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83Re: Notes on Óre; or the perils of dictionary translation

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  • gentlebeldin
    Jun 26, 2002
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      --- In lambengolmor@y..., "Carl F. Hostetter" <Aelfwine@e...> wrote:

      > More than one German student has loudly exclaimed "Ich bin heiss!",
      > meaning to express "I am hot", because it is a word-for-word translation
      > of the English phrase. (In German idiom, however, it in fact means "I'm
      > horny". One should instead say "Es ist heiss", lit. "It is hot".)

      More precisely, it would be "Mir ist heiss", lit. "for me (it) is
      hot". The same impersonal construction with the logical subject in
      dative is often used to describe personal feelings ("mir ist kalt" --
      I'm cold, "mir ist schlecht" -- I'm feeling unwell). It's even more
      common in Russian, and one can translate such sentences literally
      from German to Russian (see footnote below), but not to English.
      Literary translation is something many German students of English do,
      however, so don't be surprised when you hear a German asking for
      a "bloody steak" (instead of a blue or rare one). :-)

      The same impersonal construction seems to be intended in Quenya for
      some verbs, especially _oola-_ (dream) and _or(a)_ (urge, impel,
      move). The impersonal construction with dative for "dream" is known
      from Russian ("mne snilos'", lit. it dreamed to me), and the same
      construction "mir träumte" can still be found in 19th century German
      (it's out of use now, replaced by "ich träumte" in everyday speech).
      HF quotes these cases in his course, but he has to admit "We don't
      know very many Quenya verbs that invite such constructions, though."
      (http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/less-d.rtf, lesson 18)

      Without having a *complete* list of those verbs or even a hint at the
      underlying principle, how can one hope to speak/write correct Quenya?
      The literal translation of the personal "I dreamed" is incorrect, as
      it would be in Russian, and the same applies to other verbs we simply
      don't know to be of the same type.

      [Misusing a word because there is no evidence of its more proper usage
      is one thing -- though as you note, at a Platonic level it does not bode
      well for "spoken Quenya" -- but it is quite another, and quite inexcusable,
      to misuse a word simply because one can't be bothered to check primary
      sources (or even to cite them). Carl]

      Hans

      footnote: It's interesting (but hopelessly off topic) that German
      semantics is often closer to that of Russian that it is to the
      semantics of a Germanic language like English.
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