Salammbô.

Many years ago, when I was going through a Flaubert phase, I read his novel Salammbô; as I was living in New Haven at the time, I used to go up on West Rock and pretend I was looking down on Carthage from the Byrsa hill, imagining where the various areas mentioned would be. I used to wonder where the heroine’s name came from, and now I have a good idea, thanks to this passage at the very end of Stanislav Segert’s “Crossing the Waters: Moses and Hamilcar,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 53, No. 3 (1994), pp. 195-203 (JSTOR):

A final note on the name of the heroine whose name is the title of the novel, Salammbô: according to ancient sources, the name attested in Greek as Salambō and in Latin as Salambo referred to a Babylonian goddess, the equivalent of Aphrodite or Venus. The last part of this form of the name is shortened from the divine name Baal (Phoenician bʿl), as in the feminine name preserved in a Latin inscription, ANNIBONI, corresponding to Punic ḥnbʿʿ, a shortened form of the famous name ḥnbʿl, Hannibal, used for both males and females. The first component /šalam-/ may also refer to the word for “peace” but, more probably, corresponds to the once-attested Punic name šlmbʿl and the name containing the same elements bʿlšlm. It should thus be interpreted as “(the god) Dusk (is) (my?) Lord,” which is analogous to the Phoenician name šḥrbʿl, “(the god) Dawn is (my) Lord.”

A footnote mentions that Flaubert’s original name for the novel was Carthage. (Thanks, Paul!)

Comments

  1. marie-lucie says:

    I read the novel as a teenager and probably missed a lot of what was going on. Some time later, my sister and I saw the film – probably a Franco-Italian coproduction (as were many films with a “peplum” theme at the time), and we laughed as we correctly guessed some of the very predictable language which would come out of the mouths of the actors. The film also featured a happy ending!

    Carthage as a title might have given the impression that the book was a work of history rather than fiction.

    I read somewhere that Flaubert seemed prescient, describing details which were not known at the time but which were later confirmed by archeologists.

  2. In college (early ’70s) I found an old (late 19c?) multi-volume English translation of works of Flaubert on the shelf of the college library (St. John’s, Annapolis) that included (as I recall) a whole volume of Flaubert answering objections from specialists about niggling little details of the historical and archaeological background of Salammbo. It was (again: as I recall) incredibly detailed, and it looked like he was outpedanting the most pedantic professors. Two questions:

    1. Does this ring a bell with anyone here? Have I remembered it right? It would be an interesting book to read, and I’m not likely to be in Annapolis any time in the next six months.

    2. Will ‘outpedanting’ get me into the next revision of the OED? (Probably not: I suspect that someone has already used it, illustrating the very meaning of the word by doing so.)

  3. Only a few ghits for outpedanting, the oldest of which is from Adrian De Hoog’s 2007 novel Borderless Deceit: “She described it with humour, laughing heartily when she described the standard international negotiator – a pedant outpedanting other pedants.” I also found a translation of Beaumarchais’s play The Marriage of Figaro by John Wood, in which Figaro says, “As for this pedant, I’ll out-pedant him; if he’s for talking Latin I’ll talk Greek and wipe the floor with him.” The corresponding French is “à pédant, pédant et demi; qu’il s’avise de parler latin, j’y suis grec; je l’extermine.” (Google Books dates this to 1964, but the publisher’s website to 1976; both might be wrong.)

  4. From p. 47 of Borderless Deceit by Adrian De Hoog (Breakwater Books, 2007): “She described it with humour, laughing heartily when she described the standard international negotiator – a pedant outpedanting other pedants.”

    [Beaten to the punch by JC!]

  5. Beaten to the punch, or outgoogled, as we say today.

  6. Generals ‘gainst generals google – gracious God!

  7. Zealously, zanies, zealously, zeal’s zest.

  8. Google seems to have killed advanced search for Google Groups, making Usenet research next to impossible in most cases, but I did find a use of “out-pedant” from talk.bizarre in 1993: “but can gorko the punisher out-pedant my ex?”

  9. marie-lucie says:

    a translation of Beaumarchais’s play The Marriage of Figaro by John Wood, in which Figaro says, “As for this pedant, I’ll out-pedant him; if he’s for talking Latin I’ll talk Greek and wipe the floor with him.” The corresponding French is “à pédant, pédant et demi; qu’il s’avise de parler latin, j’y suis grec; je l’extermine.”

    Not a bad translation, or rather adaptation. More literally:

    à pédant, pédant et demi

    The phrase pattern à X, X et demi literally “given X, X and a half” is found especially in the archaic saying à malin, malin et demi: Malin means something like “nastily clever” (the Devil was often called le Malin), so the connotation is ‘a clever crook gets bested by a cleverer one’. The pattern can be used with other adjectives or nouns, as in à malheur, malheur et demi ‘a misfortune never occurs alone – a worse one is sure to follow’.

    qu’il s’avise de parler latin, …

    Lit. ‘let him get the idea of speaking Latin …’

    je l’extermine

    ‘I destroy him’ (like vermin).

    What is the date of the translation? Was “wipe the floor with him” in common usage in 18C English?

  10. It’s from 1964. The OED’s first citation for the phrase in this sense is from the Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) for Jan. 4, 1887: “Two brothers wipe up the floor with a Missouri newspaper man.”

  11. 1964 or possibly 1976, as I noted above.

    All translations of plays are more or less adaptations. The contemporaneous English translation by Thomas Holcroft, which was produced in London the year after the original production was finally licensed, omits the explicit reference to out-pedanting while keeping the basic situation: whether Figaro’s promise to “Marceline de Verte-allure” (or in Holcroft, “Marcelina-Jane-Maria-Angelica-Mustachio”) requires him to repay her 2000 piasters and marry her, as the plantiff has it, or whether he must repay or marry her, which is Figaro’s reading (the actual word is blotted). Instead, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Doctor Bart(h)olo, recites a series of verses purporting to prove by example that the word or might mean ‘otherwise’, ‘either’, ‘before’, ‘wherefore’, or — crucially — ‘and’; there is no counterpart for this in the original.

  12. And yet, 1976.

    A former employer of mine, a bank, estimated that one out of every two of its metadata records (not financials, but things like customer names and addresses) had at least one error.

  13. Eli Nelson says:

    Marie-Lucie, I was wondering if you could explain the pronunciation of the name in French? The doubled “mm” stood out to me, and I was wondering if it indicated a consonantal pronunciation, in contrast to the /salɑ̃bo/ I might expect if it were spelled “Salambô”. I tried listening to pronunciations recorded online, but I’m afraid my ear isn’t keen enough to be sure if I’m hearing /salɑ̃bo/, /salambo/, or even /salɑ̃mbo/.

  14. Léon Warnant, in his Dictionnaire de la prononciation française, gives only “sa-lam-bo” for the pronunciation of Salammbô.

  15. And yet, 1976.

    That’s a reprint.

  16. marie-lucie says:

    Eli: Marie-Lucie, I was wondering if you could explain the pronunciation of the name in French? The doubled “mm” stood out to me, and I was wondering if it indicated a consonantal pronunciation, in contrast to the /salɑ̃bo/ I might expect if it were spelled “Salambô”. I tried listening to pronunciations recorded online, but I’m afraid my ear isn’t keen enough to be sure if I’m hearing /salɑ̃bo/, /salambo/, or even /salɑ̃mbo/

    I don’t know if I have ever heard anyone outside of my family saying the name, but the mm definitely indicates a consonantal pronunciation, not a nasal vowel. Your recordings are probably not identical to each other, as I think all those pronunciations could occur. Personally, I think I say /salɑ̃mbo/. I would associate /salambo/ with a Southern pronunciation (which does not have nasal vowels, only sequences of vowel + nasal consonant) but /salɑ̃bo/ sounds too French (not exotic enough) since it ignores the mm.

  17. I should perhaps clarify that Léon Warnant’s Dictionnaire de la prononciation française uses IPA, even if hyphens are used to separate syllables. So his “sa-lam-bo” means /sa.lam.bo/ with a consonantal pronunciation. For many foreign names he offers both consonantal and nasalized vowel pronunciations as possibilities for the spelling “am”:
    Cambridge kɛm-bʀidʒ, pfs kɑ̃-
    Campbell kam-bɛl et kɑ̃-
    For others, he offers only consonantal pronunciations:
    Hamsun ʽam-sun
    Kamtchaka kamt-ʃat-ka
    Rampur ʀam-puːʀ
    You also get distinctions between pronunciations used for traditional names and those for more recent foreign names:
    Samson (nom biblique) sɑ̃-sɔ̃ ; (dés. un Angl.) sam-sɔn

  18. What a useful book!

  19. Eli Nelson says:

    Thank you, Marie-Lucie and Jongseong.

  20. What does pfs mean?

  21. Parfois.

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