Wednesday, January 18, 2006

‘On Language’ 1/18: How Proust used English

Proust explored French attitudes about English
On Language
Chicago Tribune
January 18, 2006
By Nathan Bierma

What stands out in this phrase from novelist Marcel Proust: “mes snow-boots que j’avais pris”?

It means “my snow-boots which I had brought.” You don’t need to know French to see the word “snow-boots” sticking out.

The phrase, from Proust’s masterpiece seven-volume novel, translated into English as “Remembrance of Things Past,” is just one example of an eye-catching English loan word in the midst of Proust’s French prose, says Daniel Karlin, author of “Proust’s English” (Oxford University Press, 229 pages, $45).

Other examples from “Remembrance” include “les films,” “les cocktails,” “le revolver,” “le golf,” and more than a hundred others. One character even says “le five o’clock tea.” That’s a lot of English for a French author who, Karlin writes, “never traveled to England, never learned English, and confessed his inability to either speak the language or understand it when it was spoken.” (“I don’t claim to know English,” Proust once said in French. “I do claim to know Ruskin”—the English writer Proust translated into French.)

But Karlin says Proust’s use of English was no accident.



Posted by Nathan Bierma on 01/18 at 04:17 PM
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Friday, January 13, 2006

Complaining about graffiti in Pompeii

From Illinois State’s Julia Palmer’s paper at MLA:

When one finds an expression of emotion in Latin it is normally with the accusative + infinitive construction.  The following inscription from Pompeii, which may be dated no later than 79 A.D. serves as a typical example:

Admiror   pariens   te   non   cecidisse   ruinis   qui   tot   scriptorum   taedia   sustineas

I am surprised, wall, that you have not fallen into ruins, who must bear the garbage of so many writers

(cited in Pulgram 1978:218)

Posted by Nathan Bierma on 01/13 at 10:51 AM
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