drat" and "shoot" and the like around other people, although I've developed a strange habit of saying 'fuck' when I'm practicing and miss a shift. And that's about my limit. I've never had a reason or opportunity, I guess, for using non-expletive obscenities.

More information than anyone wanted about my verbal habits aside, though, I don't like being labeled the "good girl." So when I prove it, that bothers me. I have a feeling that only a guy could get away with translating 1.2, still, and that bothers me, too. It brings up everything I suspect about classical literature historically being an exclusive space for men to joke about sex apart from women. And I think that this liberal and progressive college would be the ideal place to start breaking down that exclusivity, and I wish I could get over my self-imposed St. Nicholas socialization and be part of it. Sort of.
ricardienne: (Default)
Catholicon Anglicum. An English-Latin dictionary c.1483 (OMG Richard III's dictionary?).
ricardienne: (Default)
The etymological epiphany of the day, courtesy of Vergil and Foucault: quo numine laeso~=~lèsé majesté.
ricardienne: (Default)
I just typed quite blithely "whine-hall" when I meant "wine-hall." This is NOT a commentary either on Old English Lament-poetry or my own tendency to complain about papers, I swear.

But I have been having fun with words today. I compared modern attitudes toward criminals to laptop DVD players in my sociology "memo:" at some point they get stuck in the "wrong" region and there's no hope for their switching back.

And while I'm on the subject, I've been reading a fascinating paper on the Emperor Tiberius's neologisms. He's the one who was infamously told that, "You can confer citizenship on men, Emperor, but not on words." Someone should notify Bush, no? As a side benefit, I now know far more than I ever wanted to about Roman groupsex. Tacitus was not making it up about the depravity, it seems.

David Brooks was suitably horrible today. I'm not even going to bother putting the whole column up like I usually do. He summarized a book he has been reading about The Female Brain, and concluded that society needs to pay more attention to innate difference between men and women "that confirm traditional stereotypes."

I know that there are differences between the sexes. And I suppose we shouldn't ignore them. But this kind of talk REALLY bothers me. I cannot accept that a woman who is good at math or science is an anomaly, an outstanding and unusual member of her sex to whose standard the rest of us shouldn't be held. And, honestly, I'm sort of shocked that I even need to be making that last statement in this day and age. It's as though we're in the middle of a backlash -- at least an intellectual one -- against equal rights. Science shouldn't replace religion as the excuse for segregation of gender roles.

And really, I don't see how they can eliminate the effects of socialization from any of these studies. I found the article about stereotype threat. Take that, David Brooks.
ricardienne: (snail)
Maybe. I am definitely preparing to fake my way through class tomorrow by not really studying and doing this instead.

New York was awesome, but that may be because anything with F. is awesome. We went to the Frick gallery, which was… oh my goodness so unbelievable! We were looking at an Renaissance Adoration of the Magi and making fun of the angels on hovercrafts* and then I turned around, and there was Sir Thomas More. The Holbein portrait! (Although I don't suppose there is another one.) I am of two minds about More. On the one hand, I've seen A Man for All Seasons, but on the other, I like Richard III. I cautiously accept, therefore, the hypothesis that he was actually satirizing Henry VII and the Tudor Myth when he wrote his biography of Richard, but a)I don't know enough to know if this is a legitimate theory or not, and b)it does seem like a cop-out. I bought a postcard, though, which I now have on my wall.
*seriously. The background sky was full of these hovering cloud things with angels perched on them. It was very funny.

But it did make me wonder again what I'm doing here, being in New York. I love cities. I hail mostly from western suburbia, it is true, but whenever I spend time in a realy city, I love it. I like walking on treets, and watching people and looking at buildings, and feeling like I'm part of something. I LIKE being anonymous, sometimes. I knew this before I went to college, and yet I still ended up on an ugly campus roughly in the middle of nowhere. In high school, it was "in college, you'll be somewhere you want to be," and now it's, "in grad school, you'll go somewhere you really want to go." Which means that I'll probably end up at U Death Valley for grad school, with the proviso that, "when you get a job, it will be where you want to live." Ha.

The first rehearsal for the Monteverdi was tonight. It went pretty well, I guess. The coach only had baroque bows for the violins, which was too bad, as holding my bow out on the stick kind of makes my hand hurt. But she did say that she would bring the contact info for the head of that summer baroque program next time, and this is good.

David Brooks was his usual hideous self this morning.

Lunch Period Poli Sci )

Now, to cheer myself up, I will do the Alphabet Meme:

Comment on this entry (er, if anyone reading this hasn't done this one already or wants to do it again!) and I will give you a letter. Write ten words beginning with that letter, and tell us what the word means to you and why.

I have the letter "n" from [livejournal.com profile] st_egfroth:

10 N-words )
ricardienne: (chord)
One of the best "etymologies" I have come across yet:

...because ita, which means oui in French, is the strongest affirmation in Latin, they were not satisfied in calling this countriy the 'Latin Land,' but rather they wished that all the country beyond the mountains, which is quite large and contains many diverse countries and dominions, be called Italy.
(Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, I.33)

I do wish that the notes in my book were better, and actually gave sources regularly, because I want to know how much of this Christine compiled from other people and how much (if any) she just made up for the purposes of her book. That is, how much of what she relates about women throughout history would have been easily recognized by her contemporaries? Maybe I should actually read the introduction.
ricardienne: (chord)
Was not horrible, tonight.

During the Idomeneo overture, I actually started to enjoy myself. In the places where the violins weren't screwing up their runs it sounded good, and hitting those V-I cadences really felt good. That's the best part of playing cello, I think, in orchestra. Bass lines! Wheee!

The other cellist had to leave midway for a chemistry study group, which left me be the entire section for the second half. And you know what, I enjoyed it. I'm horrible: I pretend to be a team player, to be a humble section-member, to not want solos etc etc, but secretly, I really playing alone, being noticed. Of course, it means that I have to play all the right notes, but I managed quite well, thank you very much.

Sadly, our concertmaster is out with tendonitis. This is really too bad, as he was not just a good player, but a good leader, and actually led the strings… it's really pathetic when the principal cellist has to be the one to comment that the violins might be better together if they were lifting for the double-down bow, and so not ending up at the tip, I think.

During Latin today, I brought up "redoubtable" as an example of this older secondary meaning of "fear" that is connected with to doubt. Granted, it's pretty much archaic, now.

According to the OED, it's the "II" definition, and is a "a development of the verb in OF., was an early and very prominent sense of the vb. and its derivatives in ME." Which is not very helpful. The professor couldn't tell me anything more; I shall ask my literature professor tomorrow. Because I just don't see the connection.

Okay. Doubting --> uncertainty --> suspicion -->apprehension --> fear(?) Maybe.

About redoubt(ed)(able), however, it can tell me that it also comes from the French, and has an Old Italian cognate: ridottare. So to me this indicates that it's an early Romance branching off, where "dubitare" gets this extra meaning of fear, which, when intensified to "redubitare" becomes specific to fear. But I want to know WHY! And HOW! Sort of like the distinction of respectful vs. informal in the second person singular: why? When? How? Argh. So many questions.

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