How Do You Chew a Taste?

A couple of years ago — but just now in my belated reading of the NYRB — Lydia Davis wrote about the pleasures of translating (paywalled, I’m afraid). She begins as follows:

This past June, on a trip to France, I was taken by French friends for a wine-tasting in the small Burgundian town of Beaune, south of Dijon. During the wine-tasting, we were at one point instructed to mâchez le vin—I can’t remember now whether this was while we still held the wine in our mouths, or after we had swallowed or spat it out. Now, when this word was spoken, I became instantly alert, my translator-antennae going up: using the verb mâcher, “chew,” for something that you can’t actually chew was a problem I had spent several hours on during my translating of Madame Bovary. The word occurs in a passage near the beginning of the novel, when Charles Bovary, at least, is still happy in his marriage, and Emma is not yet obviously restless or unhappy. This passage very well illustrates Flaubert’s antiromanticism:

Et alors, sur la grande route qui étendait sans en finir son long ruban de poussière, par les chemins creux où les arbres se courbaient en berceaux, dans les sentiers dont les blés lui montaient jusqu’aux genoux, avec le soleil sur ses épaules et l’air du matin à ses narines, le coeur plein des félicités de la nuit, l’esprit tranquille, la chair contente, il s’en allait ruminant son bonheur, comme ceux qui mâchent encore, après dîner, le goût des truffes qu’ils digèrent.

This was how I translated it:

And then, on the road stretching out before him in an endless ribbon of dust, along sunken lanes over which the trees bent like an arbor, in paths where the wheat rose as high as his knees, with the sun on his shoulders and the morning air in his nostrils, his heart full of the joys of the night, his spirit at peace, his flesh content, he would ride along ruminating on his happiness, like a man continuing to chew, after dinner, the taste of the truffles he is digesting.

I like to reproduce the word order, and the order of ideas, of the original whenever possible.

So far so good, but she goes on to say that mâcher was a problem: “But how do you chew a taste?”

What I did not do, during the wine-tasting in Beaune — a cause for some lost sleep once I returned — was ask the professional who was assisting us, on our tour, just how he translates mâcher into English, for English-speaking visitors. Later, I discovered that the equivalent in the wine-tasting would is indeed “chew” — but would it have ever occurred to me to look to a wine buyers’ guide for help with my Flaubert translation?

To which I respond: why the hell not? I’m not sure if she’s saying she deliberately doesn’t consult specialist sources when she’s translating or it just slips her mind, but of someone who has said she doesn’t read the book she’s going to translate, she just starts from page one, I can believe anything.

Comments

  1. Well, she might start on page N and translate it backwards, sentence by sentence, I suppose.

  2. ceux qui mâchent encore, après dîner, le goût des truffes qu’ils digèrent — the phrase seems as strikingly strange, yet perfectly apposite in context, in French as in English translation. Why would anyone agonize over translating it literally?

  3. I don’t know; I certainly wouldn’t.

  4. Agonize, I mean; I just realized my ambiguity.

  5. I think, it never occurred to her to check wine-tasting vocab when the book referred to food.

  6. [Speaking as someone whose lifetime translation earnings amount to €10] I can see some merit in doing a first pass “blind”, as long as you accept that every word will have been replaced by revision 3.

  7. Surely the image is about cows and cud, not wine…. so it’s not about chewing, really, it’s about re-chewing. I don’t think there are a lot of words for that in either language.

    …”savor” comes to mind as a possible English substitute for “chew” in that passage. There’s a past-tense thoughtfulness to savoring something that isn’t implicit in chewing or tasting.

  8. 17th century Russian had expression “drink tobacco”.

    Never figured out how exactly it was supposed to be drunk.

    And pretty sure they didn’t mean hookah either

  9. Funnily enough, they also used “smoke wine”, but it just was a weird way to describe producing of wine, not consuming it.

  10. It is especially funny when both expressions are encountered together – as in a sermon I’ve read once condemning sinful people who “smoke wine and drink tobacco”.

    In Soviet Russia….

  11. Japanese has “drink tobacco” as well, not sure about other Asian languages but I’d guess it’s common…

  12. Drink tobacco

    Chewing tobacco and swallowing saliva?

  13. “Drink tobacco” is also an English verb, in the OED under transitive sense 5.

    But speaking of odd foody things, the Elizabethan poet John Davies of Hereford (not the same man as his more famous contemporary Sir John Davies) wrote a sonnet titled, “The Author Loving These Homely Meats Specially, viz.: Cream, Pancakes, Buttered Pippin Pies (Laugh, Good People) and Tobacco; Writ to that Worthy and Virtuous Gentlewoman, whom he Calleth Mistress, as Followeth.” The poem is in The Penguin Book of the Sonnet and a pippin is an apple or (more generally) a fruit containing seeds, or pips. But what would a buttered apple pie be?

  14. not sure about other Asian languages

    Mongolian has “pull tobacco”.

    Not quite sure about mechanics of that “pulling” either.

  15. Presumably it’s much like taking a drag of a cigarette?

  16. Butter Pippin: a variety of apple. There are a number of traditional varieties of apple and pear with Butter in the name

  17. I wonder whether Mongolian was calqued from Chinese, which also has “pull tobacco” (chouyan 抽菸/抽煙) in modern standard Mandarin.

    Cantonese has “suck tobacco” (kap1 jin1 吸煙), which also works in Mandarin; as well as “eat tobacco” (sik6 jin1 食煙), which doesn’t.

    In Japanese, “drink tobacco” (tabako wo nomu タバコを喫む) is somewhat old-fashioned. These days you are more likely to hear “suck tobacco” (tabako wo suu タバコを吸う).

    Korean has dambae-reul piuda. The meanings of piuda range from “blossoming” to “giving off a smell”, but I’m not sure which of these is most directly evoked by the usage in relation to tobacco.

  18. David Eddyshaw says:

    You drink tobacco in Hausa too; but then in Hausa you drink anything that isn’t positively chewy (fruit, for example.)

  19. David Eddyshaw says:

    And in Kusaal, too, you drink tobacco (nu taba); very likely calqued from Hausa, though.

  20. You also ‘drink’ medicine in Japanese and Mongolian but ‘eat’ it in Chinese.

    In some “dialects” in the south of China the same verb is used for eating and drinking.

  21. David Eddyshaw says:

    The semantic range of ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ words seems to vary a lot outside SAE, as with the liquid/solid dividing line being in a different place in Hausa.

    Kusaal nu seems to match English ‘drink’ fairly closely, apart from drinking tobacco; but onb ‘chew’ gets used pretty often where English would just say ‘eat’, and the basic word for ‘eat’, di, has lots of metaphorical uses, e.g. ‘marry (a wife)’, ‘assume (a chieftaincy)’, ‘experience (dishonour.)’

  22. Where do people draw the eat/drink line in English? In particular, what do you do with soup? I’d say you eat it if you’re using a bowl and spoon, and if you’re consuming it from a mug you drink it.

  23. But what would a buttered apple pie be?

    I would say it’s a pie containing buttered apples – apples slowly cooked with sugar and spices until they have a soft and creamy texture (hence the name; no actual butter is involved). We call this “stewed apples” but apple butter or buttered apples are alternative names. And a Butter Pippin is presumably a variety of apple that’s particularly good for making apple butter out of.

  24. English has the ruminant metaphor ‘to chew it over’ meaning to analyse. What’s the problem? Chewing is an action of the mouth; it’s not about solids, liquids or gases any more than snorting (inhaling through the nose) is.

  25. Mongolian has “pull tobacco”.

    And so does Tatar:
    https://classes.ru/all-tatar/dictionary-russian-tatar-term-14123.htm

  26. David Marjanović says:

    In Soviet Russia….

    …tobacco smokes YOU! Your lungs, certainly.

    Where do people draw the eat/drink line in English? In particular, what do you do with soup? I’d say you eat it if you’re using a bowl and spoon, and if you’re consuming it from a mug you drink it.

    That’s my SAE habit.

  27. [Anonymous; 16th-century English]

    A Religious Use of Taking Tobacco

    The Indian weed witherèd quite,
    Green at morn, cut down at night,
    Shows thy decay;
    All flesh is hay:
    Thus think, then drink tobacco.

    And when the smoke ascends on high,
    Think thou behold’st the vanity
    Of worldly stuff,
    Gone with a puff:
    Thus think, then drink tobacco.

    But when the pipe grows foul within,
    Think of thy soul defiled with sin.
    And that the fire
    Doth it require:
    Thus think, then drink tobacco.

    The ashes that are left behind,
    May serve to put thee still in mind
    That into dust
    Return thou must:
    Thus think, then drink tobacco.

  28. pull tobacco

    Finnish has vetää henkonen ‘to pull a breath (of tobacco, etc.)’ which seems like a natural enough expression; I wonder if they went through this in Mongolian.

    Fi. vetää has however also ended up with a general colloquial sense ‘consume anything in copious quantities’ (tobacco, alcohol, food, antibiotics, books…); even a videogame sense ‘to grind through, speedrun’, though I think at least that has a distinct path of development from the consumables.

    ‘Chew’ metaphorically as ‘to dwell on’ seems fairly common.

  29. In Irish you “pass (as a day, my life, a place, etc.), practice, make a custom of; use; wear (as clothes, etc.); carry (as a stick, etc.); consume, waste, wear away; spend; eat, drink; take part in (as a festival, etc.); shed; throw, hurl, fling, cast; shoot” tobacco

    We call this “stewed apples” but apple butter or buttered apples are alternative names.

    In my family it’s “stewed apple”; is this an AmE/BrE difference like “mashed potato[es]”?

  30. I have heard or read of wines being called “chewy.” It seems that this in an extension of the metaphors that speak of wines having structure or body, as opposed to wines that are thin or flabby.

    From the Wine Spectator website:
    The “chewy” sensation comes in dense, big or full-bodied wines, where there’s a fleshy, thick texture to the wine that feels like you almost need to chew the wine before swallowing. I sometimes find myself actually making a chewing motion while tasting a chewy wine, so using the term comes very organically to me.
    https://www.winespectator.com/drvinny/show/id/41167

  31. Turkish: you drink tobacco, soup, and aspirin.

    How does one shower in other languages? Do you ‘do’ a shower? ‘Take’ a shower [as in English]? ‘Enter’ a shower?

  32. David Marjanović says:

    We’ve verbed it: duschen.

    And formerly brausen, but the Nazis touched that one, so it’s gone.

  33. Russians hear odors, too. So maybe they’re synaesthetic.

  34. David Eddyshaw says:

    In Hausa, gani is “see”, and ji is “hear”, “smell”, “taste” and “feel”; Kusaal nye is “see”, and wum is “hear” and “smell” (but not “feel” or “taste.”)

  35. > tabako wo nomu タバコを喫む

    Yeah, I’ve been wondering why Japanese (used to) use /nomu/. Googling, people don’t seem to have a clue either.

    It’s annoyingly hard to Google for this kind of stuff for Japanese, because people tend to resort to the primacy-of-kanji-fallacy and explain how there’s a (Sino-Japanese) noun 喫煙 /kitsueN/, and 喫 is used in 喫む /nomu/, hence it’s /nomu/. (In the “drink” sense, /nomu/ is usually written 飲む.) But it’s highly likely to be the other way around. You used /nomu/ for smoking, hence 喫 was given a /nomu/ reading.

  36. It’s not that English is a stranger to pulling on (a pipe, a cigarette) either:

    “Paradise is gone,” Mr. Stewart, 66, said, pulling on a cigarette. “There’s nothing to go back to.”

  37. 喫 is used in 喫む /nomu/

    And there is 服む, and a few others, too:

    https://blog.goo.ne.jp/kusuritowaraeba/e/4cafef890ef8580cd3db1333fbec4674

  38. As far as I know, 喫 and Chinese 吃 (‘eat’) are variants. So presumably 喫茶店 is a place where you ‘喫 tea’. I’m guessing that this is a southern usage in China…?

  39. “No smoking” in a number of languages:

    http://www.onepagephrasebook.com/?language=56&say=92

    (At least Kazakh is also a puller.)

  40. Chewing is an action of the mouth; it’s not about solids, liquids or gases any more than snorting (inhaling through the nose) is.

    Really? So you could chew with an empty mouth? (Also: inhaling isn’t about gases?) And I am not sure that snorting is necessarily inhaling. Blowing out sharply through the nose is also snorting. Think of that thing horses do or that you do when you’re trying to suppress a laugh.

  41. Bathrobe: As far as I know, 喫 and Chinese 吃 (‘eat’) are variants. So presumably 喫茶店 is a place where you ‘喫 tea’.

    This is true in modern Mandarin, where 吃 and 喫 are treated as variant graphs for chī “eat” (and archaic/regional “drink”). However, they originally represented different words. Up to the Tang dynasty, the word meaning “eat/drink/consume” (Middle Chinese khek) was written as 喫. The character吃 represented a different word meaning “stutter/stammer” (Middle Chinese kit). In some forms of Mandarin, the two words became homophonous, and the characters began to be treated as interchangeable variants.

    But the resulting situation can be quite confusing. In modern Taiwanese Mandarin, 吃 is used to write both the “eat/drink/consume” and “stutter/stammer” meanings, but the former is pronounced chī and the latter is pronounced : the distinct etymologies are preserved in pronunciation even though the orthographic distinction has been mostly abandoned. (In modern PRC Mandarin, things are simpler, since both meanings are pronounced chi.)

    In Japanese, the usage of 吃 as a variant of喫 is listed in kanji dictionaries, but in Japanese writing 吃 (kun’yomi: domoru) is used for “stutter”, while喫 (kun’yomi: nomu, kurau, etc.) is used for “consume”. The Zen monk Myōan Eisai’s Treatise on Drinking Tea and Nurturing Life (Kissa yōjōki 喫茶養生記, 1214) is a prominent early example of the latter. But the familiar kissaten 喫茶店 for “coffee shop” seems to have originated in the early 20th century.

  42. kissaten 喫茶店 for “coffee shop”

    This is probably culturally East Asian thing.

    Eg, English “coffee break” is translated into Mongolian as “tea break”.

  43. Or into BrE “tea break”.

  44. OK, the Brits are culturally East Asian then

  45. And then there is fika:

    http://www.swedishfood.com/fika

  46. Fi. vetää has however also ended up with a general colloquial sense ‘consume anything in copious quantities’ (tobacco, alcohol, food, antibiotics, books…)

    In English, “inhale” is sometimes used that way.

  47. @ Ro: “Shower” in Spanish follows suit set by “wash” (lavar) and “bathe” (bañar): duchar(se)

  48. Lars (the original one) says:

    Danish tage et (bruse)bad, Swedish duscha. So Danish uses the same construction as English, while Swedish borrows the English word…

  49. while Swedish borrows the English word

    You mean the French word.

  50. @J Pystynen: In videogame parlance, grind and speedrun are essentially antonyms, so does that word really mean both?

  51. In a few more words, I’d gloss that sense as ‘to complete (a level, etc.) regardless of speed, but while knowing what you’re doing’; so maybe not the sense of “grinding XP” per se as much as usage like “grinding yourself to midgame”. (The term “powerrun” would be preferrable here really, but I believe that’s not very widely known.)

    In Finnish showers are “visited” (käydä suihkussa).

  52. Trond Engen says:

    In Norwegian you can ta en dusj or dusje. You can also ta et bad or bade. The two constructions aren’t completely interchangeable, but the difference is vague and may owe more to idiomatic use than lexical meaning. If pressed I’d say the forms with ta can convey a casual approach and the single verb thoroughness and planned effort. Jeg tar en dusj når jeg har tid “I take a shower when I have time” but Jeg dusjer alltid etter gymtimen “I always shower after PE class”.

  53. David Marjanović says:

    German has baden and ein Bad nehmen, too, but it’s the latter that is literary and suggests considerable preparation that does not occur with a shower.

    Brausebad, BTW, survived for a good long while for public showers as part of a public bath. 20 years ago there was at least one still operational in Vienna.

  54. @J Pystynen: I don’t remember hearing power run before, although its meaning seems (probably) transparent. It does have to be an open compound in English though, to avoid the double letter

    @David Marjanović: I have always been impressed by how similarly the German verb nehmen and English take are used. Like how English undertaking is German unternehmen.

  55. John Cowan says:

    Don’t be surprised: the compound is of Proto-Germanic age and appears in all the descendant languages, except that English undernim faded out by about 1500 and was replaced by undertake, itself first appearing around 1200. This is approximately the history of nim and take themselves, except that after nim was lost as a regular word it was retained as slang: Shakespeare’s Corporal Nim owes his name to his habit of liberating French property.

  56. It had not occurred to me before, but this is clearly where the name of the mathematical game Nim comes from. According to Wikipedia, the game, which involves taking items from heaps, was named by the Harvard mathematician Charles Bouton in 1901, but the article does not make the connection to the Middle English word.

    The game of Nim is, to me, permanently associated with a joke my father made after the identity of the Unabomber was revealed. My father and Ted Kaczynski both had had former careers and mathematicians, and based on where they were and what they were working on, they almost certainly must have met. Dad joked that he remembered Kaczynski as the antisocial guy at the Harvard-MIT math colloquia who “cheated at Nim.” (Although actually, he admitted, he did not remember Kaczynski at all–as, it turned out, almost nobody did.)

  57. David Eddyshaw says:

    I imagine nim is not only of Proto-Germanic age but cognate with nemesis (neatly continuing the Kaczynski theme.) David M will know …

  58. Lars (the original one) says:

    I’m sure that when I first read about the game of Nim (probably in Martin Gardner’s column) the Old English derivation was mentioned.

    If the Scandinavian languages ever had !undirnema it’s beyond the reach of even the most archaizing registers (not in Zoega either). Nemme for ‘learn’ is in proverbs, but three derivations are very current: Zero-derived adjective nem = ‘easy’ (older also ‘quick to learn’), prefixed verb fornemme = ‘feel/sense’ (as in “I have a feeling that sth. will happen”), and (with the other for-, I think, through German) fornem = ‘noble/grand < preferrable'.

  59. The OED indeed says that nemesis is another cognate.

    It also says that the name “Nim” for the game was borrowed from German, rather than taken from archaic English, although it is not clear on what evidence this conclusion is based. Since it includes the reference for original paper in which the game was named, I looked it up, and it is free to read online.

  60. Trond Engen says:

    Also, I think, nummen “numb” < numinn “taken”. The semantic path could be through nema blóð “bleed (med.)”.

  61. Lars (the original one) says:

    @Trond, ODS agrees, and it seems E numb represents the same semantic extension “deprived of speech, feeling or movement”. Cf E taken.

    BTW you will still encounter the strong conjugation of fornemme in old texts: fornemmer/fornam/har fornummet.

  62. Brett: I have always been impressed by how similarly the German verb nehmen and English take are used. Like how English undertaking is German unternehmen.

    But don’t deliver a corpse to an Unternehmer, who isn’t an undertaker but a building contractor or possibly an entrepreneur. In Norway an entrepreneur is a building contractor and in England a building contractor is a builder. Give or take a K, an architect is always an architect.

  63. Stu Clayton says:

    Zero-derived adjective nem = ‘easy’ (older also ‘quick to learn’), prefixed verb fornemme = ‘feel/sense’ (as in “I have a feeling that sth. will happen”), and (with the other for-, I think, through German) fornem = ‘noble/grand < preferrable'.

    I’m not sure I understand that, but no matter, since it calls to mind something pertinent. There are two orthographically different but probably related “prefixes” in German: vor- and ver-, both (I surmise) related to the preposition für .

    Examples: vernehmen = hear, hear of, interrogate. Einvernehmen = accord (implicit/explicit agreement). vornehmen = undertake, decide (select) to do, vornehm = superior, vorziehen = prefer, plan for an earlier date [vorgezogene Neuwahlen = elections rescheduled to an earlier date]

  64. Trond: In Norwegian you can … ta et bad or bade. The two constructions aren’t completely interchangeable, but the difference is vague and may owe more to idiomatic use than lexical meaning.

    I’ve noticed that Norwegians are much more likely to use å bade in the sense of going for a swim than an English or American person would say they were bathing. To bathe in a pool or lake sounds Victorian or at least prewar to me. The only place I’d say I’d bathed is somewhere too shallow to swim properly: a stream, for example. A lot of people jump in the shower, which sounds very dangerous.

  65. Stu Clayton says:

    Step on a crack,
    Break your mother’s back.
    Jump in the shower,
    Slip and break your shnozzer.

  66. Stu, do you write double dactyls? I like them because they make me walk faster.

  67. Trond Engen says:

    Yes, dra og bade for “go swimming”, at least if it involves anything more than swimming in a strict sense. Thus badestrand “beach for swimming”, badeplass “site for swimming”, badeanlegg “swimming facility”. The sense probably developed through 19th century indoor and outdoor public baths.

  68. David Marjanović says:

    I have always been impressed by how similarly the German verb nehmen and English take are used. Like how English undertaking is German unternehmen.

    …I was going to say that those last two were definitely calqued independently from entreprendre (verb) ~ entreprise (noun). Given Unternehmer “entrepreneur”, maybe that’s at least half true?

    I imagine nim is not only of Proto-Germanic age but cognate with nemesis (neatly continuing the Kaczynski theme.) David M will know …

    I know of a Gothic niman, so yes, it’s of PGmc age. (I’m a bit surprised by the i in English, though. Gothic had merged *e and *i. In German, the h is not etymological, but redundantly marks the length expected in a stressed open syllable; my dialect retains the original [ɛ].)

    On nemesis I hadn’t the foggiest, but Wiktionary says νέμω means “I distribute”, which sounds about right because “give” and “take” (and “hold” and “put” and “have”…) exchange meanings all the time, at least in IE.

    (with the other for-, I think, through German) fornem = ‘noble/grand < preferrable'.

    Yup, German vornehm “noble”.

    (Although vornehmlich is a literary word for “mainly”, I have not encountered vornehm meaning “superior”.)

    Also, I think, nummen “numb” < numinn “taken”.

    Same as in English, where the b in numb is hypercorrect like the one in thumb. The semantic path seems to involve “bereft of sensation”, similar to German benommen “groggy”.

    Strong conjugation in German, too: nehmen, nahm, genommen. I cannot explain the consonant length in the past participle, but it’s there in my dialect and others, too (/nɛmɐ/, /gnʊmːɐ/ ~ /gnomːɐ/).

  69. Trond Engen says:

    This is one of those words with an inherited short stem. In nehmen and nahm the vowel is prolonged. The environment is a little different after the obligatory prefix of the participle.

  70. David Marjanović says:

    Yes, but what lengthened the consonant?

  71. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, right. I meant to suggest that the obligatory lengthening of the stressed syllable fell on the consonant instead of the vowel and that the different environment could be a conditioning factor.

  72. Lars (the original one) says:

    @Stu, those are exactly the two prefixes I mean. I’m not sure if some of this is inherited or it all came from Low German, but Danish has unstressed for- = G ver- (inseparable) and stressed for- = G vor- (separable). For instance in the tricky pair Da for’fald = E ‘dilapidation’ vs ‘forfald ~ E ‘hindrance’. (And young people nowadays should stay off my lawn until they learn the difference!)

    @DM: fornem in Danish can be used of objects (stately houses, vintage wines, etc) to denote superior quality, of the sort imagined to have been the preserve of nobility. So not cars or fashion clothing. And certainly not sneakers even though one of our ex-prinsessor has started wearing them, IN PUBLIC!

  73. David Marjanović says:

    I meant to suggest that the obligatory lengthening of the stressed syllable fell on the consonant instead of the vowel

    That just never happens elsewhere in German, except with /t/, and then probably only orthographically (I’d need to know a Swiss dialect to tell).

  74. While Donald Trump seems to fancy himself an entrepreneur, as far as many people are concerned he is probably more like an undertaker.

  75. Shakespeare’s Corporal Nim owes his name to his habit of liberating French property.

    Thank you! Very interesting. Now tell us what a bardolph is…

  76. David Marjanović says:

    I’d need to know a Swiss dialect to tell

    Ha! No, those have had a different merger that has erased the evidence just the same! Maybe there’s a South Bavarian dialect that keeps /d/, /t/ and /tː/ separate behind formerly short vowels… any Tyroleans or West Styrians in the house?

  77. @Lars: I’m not sure if some of this is inherited or it all came from Low German, but Danish has unstressed for- = G ver- (inseparable) and stressed for- = G vor- (separable). For instance in the tricky pair Da for’fald = E ‘dilapidation’ vs ‘forfald ~ E ‘hindrance’. (And young people nowadays should stay off my lawn until they learn the difference!)

    I’m thinking all Low German, since my impression is that the whole prefixing phenomenon (at least the unstressed kind) was a West Germanic invention, but I’m hoping someone can elaborate.

    I’ve tried to figure out the etymology of the two “for-“s in Danish “forfordele” (initial stress), but I give up. The traditional meaning is “to disadvantage”, but young people use it to mean “to favorize”. I really can’t blame them, that makes much more sense, since stressed “for-” (like German vor-) usually means something like “before”, and “fordele” means “to allot”. The “disadvantage” sense might have made sense with the stress on the penult.

    To make matters more confusing, I think the Danish prefix “fore-” (stressed) must be a version of stressed “for-“. For instance, the verb for ‘forfald is ‘forefalde.

  78. David Marjanović says:

    advantage: Vorteil, to disadvantage by cheating: übervorteilen… I suppose forfordele could make sense as *vervorteilen.

  79. squiffy-marie von bladet says:

    We have the elegant and dignified “bevoordelen” (to favour), which even the Dutch youth have not succeeded in misconstruing that I’m aware of.

  80. Lars (the original one) says:

    @DM, ODS gives “Older Modern High German” vervorteilen as the source, so the star is not necessary.

  81. David Marjanović says:

    Yet another reminder how long the standardization of the German vocabulary took. Just the other day I found words and idioms I hadn’t encountered (at least in Standard German) before in a scientific paper from 1920.

  82. John Cowan says:

    I’m a bit surprised by the i in English, though.

    A-umlaut (not to be confused with the i-umlaut of /a/) is a rare and sporadic process that lowers short high vowels when there is a long non-high vowel (prototypically /a/) in the following syllable. It operates more often in German, less often North Germanic and the rest of West Germanic, but e.g. accounts for *hurną > horn. However, when the short vowel is separated from the long one by nasal + consonant, a-umlaut is not only blocked (thus *hundaz > hund > hound) but goes into reverse, pulling up /e/, /o/ to /i/, /u/ (thus *swemmana > swimman > swim).

    In English, however, this reverse umlaut was extended to situations where the intervening consonant was an /m/ rather than a /NC/ cluster, hence neman > nim. And there you are.

    Now tell us what a bardolph is

    ‘Bright wolf’, cf. German Berhtolf. My fishy sources claim that it’s a borrowing, but I bet it’s a cognate.

  83. David Marjanović says:

    was extended to situations where the intervening consonant was an /m/ rather than a /NC/ cluster

    Ah, that makes sense.

    a rare and sporadic process

    Currently (e.g. in Ringe’s book), *u…a > *o…a is considered a regular sound shift of Proto-Northwest Germanic which created all kinds of morphological irregularities that were leveled in different ways in different branches, creating a new phoneme (short *o) and a huge chaos.

    goes into reverse

    *eNC > *iNC is considered (by Ringe again, though I haven’t seen any criticism) a separate process that happened already on the way to Proto-Germanic (though very late, e.g. between the Fenni of Tacitus and the Phinnoí of Ptolemaeus).

    Berhtolf

    Must be specifically OHG.

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