Archive for August, 2017

THE TREE

August 28, 2017

2017-08-27Central Square-Kropyvnytskyi-2I didn’t know its name. Nowadays there are special ID apps to identify trees by their bark, twigs, buds, flowers or fruit. I just asked people I knew if they could tell me something about the handsome plants that grew in the main square of this city. The people only shrugged their shoulders. But I liked the trees even without knowing what they were called: the very fact they had no name added to their charm. They spread their branches wide and low over the ground, their leaves were big and heart-like, and the shade from them was dark and cool. You could sit under the trees for hours listening to the rippling of the fountain nearby.

2017-08-27Central Square-KropyvnytskyiLater I knew that the trees were called catalpas. They were native to a few southern states of the U.S.A.: Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, and also to more northerly states (the species known as the Northern Catalpa) and they came to the Ukrainian steppes only recently. Now there are about 700 kinds of catalpa scattered across Japan, China, India. The trees became almost cosmopolitan.

2017-08-27blgCatalpaCatalpa takes its name from Catawaba, the name of a Native American tribe, for whom the catalpa tree is a tribal totem. And a totem it became for good reason: its wood is soft and dry, and it does not rot easily. In earlier years it was used for fence posts and as a material for railroad ties. More modern uses include furniture, interior trim and cabinetry. Catalpa has one of the lowest shrinkage/expansion rates of any U.S. hardwood. Only northern white cedar and redwood have lower shrinkage/expansion rates, and not by much. The tree’s tendency to grow crooked does not make it a source of usable lumber, but it is excellent for carving and boat-building.

The tree is fairly free from fungal diseases and has few insect enemies. The most widely know insect is the catalpa moth caterpillar, but it is widely regarded by fishing enthusiasts as one of the best live baits, and the tree may be planted strictly for this purpose, which is why it has earned the tree common names of worm tree, or bait tree. Interestingly, Catalpa regulates the number of undesirable invaders. Its leaves have a curious adaptation: nectar is secreted from their tiny glands when larvae of the moths attack them. Within 36 hours of the attack, nectar production increases massively and that attracts ants. The ants eat moth larvae and serve as the tree’s natural bodyguards.

DSC06751Catalpa prefers much sun and fertile soil – the things the Ukrainian steppe is abundant in. A huge catalpa tree grows right into my window on the fourth floor. A tribal totem of the Catawaba people and also my amulet connecting me with this place and with the world.

Tomorrow I’m leaving. I’ll be missing catalpas.

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THE PLACE WHERE MY HEART IS

August 25, 2017

1 – 2 The roads that are always dear

3 – Erst die Arbeit, dann das Spiel, or: having mastered an electric saw

4 – 10 An oasis in the Ukrainian steppe

11—My brother and me

12 – RECIPE: potatoes are washed, each potato is halved; a piece of bacon is put in between; the potatoes are wrapped in aluminum paper as shown in the picture and buried in hot ashes. After a quarter of an hour the potatoes are taken out, unwrapped and enjoyed 🙂

13 – Thinking about the past and future

 

SOME MORE OF STANDARDIZED PHRASES

August 23, 2017

2017-08-22-cliche-2A few finishing touches to the linguistic topic of clichés. Some clichés contribute to the tonality of sarcasm or ridicule, like in parodies. Take the following imitation of sentimental (tending to be maudlin) literary prose that was popular in the 18th-century European literatures:

  • She sat apart and a cloud was hanging on her fair brow…
  • He threw himself at her feet…
  • Crushing her slander finger within his…
  • She turned a little pale…
  • Tossing her head in the air she swept past him…
  • She flung herself out of the room…
  • His suit had been declined…

In oral speech, one can come across clichés that very often discourage further conversation – the so-called talk-terminating clichés, or TTC (compare the Ukrainian “Так що так…”, “Ну, добре…”, “Тоді домовилися…”, etc.).

The list of English TTC (far from being exhaustive):

Everything happens for a reason// Don’t judge// “Why” – “Because”, or: “I’m the parent, that’s why.”// You win some, you lose some// Ah well, swings and roundabouts// It’s just common sense// It makes sense to me, and that’s all that matters// To each his own// Life is unfair// Such is life// We already had this conversation// It is what it is// Whatever//It’s not worth discussing// Whatever will be, will be// Who cares?// It’s a matter of opinion// Just forget it// You’ll have to agree to disagree// We all have to do things we don’t like// So it goes// That’s just you feeling// Rules are rules// It’s all relative

Thought-terminating clichés are also present in religious discourse in order to define a clear border between good and evil, holiness and sacrilege, and other polar opposites. These are especially present in religious literature.

  • The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away
  • Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” (opposing same-sex marriage)
  • That’s not Biblical
  • God moves/works in mysterious ways
  • God never gives you more suffering than you can bear
  • Only God can judge
  • God has a plan
  • The Lord works in mysterious ways

TEMPORA MUTANTUR ET NOS MUTAMUR…

August 22, 2017

Library in Kropyvnytskyi-UkraineIsn’t the building beautiful! In 1965 I came here to join Krups’ka Library that was housed in it. For a high school student, which I was at that time, it was a special honor to be allowed to borrow books from there: Krups’ka Library was the best in the city and only “for adults.” Later, it moved from here into a new building – a few blocks away, up the main street, and this building became the Library for Junior Readers. Surprisingly, it didn’t go by any name until recently. The Library for Junior Readers is now named after Yevhen Malaniuk, an outstanding Ukrainian poet who was from these parts and who fought for independent Ukraine after the WWI and then was forced to emigrate to the U.S.A. (died in 1968 in New York). Incidentally, Nadezhda Krups’ka (Krupskaya), Lenin’s wife, was a Communist activist and an authority in the field of Soviet education. Now “her” Library is re-named to Chyzhevsky Library (the prominent Ukrainian philosopher Dmytro Chyzhevsky was born in this region too; he was also a refugee who fled bolshevism; he died in West Germany in 1977). Another noteworthy library in the city of my boyhood and youth is Children’s Library: before it was named after Arkadiy Gaidar, a Soviet writer; now it is Taras Shevchenko Library. Interestingly, all the three libraries are within 5-minute walk from each other. A powerful concentration! The only problem now is to take young people to these wells of intellect and to make them absorb the wisdom contained.

THE BOTTOM LINE: in 1965 there were Krupskaya Library, Junior Readers’ Library and Gaidar Library in the city of Kirovograd. In 2017 there are Dmytro Chyzhevsky Library, Yevhen Malaniuk Library for Junior Readers and Taras Shevchenko Children’s Library in the city of Kropyvnytsky. They are the same libraries in the same city. Different are the names, the times and the spirit of the times.

TRANSLATION DAY

August 22, 2017

PowerEggYesterday I had to translate an article about drones. This time, the drone was the PowerEgg (“the Egg”) manufactured by PowerVision, a company with the headquarters in Beijing and offices all over the world. As the journalist said, everything was perfect about the device but the price: USD1,500 may be well above many people’s budget.

However, putting the questions of affordability and technical specs aside, I went through some snags while translating the article. First, it was said that a large white area of the egg-formed drone was “without sharp interruptions,” which might be “very appealing for those who like to customize their devices.” I knew the meaning and usage of “to customize” (“to modify or alter to individual or personal specifications”) like in the examples “to customize a van, a desk, etc.,” but I wasn’t sure how I could (and why SHOULD I?) re-construct the 1,500-dollar gadget relying on its “smooth surface.” As my son explained to me, many of today’s IT paraphernalia (memory sticks, external drives, all sorts of furnishings) start bearing some stickers or labels after they have been bought. For example, attendants of a scientific conference can be presented with flash drives bearing logos of the company/ies sponsoring the conference. With this info in mind, I translated the respective sentence about the PowerEgg into Ukrainian as “…might be very appealing for those who like to furnish their devices with labels, logos and other similar stickers” (back translation into English).

Another part of the text from cnet was about DJIPhantom, an earlier drone which was so iconic that it reached “as far afield as South Park.” I had to google the three key words DJIPhantom, South Park and drones to find out that drones were really involved in one of the South Park episodes.

I had some doubts about the phrase “…the drone looks like an ovulation…” Though the word “ovulation” (exactly in this Latin form) exists in Ukrainian too, I thought it would be more preferable to translate it as “…the drone is pregnant with the future”: while “ovulation” may be a more common lexical unit in English, in Ukrainian it sounds like a medical term.

What I didn’t cope with, was the nonce word “Eggs-pectations.” Unfortunately, the Ukrainian word-building does not permit the “expectations/Egg-spectations” pun, so I had to limit my translation to a more prosaic “…great hopes are laid on the PowerEgg…” 😦

 

CLICHÉS. DOUBLETS AND TRIPLETS

August 20, 2017

List of Cliches-1Lexical doublets and triplets (the doublets are sometimes called “twins” and triplets – “trinomials”) make a separate group of clichés: two or three words are joined by conjunctions and, or, neither …nor, or asyndetically (without any joining word, only with components separated by a comma), like in: Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. Most of these units are self-explanatory. The problem may only be how to use them best. It’s a thrilling process to trace the historical and social background of the units. For example, as regards the triplet Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve, (already mentioned), it’s a common expression uttered usually in response to someone making excuses all the time, meaning you cannot change the past. Yes, you could’ve done something, but you didn’t… or you should’ve done something, but you didn’t… or you would’ve done something, but you didn’t. “Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve,” but you didn’t..”

Another triplet (as an example) is Me, myself and I, which is often used to emphasize the speaker’s aloneness. I’m not sure whether it was the phrase that gave the name to the song or the song that turned its own name into a catch-phrase, but the 1937 song Me, Myself and I was popularized by Billie Holiday, and later reproduced by many authors and singers, with films and plays to follow.

Doublets with and to join their elements are the most numerous: above and beyond, spick and span, kith and kin, and many others. Here are some of them which are interesting in view of their cultural basis:

Barefoot and pregnant. The phrase has negative associations, and meant (hopefully, the idea is outdated) that women should not work outside home and should have many children during their productive years. The doublet originated in the early 20th century and by the middle of the century had passed into common parlance. Sometimes the phrase was extended into barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, which made it similar to the German „Kinder, Küche, Kirche.“ A comparable phrase Good Wife, Wise Mother emerged in the 1870s in Japan and was used as a means of restricting female access to the public realm there. In 2003, in a sex discrimination case in Wisconsin (U.S.A.) it was ruled that a woman who allegedly overheard her manager using the phrase, could take her case to a jury. Annually, the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women ironically bestows a Barefoot and Pregnant Award to persons in the community who have done the most to perpetuate outmoded images.

Park and ride <e.g. a park-and-ride bus>. A transport system designed to encourage drivers to park their cars some distance away from a city center, tourist attraction, etc., and complete their journey by public transport.

 Jack and Jill. The historical explanations take you away to the times of the French revolution, the war of words between the English King and Parliament and the works of Shakespeare. But a more common meaning nowadays is “anybody”: <An exclusive restaurant might not want to let any old Jack and Jill in>.

Laurel and Hardy. 1. A slapstick comedy duo in the U.S.A. (1920-1950). 2. Any duo who are so inept at practical tasks, as to be humorous.

CLICHÉS. PART ONE

August 19, 2017

cvclicheClichés, along with idioms and collocations, both of which were discussed earlier, belong to the group of phrasemes – multi-word expressions restricted by linguistic convention (their components are not freely chosen). The specific character of clichés is that they have outlived their usefulness as conveyors of information, and are dying not from under-use (as archaic or obsolescent expressions), but from over-use. They have lost their power to inform, to enliven, to mean and are now trite, hackneyed phrases. And yet they survive in a kind of “living death”, because people continue to use them, despite complaints and criticism.

Why are clichés criticized and complained of? Because they deprive our speech of freshness, imaginativeness and precision, and make it commonplace. With clichés, the speech loses its energy and dynamics. Then, why do clichés continue to live? Because they fill in a niche which only they can fill. Life is full of occasions when a serious conversation is simply too difficult, or too energetic, and in that case we gratefully fall on clichés. They can fill an awkward gap in a conversation, people use them as passing remarks when they recognize each other in the street but have no time to stop, or when they are self-consciously polite with strangers on a train, or when they are forced to interact at cocktail parties, etc. AND ONE OTHER IMPORTANT REASON TO SURVIVE: you cannot do without clichés when you learn a foreign language. Firstly, a cliché does not sound as a cliché for a learner. It’s exotic as exotic a foreign tongue can be. Secondly, clichés are ready-made blocks that can easily be used as pause fillers and thus they improve fluency, which is not unimportant at the initial stage of learning. Making an analogy, I remember Charles, Prince of Wales, visiting Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Ukraine in the 1990s. At that time he was going through a difficult period of taking a divorce with Princess Diana, and much of public opinion was not in his favor. But in Ukraine, unlike in the UK, students welcomed the Prince with banners “We love you, Charles”, which moved him to tears. It seems that in the realm of language-learning English clichés are similarly welcomed in a foreign country.

There follows a jocular statement crammed with clichés. I think, the components of the discourse can be applied to any situation when an opinion is to be voiced. While reading the statement, one should not forget, however, that clichés may be a good breakfast, but a poor supper. On an advanced level it would probably be better to avoid clichés, at least in a number given below.

When all is said and done, I’d like to venture an opinion too. I hope you will fall for my story hook, line and sinker. I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill and come down like a ton of bricks – claiming to be as large as life and, maybe, twice as natural – while having my say on this issue. No, in no way. But, to tell the truth, I would like to present my point loud and clear. This is not to beat around the bush or upset the apple-cart, but to give the green light to the calm before the storm. And, believe me, I will hit the nail on the head with what I’m going to say. It’s our last-ditch attempt. If you bite the bullet, we’ll snatch the victory from the jaws of defeat at the drop of a hat. LET’S LEAVE NO STONE UNTURNED, AND GET DOWN TO THE NITTY-GRITTY. KEEP YOUR NOSES FIRMLY TO THE GRINDSTONE. Let’s stick to our last, lock, stock and barrel, so to speak. The bottom line is: take the bull by its horns at the end of the day. That’s my point. Take it or leave it.

PROVERBS AGAIN

August 18, 2017

As a follow-up to my yesterday’s blog, I list some proverbs I stumbled over while working on them. The meaning of these proverbs was somewhat obscure to me in the beginning, which is why I thought it might be reasonable to post them – for my blog readers to see how their understanding powers compare with my weakness 🙂

'Remember son, a trout in the beak is worth two in the stream.'

Youth is wasted on the young: young people are too inexperienced and they do not utilize their capabilities; neither do they use the capacity and potentials of their time as a launch pad for the future (a career, an enterprise, a campaign, etc.)

You cannot win them all: it is not possible to succeed at everything you do.

You cannot make bricks without straw: you cannot do something correctly without necessary instruments (e.g. to be a good teacher, one must have good textbooks, manuals, reference books, and… much more 🙂 )

You cannot get blood from a stone: you cannot get help from an uncharitable person or money from someone h=who has none.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right: if you believe, you will, if you don’t believe, you won’t.

What you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts: the positive and negative results of a situation balance each other.

There’s one born every minute: there are many fools and dupes in the world.

Needs must when the devil drives: when you are desperate, you must do things you ordinarily do not do.

Many a mickle makes a muckle (Scottish proverb): a lot of small amounts, if put together, become a large amount.

Let (one’s) hair down: to drop one’s reserve or inhibitions; to relax and enjoy without worrying what other people will think. Also: to tell one’s innermost feelings and secrets: 1. The party gives you a chance to let your hair down at the end of the week. 2. Come on. Let your hair down and tell me what you really think.

It takes one to know one: he pot calling the kettle black.

There is nowt so queer as folk (Yorkshire proverb): nothing is as strange as people can be=people can behave oddly sometimes.

There but for the grace of God I go: a recognition that others’ misfortunes could be one’s own, if it weren’t for the blessings of the Divine. More generally: our fate is not entirely in our own hands (the proverb is an expression of humility).

The laborer is worthy of his hire: workers should or deserve to be paid.

Softy, softy, catchee monkey: be patient.

Possession is 9/10 of the law: ownership is easier to maintain if one has possession of something, or difficult to enforce of one doesn’t.

Parsley goes nine times to the Devil : (farmers’ proverb) parsley is slow to germinate (to begin to sprout or grow).

One good turn deserves another: you should do a favor in return.

Nothing succeeds like success: if you have succeeded in the past, you will be successful in the future.

No names, no pack-drill: say nothing to avoid repercussions.

Never tell tales out of school: do not tell secrets, do not gossip.

Ne’er cast a clout before May is out : (about the weather) don’t throw out your warm clothes in spring, even if the weather is warm.

It’s all grist to the mill: all things are a potential source of profit and advantage.

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys: if you, as an employer, do not pay your workers well, only stupid people will work for you.

Hope springs eternal (in the human breast): hope exists always <I keep buying lottery tickets – hope springs eternal>

Give a dog a bad name: (old-fashioned); used to say when someone has been accused of behaving badly in the past, and people often expect them to behave like that in the future <people were quick to blame local youths for the fire. Give a dog a bad name>

 

 

PROVERBS

August 17, 2017

'...You can lead a man to the mall, but you can't make him shop.'Proverbs are highly condensed, short and memorable sayings that express traditional wisdom, basic truths or commonplace facts and are handed down by previous generations. The borderline between proverbs and other groups of similar vocabulary units is not clearly defined, which is why all of them are sometimes united under an umbrella of “proverbial expressions” and receive a variety of labels: adages, dictums, maxims, mottoes, precepts, saws, truisms. The branch of knowledge that studies proverbs is paremiology. Paremiological dictionaries of different caliber are compiled for various languages, and a definite paremiological minimum is to be acquired by a learner of a foreign language if the learner wants to “be in the know.”

The effectiveness of proverbs is largely in its brevity and directness. The structure is simple, the images vivid, and the allusions domestic, and thus they are easy to understand. Alliteration, rhythm and rhyme contribute to their memorability.

The authorship of proverbs is in most cases not known, and that’s one of the features that makes them different from quotations.

According to their syntax, proverbs can be positive or negative imperatives (Check yourself before you wreck yourself = take a step back and examine your actions because you are in a sticky situation; Do not upset the apple-cart =don’t create difficulties), parallel constructions (Garbage in, garbage out = incorrect input results in incorrect output), rhetorical questions (Is the Pope Catholic? = Certainly! Without any doubt!), or declarative sentences (Less is more = simplicity is preferable to complexity). In cultures where the cult of proverbs is high, they may be presented in the form of short dialogues: “The jackal said, ‘I can run fast.’ The sand said, ‘And we are wide.’ (Botswana); “Speech, what made you good? – ‘The way I am.’ ‘Speech, what made you bad? – ‘The way I am.’(Mali).”

Proverbs called counter-proverbs (also: antonymous, contradictory) may contradict each other as regards the truths contained in them:

  • What’s good for the goose is good for the gander vs One man’s meat is another man’s poison.
  • With age comes wisdom vs Out of the mouths of babes come all wise sayings.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder vs Out of sight, out of mind.
  • What will be, will be vs Life is what you make it.
  • Look before you leap vs He who hesitates is lost.
  • Many hands make light work vs Too many cooks spoil the broth.
  • Clothes make the man vs Don’t judge a book by its cover.
  • Nothing ventured, nothing gained vs Better safe than sorry.
  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease vs Silence is golden.
  • Birds of a feather flock together vs Opposites attract.
  • You’re never too old to learn vs You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

A very popular stylistic device is twisting (bending, re-shaping) proverbs. The purpose is to achieve a desired literary effect (humor, noticeability of a fact or an event, etc.), like in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Porter: It’s no good crying over spilt potion (instead of over spilt milk). Also in the same book, Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster of the wizardry school Hogwarts, advises Harry not to count his owls before they are delivered (from “Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched). Being twisted, proverbs are sometimes mis-spliced (Never count the bear’s skin before it is hatched, and Make hay while the iron is hot). Often only one part of a proverb may be exploited: A rolling stone (about a person. The second part …gathers no moss is omitted).

Anti-proverbs, or perverbs, are the product of such proverb reshaping. With perverbization, “normal” proverbs are parodied and play with wisdom which is traditionally ascribed to them. Very often anti-proverbs come up as captions to cartoons. Just one of them: a waitress in a restaurant is serving breakfast to customers early in the morning – two plates with worms on each plate. The caption runs: “Two early bird specials… Here ya go!” Or another one, capitalizing on a situation when a U.S. Government agency was caught spending money extravagantly, which is why the case was brought to Congress. The cartoon depicts a black pot with the name Congress on it, and a kettle, also black, bearing the name US Gov Agency. The speech balloon above the pot reads: “Stop wasting the taxpayers’ money.” The pot calling the kettle black is the background proverb for this cartoon.

One more political cartoon is based on twisting the proverb of Three Wise Monkeys: one monkey covers its eyes (“I see no evil”), the second — its ears (“I hear no evil”) and the third puts its hand on its mouth (“I say no evil”). A billboard outside an American defense plant invokes this proverb: What you see here, What you do here, What you hear here, When you leave here, Let it stay here.

A special type of twisted proverbs is a wellerism. Wellerisms (from Sam Weller, a character of Charles Dickens’s The Pickwick Papers) are somewhat obnoxious sayings that make fun of established proverbs and clichés when used literally in certain situations. Here are some of them:

  • We’ll have to rehearse that,” said the undertaker as the coffin fell out of the car.
  • The week is beginning splendidly,” said one who was to be hanged on Monday.
  • Much noise and little wool,” said the Devil when he sheared a pig.
  • Everyone to his own taste,” the old woman said when she kissed her cow.

Having come from the remote past, many proverbs carry birthmarks of centuries: old lexical forms (There’s many a slip betwixt/’twixt the cup and the lip), old measurements (three score and ten…), obscure professions (Cobbler’s children have no shoes), outdated weapons, etc. Personally, I liked the advertisement that exploits the proverb Waste not, Want not (the old grammar of the negative form). The ad was promoting reading books that were donated to a special collection center by those who had already read those books: Waste not, Read a lot.

For me, the past is also throbbing in the saying Horses for Courses. An allusion is to the fact that a racehorse performs best on a racecourse to which it is specifically suited. Nowadays the proverb is widely used in the foreign-language industry where a translator is selected for a job not solely based on his/her fluency in a language, but also on knowledge of the subject matter. As one of my colleagues once said, judicial texts should be translated by lawyers, medical texts by doctors, novels by writers, poetry by poets… In short, HORSES FOR COURSES 🙂

ARCHAISMS

August 14, 2017

Macbeth in Modern EnglishFiguratively speaking, an archaism is a language “pensioner” who has got enough vim and vigor to “cultivate his garden” and who is employed by poetry, historical prose, law, science, technology, religion, etc. to do the job of cultivation. An archaism is a feature of an older state of the language which continues to be used while retaining the flavor of its past. Grammar and lexicon provide the chief examples, though older pronunciations are heard from time to time, and archaic spelling is seen.

Among hundreds of others, archaic lexical items include behold (look at), damsel (a young woman), ere (before), fain (rather), hither (toward this place), oft (often), quoth (uttered, said), smite (to strike), unto (toward), wight (person), wot (know), yonder (over there – usually within sight), varlet (a servant), forsooth (in truth, indeed), sire (sir), etc.

Grammatical features include present-tense verb endings (-est, -eth) and their irregular forms (wilt, shouldst, etc.), contracted forms (‘tis, ‘twas, ‘gainst, e’en, ne’ero’er), past tenses (spake, cloth`ed), pronouns such as thou and ye, and vocative constructions beginning with O, which in Middle English glossed the vocative case. (As students in the 1960s, we styled our oath of allegiance to the English language by the opening lines “O English, my love, O English, my bread, O English, my subject… To thee I turn every time…”)

The hunter of archaisms will find them in an unexpectedly diverse range of contexts. Most obviously, they are used in many historical novels, plays, poems, and films about such topics as King Arthur or Robin Hood. Novelists who have used archaic language in a careful way include Walter Scott in Ivanhoe and William Thackeray in Esmond. In poetry, Spenser and Milton were influenced in maintaining an archaic tradition of usage. Children’s historical stories and rhymes also tend to use them (Lucy Locket lost her pocket = …lost her purse). Or let’s take the motto of the Peasants’ Revolt in England in the 14th century: When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman? The italicized words in black type delve and spin are archaisms. This rhetorical question was used as an epigraph by the writer Zadie Smith in her novel NM (2012). That’s how archaisms work!

In proverbs, saying and quotations from the past, archaisms give additional weight to the wisdom of these set expressions and thus improve their credibility. Compare the proverb registered in Emanuel Strauss’ Dictionary of European proverbs: “Though thou has ever so many counselors, yet do not forsake the counsel of thy own soul,” or: “Today me, tomorrow thee (something that happens to a person is likely to happen to another who observes it).

Familiar quotations from Shakespeare teem with archaisms. There are quite a few even in a short monologue Polonius delivers to Laertes (Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3)

The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay’d for…

 Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion’d thought his act…

 …Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice

 …Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment…

 Neither a borrower nor a lender be

to thine ownself be true…

If conveyed into modern English, Polonius’ precepts would sound far less unimpressive: The wind is blowing into your sails, and the ship is waiting for you…// don’t say what you think, and don’t do anything without considering it properly// listen to everybody, but speak only to a few// Listen to an opinion of others but don’t be too quick to express yours // Don’t borrow money from other people, and don’t lend money to anybody// be a man of integrity 

Archaisms can be found in religious and legal settings. Rural dialects often retain words which have gone out of use in the standard language. And many older elements, such as thorp (village) and lea (wood) are preserved in place names.

 


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