Monday, 9 December 2013
Two countries divided by a common language? With thanks to Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw or possibly Winston Churchill.
I actually wrote this some time back but recent discussions on the besslerwheel forum prompted me to reread it, make a few changes and publish after all.
Recently I mentioned in passing the use of the word 'back-yard' in the USA referring to the land behind the house which we in England, call the 'garden'. This is just one example of the many words we share which have different meanings for each country. According to Wikipedia, in England a back yard is a small space surrounded by walls at the back of a house, usually with a paved surface. But in the USA it's a space at the back of a house, usually surrounded by a fence, and covered with grass which we call a garden. There are too many examples to list but if the language we share has so many variations according to where you come from, how on earth can we understand what Bessler meant using an entirely different language in a different country and 300 years ago.
Not only that but we use idioms and according to wikipedia an idiom "is a combination of words that has a figurative meaning owing to its common usage. An idiom's figurative meaning is separate from the literal meaning. There are thousands of idioms and they occur frequently in all languages. There are estimated to be at least twenty-five thousand idiomatic expressions in the English language." So, to add to the difficulties we are already aware of, Bessler used idiomatic expressions familiar to people at the time but some maybe incomprehensible to us now. We know of some of his examples.
As I reminded people recently, Bessler was taught by Christian Weise, a man who enjoyed encouraging his pupils to act out his plays using what was termed 'robust language' which included swearing, slang and idioms. Bessler wrote Apologia in rhyming couplets and obviously some words had to be 'bent' to fit the rhyme, hence it can be assumed that in some instances the sense was blurred to his readers, even at the time, and the more so 300 years later.
But there is more. When I began to try to translate the German into English I had a relatively small German-English dictionary but subsequently acquired two ancient second hand dictionaries of huge size. The reason was because some words did not appear or I could not recognise them in my small dictionary. I also found that these early dictionaries had far more meanings for each sought word. Each book has over 600 pages and if I can't find a meaning that helps, in one of them, I can find it in the other. This suggests that there are far more meanings to these words than we might imagine, but I will give one example - the word Creuze (Kreuze nowadays) as used by Bessler; translated as cross-bar but actually my small dictionary gave the meaning as cross. One large dictionary gives; cross; crucifix; crosier; cross-bar; small of the back; loins; rump; croup; club, as in cards; sharp, as in music; dagger; burden...etc etc. That is just the single word, but once you add hiphenated words the list grows enormously, four columns in one book. Then of course there are internet dictionaries some of which were compiled close to Bessler's time and offer other alternatives.
In the second dictionary I found, all the above plus ... peel, as in a to remove the skin of a fruit (definition corrected, thanks to the eagle eye of my good friend James); anchor - and sword handle. I'm not suggesting that we should consider any of those examples because, as Mike Senior who did all the translating, said, you have to take into account the context of the sentence and despite the accusations many have thrown at the quality of his work he has done his best to provide the intended meaning and if people would stop pouring over each word as if it will give up a special meaning which will assist them in discovering Bessler's secret - and concentrated on the actual snippets of information he provided, then success may still crown the efforts of one or more of us who are happy to rely on Mike's work.
10a2c5d26e15f6g7h10ik12l3m6n14o14r5s17tu6v5w4y4-3,’. or to put it another way.
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