DER ALTE FRITZ ON THE AWFUL GERMAN LANGUAGE.

I’m reading Christopher M. Clark’s Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 (having enjoyed the excerpts Joel’s been publishing at Far Outliers, I went to Amazon and bought the surprisingly cheap Kindle edition with a single click, a perilously simple procedure, and started reading it a minute later), and I’ve just gotten to the description of Frederick the Great at the start of chapter 7. Here’s what Clark has to say about old Fritz’s relation to his native tongue:

In one of the eighteenth century’s funniest effusions of literary bile, Frederick, a grumpy old man of sixty-eight, denounced the German language as a ‘semi-barbarian’ idiom in which it was ‘physically impossible’, even for an author of genius, to achieve superior aesthetic effects. German writers, the king wrote, ‘take pleasure in a diffuse style, they pile parenthesis upon parenthesis, and often you don’t find until you reach the end of the page the verb on which the meaning of the entire sentence depends.’

Google Books provides the original:

Comments

  1. a perilously simple procedure
    Indeed. I’m starting to suspect that the people who brought us one-click buying are the same ones who invented crack. But who can resist, especially when even academic titles can finally be had at reasonable prices?
    Re: German verbs – have I already recounted the “give me the bloody verb” story? Ah yes, I have. Nevermind then.

  2. Not bad, but Twain’s is still the benchmark, I think.

  3. Also, re Kindle 1-click, I very nearly succumbed to this with Ostler’s “Empires of the Word” a fortnight ago. Happily I had just enough self-restraint to check the reviews first, all of which panned the Kindle edition.

  4. J. Del Col says:

    Thomas Bernhard’s narrator in his novel Extinction has a rant about the barbaric nature of German.

  5. this term I enrolled on Romanic philology, & last week the prof claimed that the barbarian peoples chose to learn Latin out of their own volition because they realized how toscas (crude, uncouth, primitive, rudimentary) their own native languages were. He kind of underlined the word as he spoke it. I had to make an effort to refrain from saying something.
    for bonus points, it seems his insult was etymologically appropriate: apparently this adjective tosco came from Latin tuscus, which according to Silveira Bueno was a pejorative Roman term for Etruscans.

  6. Leoboiko (AKA Leonardo Boiko, correct?): as someone who once taught Romance philology/linguistics, my advice to you is to drop that course. Immediately. Actually, yesterday.
    ANY professor of a topic relating to historical linguistics who can spout out that sort of nonsense in class is frankly someone whose “teachings” you should avoid like the plague. The amusing part is that his claim about the “beauty/perfection” of Latin is one the Ancient Romans themselves (well, the elite at any rate) would have found laughable: most of the late Republican/Early Imperial Roman elite had a deep inferiority complex when it came to all aspects of Greek culture, including the language.
    In effect, your professor is claiming that non-Romans shifted to Latin because they perceived something beautiful/perfect in Latin which elite Latin speakers themselves did not.
    Now, I have met classicists who knew nothing about linguistics, but at least their knowledge of Latin literature prevented them from making ridiculous claims as to how/why Latin spread: they knew that educated Romans did not think highly of their language, and that Roman success on the battlefield was related to the spread of their language. Your professor sounds like someone who is wholly ignorant of linguistics as well as of Latin literature.

  7. apparently this adjective tosco came from Latin tuscus, which according to Silveira Bueno was a pejorative Roman term for Etruscans.
    Maybe the abuse is still going on and that’s why the musicologist Joseph Kerman described Puccini’s Tosca as a “shabby little shocker.”
    Frederick the Great himself produced an opera libretto for the composer Graun, called Montezuma. He wrote it in French and had it translated into Italian. No German-language opera for Frederick. (There had been attempts at creating native German opera, most notably in Hamburg in the early 1700s, but AFAIK the unbroken tradition didn’t really start until Mozart’s Singspiele.)
    Fred also had a downer on the Nibelungenlied.

  8. J.W. Brewer says:

    Presumably sheer coincidence between tuscus/tosca and tysk/tyska as the word for “German” in the various Scandinavian languages . . .

  9. No, surely coincidence. Tysk, like Italian tedesco, is from Proto-Germanic *þiudiskaz (Latinized as theodiscus) > Deutsch. Alas, the English-speaking theeds lost the root (dropped it in the River Thet, perhaps) some five centuries ago.

  10. David Eddyshaw says:

    Nobody, from Roman times to the present, who has learnt both Latin and Greek, would be likely to hesitate before saying that Greek is more beautiful … more flexible … you name it, including cultured Greek-speaking Romans themselves.
    And yet … part of the charm of Virgil (say) is precisely that he transmutes the language of farmers and soldiers into something so beautiful. In a way, one is not surprised by the beauty of a Greek lyric because the language seems to meet the poet half way (this is an illusion, of course – beauty is hard in any language, but anyone who knows Greek will recognise what I mean.) To pull off the same feat in Latin seems almost alchemical.
    And it isn’t just Virgil.

  11. According to the Prussian dictionary at http://www.freelang.net, the Prussian word for “German” was “Miksiskai”. In Latvian it is “Vacu” and Lithuanian “Vokiečių” (imtranslator.net). Apparently totally unrelated to those other roots.

  12. Nobody, from Roman times to the present, who has learnt both Latin and Greek, would be likely to hesitate before saying that Greek is more beautiful … more flexible … you name it
    As a language-person, as opposed to literature person, I’m always a little puzzled by statements like this. What exactly is “more beautiful” about Greek? Greek and Latin are both Indo-European dialects; what objective factors can be adduced for saying that Greek is “more beautiful” than Latin? And how many thousand years is it before something stops being “the language of farmers and soldiers”? After all, Greek surely also started out as the language of farmers and soldiers, as did the language of many settled civilisations.
    This is an honest question. Within my own language I can recognise that some people are the master of words and other people are not. I can see that having a large word-hoard (ok, vocabulary) could be an enriching process — although I can’t say I think French is less beautiful than English for having an objectively smaller vocabulary. I can also see that some literatures have a huge pool of past literature and well-developed vocabularies to draw on (especially when they are written traditions, which allows access to a vast pool of vocabulary that might be lost in spoken traditions), which is also an enriching process. But I’m curious about the concept of some languages being “more beautiful” than others in some objective sense. Surely, to paraphrase Eliot, the dialects of all tribes have the possibility of being purified. In the end, it’s just a value judgement (I might even suggest a cultish value judgement) to say that, say, οίνος is some ineffable way more beautiful than vinum.
    As I said, I’m just curious as to what people think. Hat, you are both a language person and a literature person, what is your take on this?

  13. Bathrobe says:

    This is also obviously at root closely related to political and social questions. So many movements to dethrone dominant literary languages from their thrones have arisen for populist or nationalist reasons. Why did the Buddhists use Prakrit rather than Sanskrit? Why did the Chinese abandon Classical Chinese for the vernacular? Why did the Turks ditch Ottoman in favour of a purer form of vernacularly-based Turkish? Why does every little ethnic group want to assert that its language is equally suited to the purposes of high literature and high culture as any classical or cultured language? A lot of this is based on the idea that any language can be ‘beautiful’ or ‘expressive’, not merely those with hallowed traditions.

  14. “they pile parenthesis upon parenthesis, and often you don’t find until you reach the end of the page the verb on which the meaning of the entire sentence depends.’”
    Pity Frederick didn’t live long enough to read Charlotte Roche.

  15. I think some of the illusion of the inferiority of Latin to Greek comes from the fact that Virgil and other classical Roman poets are doing Greek poetry, with Greek verse forms and all, in Latin. Naturally the results aren’t quite as good as using Greek for Greek verse forms.

  16. Part of the charm of Goethe is that he takes the language of harshly barked orders and through some alchemy or another spins it into a thing of pure auditory beauty… Or that’s what I remember of German literature courses, anyway. Others may disagree.
    I’m with Bathrobe on the comparative beauty of different languages.
    As for names for the Germans, my favourite is the Russian one.

  17. I followed the link in bulbul’s post and found a discussion that started out about translation and turned into a debate over whether Polish kurwa means f*** and how it was linked in the poster’s mind to the Polish krowa, meaning cow. Typical of LH.
    But I think there may be something to kurwa/krowa after all. Because whenever I admonish my wife for saying kao4 (mainland Chinese for f***) in front of the kids, she turns and says to me, as innocent as can be, “What’s wrong with talking about [proceeds to put on exaggerated American accent] a cow? A lovely cow?”

  18. Bathrobe says:

    Well, kào isn’t the normal Chinese word for f***, it’s a slightly bowdlerised version. It’s a bit like saying ‘frig’ instead of f***, or ‘gee’ instead of ‘Jesus’.

  19. Hat, you are both a language person and a literature person, what is your take on this?
    Like most people who are acquainted with both, I find Greek more beautiful, charming, what have you. As a linguist manqué, of course I realize that such judgments are unscientific and indefensible; on the other hand, I can’t help feeling that since they’re so consistently expressed over the ages, there’s probably something more to it than that I started Latin with Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres and Greek with μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος. But if you don’t find any difference between them, or between any two given languages, in that regard, you may be closer to the Truth or you may have a linguistic equivalent of colorblindness. There’s no way of knowing.

  20. Bill Walderman says:

    “Virgil and other classical Roman poets are doing Greek poetry, with Greek verse forms and all, in Latin. Naturally the results aren’t quite as good as using Greek for Greek verse forms.”
    I can’t agree with this. It’s true that Latin poets adopted Greek verse forms, but Latin poetry developed into something that is utterly unlike Greek. For example, unlike ancient Greek, Latin has a stress accent that doesn’t necessarily coincide with the patterns of the Greek-derived meters, which are based on syllable quantity, not on stress (long and short, or heavy and light, syllables), and the Latin poets were very skillful at manipulating the conflict and coincidence of the two metrical patterns, something that is entirely absent from Greek.
    Also, the Latin poets exploited to the fullest the possibilities offered by the very fluid word-order of Latin (in contrast to the more constrained word-order of Greek) for artistic patterning of verse.
    And Latin developed its own poetic vocabulary that includes both Latin and Greek words. Sometimes Latin poets imitate Greek in Latin, but this is a special artistic coloring, and “intertextual” imitation or echoing of other poets, including Greek poets, is a prominent part of the artistry of Latin poets such as Vergil and Ovid.
    Though based on Greek metrical principles and verse forms, Latin poetry seems to me utterly different from, and not necessarily inferior to, Greek. And I would certainly never agree that Greek is more beautiful than Latin, or any other language, for that matter.

  21. toledojohn says:

    “For example, unlike ancient Greek, Latin has a stress accent that doesn’t necessarily coincide with the patterns of the Greek-derived meters, which are based on syllable quantity, not on stress (long and short, or heavy and light, syllables)”
    I remember during my reading of Latin poetry many years ago that the vowel lengths were fundamental to the meter and the stress accents were secondary. I believe that stress in Latin poetry became important only in the late empire and Medieval periods.

  22. Bill Walderman says:

    “stress in Latin poetry became important only in the late empire and Medieval periods.”
    The metrical patterns classical Latin poetry are quantitative. But the Roman poets were very skillful at manipulating the conflicts between the quantitative metrical patterns and patterns of stress accent in spoken Latin.
    For example, in hexameter verse, the stress accent frequently falls on the weak part of the quantitative metrical foot (the second half of the dactyl) in the first part of the line and then coincides with the strong part of the quantitative metrical foot at the end of the line, which results in an effect of tension followed by resolution.

  23. Bill Walderman says:

    “he takes the language of harshly barked orders and through some alchemy or another spins it into a thing of pure auditory beauty…”
    Just about any language can be barked as well as transformed into pure auditory beauty. Even English. And there have been so many other great German poets — Heine, Hoelderlin, Rilke . . .

  24. marie-lucie says:

    “he takes the language of harshly barked orders and through some alchemy or another spins it into a thing of pure auditory beauty…”
    During WWII most of France was under German occupation. My parents had not had German in school and “barked orders” were the only German they ever heard. Many years later, they had the opportunity to travel to Germany and Austria and took German classes. My mother especially loved the soft and flowing sounds of ich liebe dich.

  25. @Etienne: I understand and agree wholeheartedly, but I need the credits :/ I’m just using the class as an excuse to read books and ignoring everything he claims.

  26. David Eddyshaw says:

    It’s obviously problematic to say that one language is more beautiful than another, not only because judgments of beauty in any domain are so hard to make into anything other than statements of simple personal preference, but also because this also trips our “we don’t need no stinking Sapir-Whorf hypothesis” reflex straight away, and with good reason. And because the whole discussion easily morphs via culture into very nasty areas if we’re not careful.
    However …
    It *is* possible to talk about beauty in a way which appeals to common grounds and reason in other areas, so the effort is not necessarily doomed at birth.
    Languages *do* vary, not in what is ultimately expressible in them, but in how easy it is to do particular things in them. So it’s not simply meaningless, for example, to suppose that one language might lend itself more easily to a particular kind of literary activity than another. It might be false, but the question is not illegitimate from the get-go.
    The Romans themselves, for example, were struck by the fact that the Greek vocabulary was larger than theirs, and more straightforwardly extensible by compounding and derivation. They got round it by an interesting process of calquing and deliberately extending the semantic range of existing words rather than borrowing or creating new words altogether. Cicero is quite explicit about what he was doing in this regard. So they made up for the deficiency; but that of course entails that there was a *deficiency* there in the first place.
    Again, I agree that there is no meaningful way to describe “oinos” as more beautiful than “vinum.” But phonology is probably the most subjective of all criteria for beauty anyhow. What about syntax? Those of us who learnt Latin at school still tremble at the words “ablative absolute.” The ablative absolute seems in fact virtually confined to the high literary style of Latin, and is basically a kludge to get round the fact that Latin, unlike Greek, hasn’t got active past participles. It’s intrinsically clunky. That doesn’t, of course, stop a master of style like Tacitus from exploiting the construction to produce literary effects of great beauty of a kind practically confined to Latin.
    It’s true enough that the Romans had a cultural cringe before Greece. But they weren’t a people known for cringing, so it’s worth pondering *why* they had such an impression of the cultural superiority of a people that in many respects they regarded as inferior.
    Lastly, different languages (of course) develop their own individual beauties. I do in fact personally think Greek is more beautiful than Latin, but there is no way you could do in Greek what Tacitus does in Latin; and Virgil is not a poor imitation of Homer.

  27. J. Del Col: Thomas Bernhard’s narrator in his novel Extinction has a rant about the barbaric nature of German.
    In that gently flowing, hypnotically neurotic style that Bernhard does. Auslöschung is one of my favorites. Did you read it in English ? If so, how did it come across to you ?
    vanya: Pity Frederick didn’t live long enough to read Charlotte Roche.
    Gosh, I feel so behind the times. It’s been years since I read a raunchy female novel (parse that last bit as you will). She was great as a moderatrix on German TV. Neither Fred nor his buddy Voltaire would have approved of her, I suspect.
    often you don’t find until you reach the end of the page the verb on which the meaning of the entire sentence depends.
    I believe that should read: “until you reach the end of the following page”. Apart from really bad, professorial stuff, though, the reader of such prose more or less knows what’s going to said as it is said (!), otherwise he wouldn’t be reading it.
    In my experience with languages, sense is not built up by piling word on word, but by phrasal accumulation and expectation. You don’t know the phrases, you can’t go with the flow. In German, the “final verb” merely confirms the penultimate expectation. Give me the first half-to-three-quarters of any sedate German sentence (not a contrived, wild-eyed one), and 9 times out of 10 I can predict the “final verb”. That’s what “sedate” means here.
    This has been brought home to me with French recently. As it turns out, it wasn’t the pronunciation I had trouble with, but the phrases that I didn’t know. It is really remarkable how sense accretes from expectations, more than from “what you hear”.

  28. Virgil is not a poor imitation of Homer.
    Very true; he’s a great poet in an entirely different way. Yet, much as I can thrill to some of his lines, I don’t get the same joy out of simply reading him aloud as I do out of Homer.
    I believe that should read: “until you reach the end of the following page”.
    No, “au bout d’une page entière” means “at the end of an entire page.” (The translator presumably left out the adjective because of “the entire sentence” later on.)

  29. Those of us who learnt Latin at school still tremble at the words “ablative absolute.”
    You guys are easily scared. Oh my God, look, it’s Georgian conjugation! RUN, FOR GOD’S SAKE, RUN!!!
    It’s intrinsically clunky.
    Oh come off it. It’s not even clunky, let alone intrinsically so – morphologically, it’s just ablative; syntactically, it’s an adverbial clause.

  30. Stu,
    sense is not built up by piling word on word, but by phrasal accumulation and expectation.
    My thoughts exactly. Are you by any chance familiar with the works of John Sinclair (of the ‘idiom principle’) and his followers?

  31. I must agree with Bulbul: over the course of my four years of Latin I can’t say that ablative absolutes were especially intimidating. Now, take all the possible meanings and nuances of UT, and how these meanings and nuances intersected with the indicative versus the subjunctive: THAT was intimidating as well as frustrating.
    While I too find Greek more attractive than Latin, not least because of the vowel clusters (ATHENAIOI seems so much more melodious than ATHENIENSES), we should bear in mind that the Romans were not the only ones with an inferiority complex before Greek: the Carthaginians, for example, even went so far as to use Greek as the common language of their mercenary armies.
    We should bear in mind the realities of the Ancient Classical world. Greek was a language with extensive geographical spread (Greece, most of the coast of Turkey, of Italy south of Naples, Sicily, plus major maritime city-states such as Massilia (Marseilles)) and which was the first written language widely introduced in the Western Mediterranean. This practically guaranteed prolonged prestige (right to the present). Hence I frankly cannot see its beauty as having played any role in its expansion and/or prestige.
    I suspect that the beauty many of us see in Ancient Greek may be related to its allure: to most readers here, I suspect, Latin was studied before Greek. The knowledge that behind Latin another, older (in terms of literary tradition), more exotic language is to be found probably colored our evaluation of the esthetics of Greek (I am certain it did mine).

  32. No, surely coincidence. Tysk, like Italian tedesco, is from Proto-Germanic *þiudiskaz . . . > Deutsch
    I’ve always been really rather pleased at how the root etymon from which this is secondarily derived (cf. Goth. þiuda, OEng. þēod ‘people, nation’) is one of these good West IE words (cp. OIr. tuath, Oscan touto, Lith. tautà, etc.), but in that Deutsch, in its etymological sense is simply the ‘people’s’ speech.
    As a language-person, as opposed to literature person, I’m always a little puzzled by statements like this. What exactly is “more beautiful” about Greek?
    Well, from my biased perspective of being a Classicist, Hellenist, and Indo-Europeanist, I would agree with the statement for the irrational reason that it’s much easier to see things that real languages do, e.g. have dialect variation, more easily recognizable diachronic change over time, whereas with Latin it more or less becomes this more-or-less codified literary language that doesn’t really change that much in written form past the first century.
    You guys are easily scared. Oh my God, look, it’s Georgian conjugation! RUN, FOR GOD’S SAKE, RUN!!!
    Word up, yo.
    Oh come off it. It’s not even clunky, let alone intrinsically so – morphologically, it’s just ablative; syntactically, it’s an adverbial clause.
    Actually, I think 99% of the pain that comes out of learning Latin is because none of the terminology that’s still used to teach it makes any effing sense. The ‘ablative’ case isn’t an ‘ablative’ case at all, it would be more properly described, as you say, as an adverbial case where all the rest of the other IE non-local cases besides the genitive and dative ended up. Though since comparative philology has faded out of favor in Classics departments, nobody’s willing to fix the terminology codified in the nineteenth-century grammars.

  33. Nine times out of ten, after the first half-to-three-quarters of any sedate sentence (not a contrived, wild-eyed one) in any language, the “final verb” can be predicted.

  34. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Those of us who learnt Latin at school still tremble at the words “ablative absolute.”
    You guys are easily scared. Oh my God, look, it’s Georgian conjugation! RUN, FOR GOD’S SAKE, RUN!!!”
    Bulbul, you were obviously not taught Latin in the traditional (and only correct) manner. You cannot be English. I’m sorry but there it is.

  35. marie-lucie says:

    Languages *do* vary, … in how easy it is to do particular things in them. … one language might lend itself more easily to a particular kind of literary activity than another.
    Some examples:
    - Latin in known for short, “lapidary” inscriptions in a kind of telegraphic style, often with puns which depend for effect on homophonous combinations of word roots and word endings which could belong to verbs, nouns or adjectives. I vaguely remember one which I cannot translate: I think it is soli soli soli, where the root sol- could mean “sun”, “sole/alone” or a verb. The meaning is the same regardless of the word order. I am sure that better Latinists here will know.
    - English “haiku”: Japanese poetry, like French poetry, is syllable-based, while traditional English poetry is mostly stressed-based. I am amazed at the popularity of haiku in English-speaking schools, since what teachers or children end up producing is very poor English poetry. But the results of trying for simple English poetry (similar to nursery rhymes) might sound too much like doggerel.
    - Latin poetry: even though I took courses in Latin for nine years (in France), and I remember reading about the various kinds of verse forms, iambic, trochaic etc, none of my teachers ever explained what these words meant in practice or how Latin verse must have sounded orally. It seemed to us that the only differences with prose were the lines on the page and the more convoluted word order, as well as the more esoteric vocabulary. But I am impressed that anglophone students of Latin here all seem to be well-versed (indeed) about these things. It must be because traditional English verse also makes use of the different kinds of “feet” which play with stress patterns, while traditional French verse basically counts syllables, so that most French teachers of Latin are unable to “feel” the rhythms of Latin verse, let alone convey them to their students.
    In my parents’ house there was an old book, a massive French-Latin dictionary which I realized later was intended to help students compose Latin poetry (something which mercifully was no longer practiced in my days). I used this dictionary at the beginning of my Latin studies, but was often frustrated that many ordinary words were not in it. Instead, there were sometimes long lists of synonymous words and phrases: for instance, under lune there was not just luna but Latin phrases meaning things like “light of the night”, “silvery orb” and many others, probably gleaned from the entire corpus of Latin poetry. But I don’t remember the Latin words bearing any indications of stress or vowel length, since those features are relatively unimportant in French. A similar English-Latin dictionary would most likely have included those crucial details.

  36. marie-lucie says:

    Etienne: I can’t say that ablative absolutes were especially intimidating
    Neither do I, but I think that they must be more intimidating to English than French speakers. Literary French uses a similar construction, as in La guerre finie, … which does not mean “the finished war” but “(once) the war was/is over,…”. I think the French construction (also found in colloquial French as Une fois la guerre finie … – same meaning) is a difficult one for anglophones because of the absence of the auxiliary verb.

  37. rootlesscosmo says:

    @marie-lucie:
    My mother especially loved the soft and flowing sounds of ich liebe dich.
    That may be what makes such a shocking contrast in “Erlkönig:”
    “Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt;
    Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch ich Gewalt.”

  38. David Eddyshaw says:

    @marie-lucie:
    I had haiku in mind as an example, in fact. I agree that English attempts at “haiku” strike me as horribly misconceived. It seems to be a poetic style that Japanese speakers have evolved to show off one of the particular beauties of their own language, and works in English just about as well as hexameters in Chinese.
    Poetry in general probably illustrates what I’m trying to say. Every language I know has produced beautiful poetry, but the actual forms that work (easily) vary greatly from language to language.
    Think “Hiawatha” …

  39. La guerre finie … is a difficult one for anglophones because of the absence of the auxiliary verb
    Well, I guess, but it does occur in English, too, so it’s not that hard to figure out. For example, “That done,…” or the fossilised “That said,…” Of course it is true that English prefers “The war being over,…” or “With the war finished,..” etc.

  40. bulbul: Are you by any chance familiar with the works of John Sinclair (of the ‘idiom principle’)
    Nope. I am just trying to make sense of what I have experienced over the past few years while brushing up my French and Spanish. I currently see it as a major repaint, not merely a brushing up.
    Hat: No, “au bout d’une page entière” means “at the end of an entire page.”
    You come down on my little joke like a ton of German professors.
    Crown: can be predicted
    I take you to be making the clever point that expectations don’t work that well when the passive is used. That may be true to a certain extent, even in German.

  41. No, that’s much too knowledgeable to have come from me, but thanks. I’d just noticed (and was giving an example of) the not-quite-so-clever clever point that there are also long and winding constructions in English where you have to get to the end before you reach the verb.

  42. j. del col says:

    Grumbly:
    Yes, I read Bernhard in English. I find him to be absolutely hilarious. The style, at least in English, comes across as the voice a relentlessly insistent, urbane but manic, talker.

  43. Latin poetry: even though I took courses in Latin for nine years (in France), and I remember reading about the various kinds of verse forms, iambic, trochaic etc, none of my teachers ever explained what these words meant in practice or how Latin verse must have sounded orally. It seemed to us that the only differences with prose were the lines on the page and the more convoluted word order, as well as the more esoteric vocabulary. But I am impressed that anglophone students of Latin here all seem to be well-versed (indeed) about these things. It must be because traditional English verse also makes use of the different kinds of “feet” which play with stress patterns, while traditional French verse basically counts syllables, so that most French teachers of Latin are unable to “feel” the rhythms of Latin verse, let alone convey them to their students.
    I’m sure you’re right that it’s easier for English speakers, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. English stress-based feet have nothing to do with classical length-based ones, and in fact are a hindrance to understanding them. When I was studying Latin we had little charts of the various verse forms showing how the long and short syllables were arranged, and the rules were clear enough, but it took me years of trying before I finally felt the meters and was able to read verse aloud with confidence. I don’t think this is a very common skill even among English speakers.

  44. Have you guys seen Blyth’s proposal for English haiku? He used two, three and two accented beats plus a kireji cæsura, which is more natural and also has the advantage of being “incomplete” relative to traditional stanzas, just like haiku feels incomplete regarding tanka/renga.
    I agree entirely that counting 5-7-5 English “syllables” doesn’t make any sense—in fact I’m trying to write a paper on this :) (Japanese poetry count moræ, not syllables; the syllable structure is too different anyway; even the most classical of Japanese haiku does employ other rhythms than 5-7-5; and even in 5-7-5 haiku, the kireji pause is primary, so the division in three lines is misleading; Japanese haiku are printed in a single line (column), so that the reader has to find the rhythm for herself, i.e. “verse” means something different here; and so on).
    I find poets in haiku magazines and such often make interesting experiments in trying to capture the feel of haiku in English, but the general public keeps attached to the “three verses in 5-7-5” formula, which is like the least interesting thing to emulate.

  45. Leo, what would be the interesting things to emulate? Can we read your paper when it’s done?

  46. literary bile, Frederick, a grumpy old man of sixty-eight, denounced
    I used to feel this way about Frederick the Grate, but then I went to Potsdam and Sans Souci. Anyone who built that, particularly the grotto, can’t have been that much of a grump. Really, a great man.

  47. Мертвые старой прусской – why don’t it print what I type?

  48. Huh, that’s odd; I tried to redo your tagline but it came out with the same box at the end. I guess you’ll just have to remain AJP “The dead people of the old [box]” instead of “The dead people of the old Prussian [female noun omitted].”

  49. Let’s see if that works.

  50. The problem is that the name field has a restricted length, so the server trancates a part of the last Unicode character sequence that it can’t squeeze in.
    With only AJP prefixed in the name field in this comment, the entire Russian phrase should appear.

  51. That’s odd, the preview works differently from the final page. Let’s try just the Russian.

  52. We haven’t learnt genders on Google Translate yet.

  53. OK, clearly restricted length in the name field, resulting in truncation, is the problem. “Мертвые старой прусской” appears to have only 21 non-space characters (plus two space characters), but each Unicode sequence (like М) has seven characters.
    So this is what you’re trying to cram into the name field:

    Мертвые старой прусско&#1081

  54. Oops, there’s a missing final “;” in that last example.

  55. and in fact are a hindrance to understanding them
    Quite so. In particular, the musical properties of iambic/trochaic verse and anapestic/dactylic verse are sharply opposed in Latin and English, causing their connotations to be opposed as well. Compare a line of dactylic verse in Latin:
    arma vi|rumque ca|nó, Troi|ae qui | prímus ab |órís
    with one in English:
    This is the | forest pri|meval, the | murmuring | pines and the | hemlocks
    In the Latin line, every foot is either long-short-short (2+1+1 morae) or long-long (2+2 morae); musically speaking it is in 4/4 time. The English line is driven by stress, with three more or less equal-length syllables in each foot, so its time signature is 3/4. Conversely, iambics in English are 2/4, whereas in Latin they are 3 morae long and so in 3/4.
    So in Latin the walking/marching rhythms of epic are represented by dactyls and anapests, in English by iambs and trochees. Contrariwise, the dancing rhythms of (some kinds of) lyric are represented in Latin by iambs and trochees, in English by anapests and dactyls. Trying to use dactyls for epic poetry in English is quite literally offbeat, and Longfellow’s experiment has not been repeated.

  56. Then I’ll have to confine my descriptions to the comments box.

  57. marie-lucie says:

    Bathrobe, I am writing from the point of view of years of experience teaching French to anglophone students. Not everyone is interested or adept at grasping the subtleties of other languages.
    Leo, I too would be interested in your paper.
    Grumbly: Neither Fred nor his buddy Voltaire
    I would not use “buddy” here. He kept Voltaire at his court for as long as he found him useful, then he sent him back, saying about him: You press the orange, then you throw away the peel.

  58. Well, I wanted to write butt buddy, but feared recrimination from right-thinkers. Such relationships last as long as the orange puts out. You know how flighty men are in these matters.

  59. Then I’ll have to confine my descriptions to the comments box.
    The Russian ones, at least. AJP Fuckminster “I Seem to be a Verb” Buller is just fine for length.
    Hat could find out from his IT consultants what the length limit is for the name field.

  60. Bill Walderman says:

    “Conversely, iambics in English are 2/4, whereas in Latin they are 3 morae long and so in 3/4.”
    I have to take exception to this, with all due respect.
    In Latin and Greek, the basic unit of iambic rhythm is not the sequence short long, but rather the iambic foot, which is anceps long short long (anceps is either long or short). To a limited extent, two shorts can be substituted for a long. But in terms of morae, the iambic foot is either six or seven morae. (The basic meter of dialogue in Greek drama is the iambic trimeter, in which a line consists of three iambic feet.)
    Attempts to conform the meters of classical Greek and Latin verse to the time-signatures of modern music are doomed to failure. For example, what’s the time signature of the glyconic line–a very common unit in Greek lyric, tragic choruses and Horace, which consists of anceps anceps choriamb (long short short long) short long — from 11 to 13 morae? Nineteenth German scholars tried to force ancient meters onto the Procrustean bed of 19th century music with incoherent results.
    And the dactylic hexameter — the most ancient common meter — is not limited to “martial” poetry. It serves as something like an all-purpose meter for longer poems, similar to the English iambic pentameter or the French Alexandrine. The Odyssey, the Works and Days and Theogony of Hesiod, the Homeric hymns, the pastoral poetry of Theocritus, Catullus 64 (the wedding of Peleus and Thetis framing the lament of Ariadne), the Bucolics and Georgics of Vergil, the philosophical treatise of Lucretius are all written in hexameters, to give some idea of the range of this meter. None of these works is martial in character, and the hexameter is really not a “marching” rhythm, although the Iliad and the Aeneid are written in hexameters.
    And hexameters (and other ancient meters) have been very successfully adapted to German poetry, which is based on stress-accent like English. Hoelderlin’s elegiac couplets (hexameter plus pentameter) are some of the greatest German poetry I’m aware of.

  61. The field seems to be limited to 100 octets, and since Hat’s page is served as ISO-8859-1, anything outside what’s necessary for Western Europe gets encoded using the entities that Stu showed. An infelicitous workaround is to use Latin homographs for some of the Cyrillic.

  62. Fabulous swatch of Swinburne, John ! Overtly micromanaged elegance quickly gets on my nerves, though, even in poetry. I can take only so much at one go.
    This applies also to less operatic styles, say of Pope in An Essay on Man, or Mann in Zauberberg. Opera itself is out of the question, of course. I despise Wagner and all his works and swishy admirers, the whole effetely snobbish shebang. Ugh !

  63. Aidan: The field seems to be limited to 100 octets
    Did you find that out by trial and error ? I am fairly ignernt of HTML and Javascript. I couldn’t find anything in the page source to explain the input limitation.

  64. marie-lucie says:

    I really appreciate the lessons in Latin and English verse, having had none to minimal instruction about how to analyze and appreciate those features of the relevant poetry forms. I knew most of the names, but was unsure about their definition. The word “anceps” is new to me though. Please help!

  65. He kept Voltaire at his court for as long as he found him useful, then he sent him back, saying about him: You press the orange, then you throw away the peel.
    Useful? He loved Voltaire. m-l, Frederick gave him a job, invited him to parties, let him live at Potsdam, and what did Voltaire do? Voltaire wrote Doctor Akakia… I’m totally with Frederick. Voltaire was a smartass who hurt his feelings.

  66. m-l: anceps ‘a syllable-position that may be filled with either a long or short syllable (stressed or unstressed, in stress meters) without affecting the overall meter’
    Here are Wiktionary’s more general definitions: double-headed, having two heads; (of mountains) having two summits or peaks; (of swords) double-edged; divided into two parts; wavering, doubtful, uncertain; dangerous, hazardous

  67. Did you find that out by trial and error ? I am fairly ignernt of HTML and Javascript. I couldn’t find anything in the page source to explain the input limitation.

    No, nothing so demanding of effort. It was just the number of octets between “Posted by: ” and “at March 21, 2012 09:59 AM” further up the page, in the page source, ignoring the HTML that wouldn’t have counted towards the limit.

    I listened to one of the Deutschlandfunk programmes here on Frederick the Great back in January, but hadn’t realised how many of them were broadcast. Think I’ll load up the MP3 player for the commute!

  68. Voltaire was a smartass who hurt his feelings
    Hold on a mo, Crown. According to your link, the Histoire du Docteur Akakia et du Natif de St Malo was directed against “pretentious pedants of science in the person of Maupertuis, the President of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Berlin”. So it’s not clear why Fred’s feelings should be hurt.
    The French WiPe on Maupertuis gives us more detail. Like many other people, at one point Voltaire fawned on Maupertuis for his scientific work:

    … Voltaire lui rend hommage dans son discours en vers sur l’homme:
    Héros de la physique, Argonautes nouveaux
    Qui franchissez les monts, qui traversez les eaux
    Dont le travail immense et l’exacte mesure
    De la terre étonnée ont fixé la figure.
    Dévoilez ces ressorts, qui font la pesanteur.
    Vous connaissez les lois qu’établit son auteur.

    Later on, though, everybody got their feelings hurt:

    En 1740, Maupertuis se rend à Berlin à l’invitation de Frédéric II de Prusse. Il est recommandé par Voltaire et prend part à la bataille de Mollwitz où il est fait prisonnier par les Autrichiens. À sa libération, il retourne à Berlin puis à Paris où il est admis à l’Académie française. Son caractère ombrageux [he was given to taking offense] le fait néanmoins se quereller avec Samuel König. Le mathématicien conteste sa gloire d’avoir découvert le principe du moindre action et publie dans les Acta Eruditorum une lettre de Leibniz à Herman, dans laquelle Leibniz énonce ce principe ; l’authenticité de la lettre est contestée par Maupertuis et Euler. Maupertuis devient la cible des philosophes ; Voltaire, ulcéré de voir König traité de faussaire et désormais jaloux de l’amitié de Frédéric II pour Maupertuis, se brouille avec lui. Défendant Samuel König dans sa Diatribe du docteur Akakia, le philosophe de la Ferney devient un de ses plus virulents ennemis. À la suite de Leonard Euler, Frédéric II prend la défense de Maupertuis et condamne König, puis Voltaire, à quitter Berlin. Voltaire écrit à Mme Denis :
    « On n’avait point encore vu de procès criminel dans une académie des sciences. C’est une vérité démontrée qu’il faut s’enfuir de ce pays-ci. »
    Le philosophe est arrêté à Francfort, et on brûle ses libelles sur la place publique, dont les plus sarcastiques comme l’impitoyable Micromégas. Maupertuis, pour sa part, sort anéanti de cette affaire

    Isn’t that a neat locution: Voltaire was ulcéré by the way König was being treated. I guess “sickened” is what is meant, and “ulcerated” is what a bad translator would use. One really needs to be careful not to fall for apparently “literal” senses in a furrin language.

  69. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly, thank you for the research.
    The meaning of ulcéré referring to a psychological wound is more like “badly stung” than “sickened”.

  70. marie-lucie says:

    JC: thanks for anceps. I had seen the word before, but never in this context, and could not remember any meaning for it.

  71. @AJP: Oh, it’s just a humble undergrad’s paper, and I don’t cover any ground that people like Blyth and Higginson and Robin D. Gill already haven’t. The thing is, I’m writing it in Portuguese, since here in Brazil even the haiku groups seem to be obsessed with the 5-7-5 formula and pay little attention to anything else. What’s more, they defend it by invoking the authority of “tradition”, and I think that doesn’t hold; I’m counting representative samples of classical haiku to show that the supposed “traditional” formula can’t even describe adequately or interestingly the Big Three (Bashō, Buson, Issa). And anyway, this is all doubly ironic if we consider how the Big Three were all highly innovative and personal (Bashō: “don’t copy the ancients; seek what they sought”, etc.)
    We have constructed this idea of the Shiki-like proper haiku about flowers and frogs and true experiences from life, and all the while Bashō is making poems about, say, imaginary gay (nanshoku) lovers afraid of magical foxes and what have you. Blyth thought Bashō was particularly focused on the small and delicate, while Shiki praised precisely his poems on expansive, breathtaking motifs—everyone’s reading what they want to read. There’s a lot of haiku out there; there’s room for creativity.
    What I find more interesting to emulate? Off the top of my head: very condensed, vignette-like, fragmentary poems making use of a specialized vocabulary rich in literary allusions and implications; imagism; sensualism; a sense of sazonality, of the cyclical flow of time even as one focus photographically on a single moment; kireji (cæsura-words); the pathos of things; the “small surprise” (to keep up with the photographic metaphor, it’s something like Barthes’ punctum, a sharp point that draws attention against a background); incomplete, open rhythm; plain language that avoids function-words and abstractions; an attention to prosody, an attempt to align the phonetic and syntactical levels with the perceptions and images; even more so in haibun or haiga, which use prose and drawings as framing devices. (Earlier I said haiku is printed in a single column, but in haiga it’s often written calligraphically on several columns, and the breaking points don’t necessarily match rhythmic or syntactical units; the levels align; sound, syntax, drawing, meaning, allusions, all fit together and resonate in intricate ways like a spell. This is typical of classic Japanese poetry as a whole, not just haiku.)
    I’m the first to admit that there is a significant number of haiku that don’t feature all those characteristics (just like there is a significant number that don’t fit 5-7-5); but I’d think such traits would be much more rewarding to try to render in other languages than the syllable count, especially since the “syllables” being counted are entirely different beasts. Though again, I’m far from being the first to make this observation.

  72. Thanks for the explanations. I never did grasp (or bother to find out, realistically) why Greek dramatic lines were called trimeters when they plainly had six feet, but now it’s obvious: only the odd-numbered feet can have anceps, and so iambs are taken two at a time.

    My reference to marching was not intended to imply a martial character: the only time I ever marched was briefly in a marching band, in which I held the traditional role of a Second Trombone. But the fact is that we humans have only two feet each (or slightly fewer on average), and when we pretend to have three (as in the waltz) we are doing something specialized. So my references to time signatures were only meant as a general comparison: it’s plain that many line types don’t fit.

    I think that anapestic hexameter as a general-purpose meter for long poems are way underestimated in English, and I wish we had more poems using it. So I’ll seize the opportunity to quote one of my favorite bits from Swinburne’s Hymn to Proserpine:

    All delicate days and pleasant, all spirits and sorrows are cast
    Far out with the foam of the present that sweeps to the surf of the past:
    Where beyond the extreme sea-wall, and between the remote sea-gates,
    Waste water washes, and tall ships founder, and deep death waits:
    Where, mighty with deepening sides, clad about with the seas as with wings,
    And impelled of invisible tides, and full-filled of unspeakable things,
    White-eyed and poisonous-finned, shark-toothed and serpentine-curled,
    Rolls, under the whitening wind of the future, the wave of the world.

    Decades after first reading that, it still gives me chills.
    I keep meaning to blog something about the native English meters, Long Measure and Common Measure and Poulter’s Measure and all that. Usually they are understood to be foot-verse, but my view is that they are really stress-verse, and one of the most common and mostly unrecognized forms of English meter.

  73. Well, at the risk of overloading Grumbly, I’ll demonstrate Swinburne’s anapests in another mood. Here’s the whole of “The Higher Pantheism in a Nutshell”:

    One, who is not, we see; but one, whom we see not, is;
    Surely, this is not that; but that is assuredly this.
    What, and wherefore, and whence: for under is over and under;
    If thunder could be without lightning, lightning could be without
    thunder.
    Doubt is faith in the main; but faith, on the whole, is doubt;
    We cannot believe by proof; but could we believe without?
    Why, and whither, and how? for barley and rye are not clover;
    Neither are straight lines curves; yet over is under and over.
    One and two are not one; but one and nothing is two;
    Truth can hardly be false, if falsehood cannot be true.
    Parallels all things are; yet many of these are askew;
    You are certainly I; but certainly I am not you.
    One, whom we see not, is; and one, who is not, we see;
    Fiddle, we know, is diddle; and diddle, we take it, is dee.

    And here’s the Tennyson poem “The Higher Pantheism” that S. was parodying, also in the same meter:

    The sun, the moon, the stars, the seas, the hills and the plains —
    Are not these, O Soul, the Vision of Him who reigns?
    Is not the Vision He? tho’ He be not that which He seems?
    Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?
    Earth, these solid stars, this weight of body and limb,
    Are they not sign and symbol of thy division from Him?
    Dark is the world to thee: thyself art the reason why;
    For is He not all but thou, that hast power to feel ‘I am I’?
    Glory about thee, without thee; and thou fulfillest thy doom,
    Making Him broken gleams, and a stifled splendour and gloom.
    Speak to Him, thou, for He hears, and Spirit with Spirit can meet—
    Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.
    God is law, say the wise; O Soul, and let us rejoice,
    For if He thunder by law the thunder is yet His voice.
    Law is God, say some: no God at all, says the fool;
    For all we have power to see is a straight staff bent in a pool;
    And the ear of man cannot hear, and the eye of man cannot see;
    But if we could see and hear, this Vision — were it not He?

    Me, I prefer the Swinburne.

  74. Swinburne’s demolition of Tennyson reminds me of Coleridge’s boiling Pope’s “Let Observation with extensive View,/ Survey Mankind, from China to Peru” down to “Let observation with extensive observation observe mankind extensively.”

  75.    There was an old man              Said with a laugh, “I
         From Peru, whose lim’ricks all        Cut them in half, the pay is
           Look’d like haiku. He                          Much better for two.”
                                         —Emmet O’Brien

  76. Brilliant!

  77. Bill Walderman says:

    Pope’s “Let Observation with extensive View,/ Survey Mankind, from China to Peru”
    Isn’t that Samuel Johnson?

  78. Bill:
    Well spotted. Yes, it’s the first two lines of Johnson’s poem The Vanity of Human Wishes. Johnson wrote his poem in imitation of Juvenal’s Tenth Satire, which opens “Omnibus in terris, quae sunt a Gadibus usque / Auroram et Gangen”, since “from Cádiz to the Ganges” was the limit of Roman geographical knowledge.
    I love Ramsay’s footnote attached to Juvenal’s quotation of Cicero’s line “‘o fortunatam natam me consule Romam’”:

    This line is (apparently) taken from the poem (De suo Consulatu) which Cicero wrote to glorify the events of his Consulship To the many who are not gifted with the divine faculty of poesy it may be a consolation to know that a writer of the most splendid prose could be guilty of such a rubbishy line as that here quoted.

    In his (otherwise) prose translation he renders the line as “O happy Fate for the Roman State / Was the date of my great Consulate!”

  79. Dryden’s rendition of “o fortunatam natam me consule Romam”:
    Fortune foretun’d the dying notes of Rome,
    Till I, thy consul sole, consol’d thy doom.

  80. marie-lucie says:

    Interesting rhyme of “Rome” and “doom”.

  81. Trond Engen says:

    m-l: Interesting rhyme of “Rome” and “doom”.
    Indeed, but it made sense. Rome is such and old loan that it shouldn’t have had the “goat” diphtong if it weren’t a reading pronunciation.

  82. I didn’t know goats had diphtongs.
    Thank you Leo for your interesting answer. I’m sorry, not for the first time, I don’t speak Portuguese.

  83. Interesting rhyme of “Rome” and “doom”.
    But what was the vowel sound in this rhyme ? The question arose in my mind because of the Domesday book, where “Dome” means “Doom”. I’m guessing that the spelling indicates that “Domesday” was pronounced \dōmz-dā\.
    The claim here appears to be that the pronunciations of “doom” and “Rome” were different in Dryden’s day, except when reading certain lines requiring a rhyme – in which case one pronunciation was assimilated to the other.
    Trond even seems to be saying that “Rome” here is to be pronounced like “roam”, but otherwise wasn’t pronounced like that. I’m wondering whether, on the contrary, Dryden and his contemporaries always pronounced “Rome” and “doom” the same way, namely \dōm\, even in poetry.

  84. What I intended to write at the end of my last comment was: “namely with \-ōm\”.

  85. Trond Engen says:

    I meant to suggest that Dryden’s Rome was like his room (hot, smelling and messy, according to his mother).
    Driving in Norway in the seventies, one used to see fingerposts at every other farmgate pointing to Rom. Alle veger fører til Rom, my father used to say.

  86. That reminds me of Forster’s novel Room with a Phew. One of the candidate titles he rejected, because it didn’t rhyme, was Flat with a Tang.

  87. Some of the meaning is lost in the French translation, which is called Rhume très en vue.

  88. I’m wondering whether, on the contrary, Dryden and his contemporaries always pronounced “Rome” and “doom” the same way, namely \dōm\, even in poetry.
    That’s right. You can hear an actor pronouncing lines from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in Elizabethan English (sounds kind of Irish to me). The end of the passage contains a Rome/room pun:
    Now is it Rome indeed, and room enough,
    When there is in it but one only man.

  89. William Gifford, a satirist active towards the end of the reign of George III, had a go at translating “o fortunatam natam me consule Romam”:
    “How fortuNATE a NATAL day was thine,
    In that proud ConsuLATE, O Rome, of mine!”
    In a note, he gets very huffy about previous renditions: “Most of my predecessors thought it necessary to translate it into nonsense, or load it with the most barbarous tautology: this, however, was paying but an ill compliment to one of the greatest men ‘that ever lived in the tide of times’, and was, besides, as unjust as impertinent.”

  90. JCass: Julius Caesar in Elizabethan English (sounds kind of Irish to me).
    Sure does. Why might that be ? Does Irish English retain a tang of Elizabethan English due to geographical isolation ? Like some American dialects (I have heard), or in the way Canadian French has the features of a Continental French regional dialect from the 19C ?

  91. “Voltaire was a smartass who hurt his feelings
    Hold on a mo, Crown. According to your link, the Histoire du Docteur Akakia et du Natif de St Malo was directed against “pretentious pedants of science in the person of Maupertuis, the President of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Berlin”. So it’s not clear why Fred’s feelings should be hurt.”
    Stu, you obviously have no familiarity with the vanity of kings. That was the ROYAL Academy of Scineces at BERLIN, so it was a direct slap at the king.

  92. Jim, I imagine Frederick was reacting to what he experienced as an affront to majesty. You may call it vanity, but if I were a king I would not stoop to “hurt feelings”. Why bother with vanity when you can order that people who cross you shall be drawn and quartered ?
    When Frederick invited the man over to go with him on fishing trips, he knew very well that Voltaire was not one to shrink from a confrontation with power.
    Possibly Voltaire was indulging in a little ingenuousness when he wrote: “On n’avait point encore vu de procès criminel dans une académie des sciences“. On the other hard, possibly he thought Frederick might find a less autocratic way to settle differences as to priority in the proposal of new ideas.
    It might just be that everybody was enjoying themselves enormously, being ulcéré, anéanti and outrageous by turns. It was a great century of great men, so unlike the pamby pundits of today.

  93. Trond Engen says:

    didn’t know goats had diphtongs.
    I’ve never seen a goat use any sort of tongs, actually.
    I meant to suggest that Dryden’s Rome was like his room (hot, smelling and messy, according to his mother).
    Though not the dry den most of us imagine, he really wasn’t shad well.
    It was a great century of great men, so unlike the pamby pundits of today.
    M-W: Namby Pamby, nickname given to Ambrose Philips
    First Known Use: 1741

  94. Yes, pambits didn’t fare well in the 18C.

  95. Isn’t that Samuel Johnson?
    Ouch! Obviously I can’t keep these eighteenth-century heroic-coupleteers straight.

  96. Bill Walderman says:

    @ John Cowan: Thanks for the Swinburne! I’ve got to read that whole poem.

  97. Trond: Rom as in “rooms for rent”?

  98. Here’s the OED on the pronunciation of Rome:

    From the early 18th cent. onwards the spelling Rome is usual, but for later currency of the pronunciation /ruːm/ compare e.g. the rhyme in quot. 1711 at sense 1a. This pronunciation is recorded in various editions of J. Walker Crit. Pronouncing Dict. until 1862; for further evidence of 19th-cent. currency compare:
    1866 N. & Q. 8 Dec. 456/1 In my early days I was taught that Room was the genteel, and therefore proper, pronunciation for the capital of Italy.
    1899 W. D. Geddes Mem. J. Geddes iii. 53 The Fourth Canto of Childe Harold, as dealing with Rome, or, as he invariably called it, ‘Room’, in the old Shakesperian pronunciation, was a special favourite.

    This pronunciation survived in regional speech into the 20th cent. (compare quots. 1873, 1909 at sense 2a; Sc. National Dict. (at Room) records the pronunciation /rum/ as still in use in Banffshire in 1968). It shows the regular reflex of Middle English long close ō, in turn reflecting Old English ō. By contrast, the modern standard pronunciation was influenced by the pronunciation of the Latin and Italian forms of the place name.

    Here are the Scots quotations cited above:

    1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 54 The Kirk o’ Englan’ ‘s rinnin’ aff tae Roome, I’m tauld, helter skelter, amon’ a blaze o’ caunels‥an’ incense.
    1909 J. Tennant Jeannie Jaffray 13 Pavin’ the road for’s back to Room an’ the days fan [i.e. when] the country wis subjec’ to ecclesiastic rule.

    Another example of a word borrowed from Latin and then reborrowed from a modern Romance language is cell ‘monk’s cell’ < L cella. If this had survived, it would be pronounced and spelled chell today, but it was replaced by MidF celle > ModF cellule.

  99. “Had Cain been Scot, God would have chang’d his doom,
    Not forc’t him wander, but confin’d him home.”
    John Cleveland, The Rebel Scot (1647)

  100. We should tell the prescriptivists they need to start peeving about this modern error, brought on by the usual ignorance and laziness. If we let people say /ro:m/ instead of /ru:m/, next thing you know they’ll be grunting at each other in unintelligible monosyllables.

  101. Bathrobe says:

    I guess this doesn’t have anything to do with the Romania/Rumania alternation….

  102. Et rom is “a room” (Et rom med utsikt is A Room With A View), but rom is also space, in all its English meanings.
    Romerike is the name of a district near Oslo, whereas Romerriket (pronounced approximately the same, or completely the same if you’re me) means “the Roman Empire”. This has given me several opportunities for jokes at the expense of the Romerikians.

  103. And of course Rūm was the Arabic name for the Byzantine Empire (as we call it today; it called itself the Roman Empire), and remained the name (Sultanate of Rum) for the region that is now Turkey even after the Byzantines had been driven out by the Turks, which is why Rumi (whose actual name was Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī) is called that.

  104. Crown: I figured that much out; I was trying to understand why there would be Rom signs everywhere. I’m still mystified: why would there be fingerposts saying “Space”?

  105. Romerike: The Final Frontier.

  106. Trond Engen says:

    JC: Rom as in “rooms for rent”?
    Yes, stayover for travellers as extra income. I’ve spent many a night in kårstuer and sokkelleiligheter along the main roads.
    AJP: rom is also space, in all its English meanings
    Yes, verdensrommet “the world space” = “outside the atmosphere of the Earth; the universe”. The Swedes make a distinction with rymden “~ the roomness” = “verdensrommet”.
    Romerike is the name of a district near Oslo

    Klokkene på Ringerike ringer ikke. Derfor må Ringerike flytte til Romerike. Men Romerike rommer ikke Ringerike. Derfor må Ringerike bli hvor det er.

  107. It means “Room for rent”, in American. They do it a lot in the countryside in the summer.
    “Do you have any room in your car?” means the same as “Do you have space in your car?”, and “a room” and “a space” (eg. a loft) are almost the same in English too. We’d just never use “outer room” for outer space, as the Norwegians do.

  108. Klokkene på Ringerike ringer ikke. Derfor må Ringerike flytte til Romerike. Men Romerike rommer ikke Ringerike. Derfor må Ringerike bli hvor det er.
    That’s a good one, Trond! I’m going to torture my family with it all evening.

  109. And of course Rūm was the Arabic name for the Byzantine Empire
    Christian Arabs in Israel who follow the Greek Orthodox rite will respond Rūm if asked to name their religion.

  110. “a room” and “a space” (eg. a loft) are almost the same in English too.
    Except that a lofty person does not let rooms to strangers.

  111. …something about “when they’re space out they might”.

  112. Trond Engen says:

    They do it a lot in the countryside in the summer.
    Yeah, I was being too restrictive. I lost touch with the countryside when I became a grown man without a driver’s licence married to a licenced woman with no inclination towards car tourism.
    Hat: And of course Rūm was the Arabic name for the Byzantine Empire.
    Paul O: Christian Arabs in Israel who follow the Greek Orthodox rite will respond Rūm if asked to name their religion.
    In my Father’s house are many Rūms

  113. Lebensraum vs living room

  114. You’re right ! The German public misunderstood all those Nazi messages about Das Volk ohne Raum and Deutschland braucht Lebensraum. What was meant was simply that every household needed more space in the living room so the Hausfrau would not have the family under foot in the kitchen while she made Strudel.

  115. And how ironic that they wanted more space when they were all living in those huge prewar apartments with the nine-foot ceilings.

  116. 9-foot is a fairly average ceiling for that period. Most altbau in Vienna is 12′ to 15′. Still, from reading Doeblin or Brecht I always imagine pre-war Germans living crowded into fetid basements or in rented rooms above the kneipe.

  117. Still, from reading Doeblin or Brecht I always imagine pre-war Germans living crowded into fetid basements or in rented rooms above the kneipe.
    That’s also my impression.
    I live in an unprepossessing Altbau with 9-foot ceilings, and puzzle over how I could use that topspace as part of my Lebensraum without turning the rooms into cubbyholes. At present I am considering building one or two contractible, cylinder-shaped, cloth-covered structures like slinkies for my clothes
    I want these slinkies to contract as I pull them up (using ropes or pullies) towards the ceiling, where they are to look like modern art – something like Beuys’ Fettecke in color. However, I have the definite feeling I am out of my depth here – for instance, how will I prevent the slinkies from tilting, and dumping my underwear on the heads of guests ?
    I also considered lifting the bed to the ceiling, where is would become a Bettecke instead of a Fettecke. I hesitate to ask Crown’s advice, ever since it came out in one of these comment threads that he charges uptown fees. Also, I am not eager to lift my laundry in public.

  118. Most altbau in Vienna is 12′ to 15′.
    Residential? That seems awfully high, the New York norm is 9′ to 9′-6″. Are the numbers available somewhere or is it a guess based on your experience? I’d be very interested to see, if it’s published.

  119. I didn’t know about the Fettecke, so I looked it up. Here is the beginning of the German Wikipedia article:
    Die Fettecke war ein Kunstwerk des deutschen Künstlers Joseph Beuys. Beuys brachte am 28. April 1982, zwecks eines für den kommenden Tag vorgesehenen Empfangs von Lama Sogyal Rinpoche, dem Bevollmächtigten des Dalai Lamas in Europa, bei dem im Anschluss ein Seminar der FIU stattfand, in einer Ecke seines Ateliers Raum 3 in der Düsseldorfer Kunstakademie, ca. zwei Meter unterhalb der Raumdecke, fünf Kilogramm Butter an.
    The second sentence must have King Frederick turning in his grave.

  120. The second sentence makes me rotate while still alive. It is a good example of bad, stuffy civil-servant prose.
    Thomas Bernhard occasionally employed these parodies of prose for hypnotic effect, for instance at the beginning of Das Kalkwerk, as I recall. In Watt, Beckett imitated stately Proustian sentences in English by the liberal use of commas.

  121. I just read the article. Someone is having a bit of high-class fun with the reader with that second sentence, which is unlike any other there. I wondered why I thought of Bernhard, now I know why. It’s a sort of “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan” jokey-poo.

  122. Far from revolving Joseph Beuys is an artist Frederick would probably have supported had their lifespans overlapped.

  123. From what considerations do you say that ?

  124. Fred liked art and kept up to date with what went on. Were he alive today he would have bought work by Gerhard Richter, Hanne Darboven, Beuys and his student Anselm Kiefer. Of them all Beuys has the biggest name; in fact he’s been the most influential German artist since the war, his Fluxus work being based on his experience in a crash in Russia when he was in the Luftwaffe.

  125. A trickier piece of speculation is to ask what kind of work Joseph Beuys might have done had he too lived in the 18C.

  126. A trickier piece of speculation is to ask what kind of work Joseph Beuys might have done had he too lived in the 18C.
    An imposing palace, built from hard fats and called Fredecke [Fred's corner].

  127. Are the numbers available somewhere or is it a guess based on your experience?
    Just based on my apartment, and the others I have seen in the neighborhood. These would be the residential buildings erected between 1870-1910, the interwar buildings probably are closer to 9′.

  128. the interwar buildings probably are closer to 9′
    That’s more like New York. My guess is that the Karl Marx-Hoff has lower ceilings, but I could be wrong. It’s funny that wall heights shrank as people became taller.

  129. bruessel says:

    A pedant writes: Karl-Marx-Hof.

  130. Well, here’s what it says on the “Talk” page at the English Wikipedia:

    I visited this building today and it’s definitely called the Karl Marx-Hof, with no hyphen between Karl and Marx. I saw it on several signs, including the one on the front of the building. I know all the Google references give it as Karl-Marx-Hof, but none of them seem to be Austrian and it seems they are all wrong. Intelligent Mr Toad (talk) 13:42, 6 June 2008 (UTC)
    Yes, even the one in the picture on this article says so. –DerRichter (talk) 17:00, 6 June 2008 (UTC)
    The German-language article is also written as Karl-Marx-Hof. That doesn’t make it correct of course, just noting it…. Klausness (talk) 10:48, 7 June 2008 (UTC)

    So I went with Mr Toad, but I don’t know if it’s an Austrian thing or a Karl Marx-Hoff thing.

  131. (By “Karl Marx-Hoff thing”, I mean an eccentric preference of the building management.)

  132. The Austrian socialists call it “Karl-Marx-Hof”.
    http://www.dasrotewien.at/karl-marx-hof.html
    But I agree that even in Austria the hypen seems to come and go, so pedants should be careful about how much they want to invest in this issue.

  133. So I went with Mr Toad
    Well, except for the double f.
    /copyeditor

  134. bruessel says:

    Well yes, I wouldn’t have written just because of the hyphen, it’s the Hoff that I felt could not be left uncorrected, and repeating it doesn’t help. Are you a fan of David Hasselhoff?

  135. Blimey, it must be a subconscious compulsion to ‘improve’ the German; I remember looking, and thinking, I must be sure not to put a double-f.

  136. Trond Engen says:

    AJP Kgl. Hoffleverandør.

  137. The Scottish ballad “Edward, Edward” uses world’s room in much the same sense as verdensrommet above:

    And what wul ye leive to your bairns and your wife,
         Edward, Edward?
    And what wul ye leive to your bairns and your wife,
    Whan ye gang ovir the sea, O?
    The warldis room, late them beg thrae life,
         Mither, mither,
    The warldis room, let them beg thrae life,
    For thame nevir mair wul I see, O.

  138. Man, in an end note to the Clark book I thought I’d found one of the all-time weird names, William Flardle Moneypenny George Earl Buckle, author of The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield (new and revised edn, 2 vols. New York, 1920). But a little googling informed me that it’s actually two separate authors, William Flavelle Monypenny and George Earle Buckle. Too bad, I liked “Flardle.”

  139. It’s a well-known (in England) early biography that we had to read parts of at school. Buckle took the job when Monypenny died. Buckle was editor of The Times. According to Wikipedia, Monypenny spelled his surname both ways.

  140. Monypenny spelled his surname both ways.
    I’m sorry, that’s just too eccentric for me. This isn’t the Elizabethan age, for God’s sake.

  141. According to wiki, the two ways he spelled it are Monypenny and Monypeny, not Moneypenny. And it appears that he was serially mononymous: dropped one for the other at a certain point.

  142. Thanks, Ø. I’m sorry I’m so careless. I think it’s because I skim. As partial compensation let me share these Wiki-facts:
    1. Buckle was only 29 when he was made editor of The Times. Well done, Buckle.
    2. Guess who Buckle’s father-in-law, James Payn, followed as editor of Cornhill Magazine? Don’t know? Mr X wrote a biographical introduction to Payn’s posthumously published work, The Backwater of Life (1899), a book that revealed much of Payn’s own personality in a mood of kindly, sensible reflection upon familiar topics. Still don’t know? Well…it was…Sir Leslie Stephen, father of…yes…Virginia Woolf, who we were just discussing!!!

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