The journal Polylingualism and Transcultural Practices “focuses on the problems of linguistic and cultural interaction of the peoples of Russia, the CIS and the far abroad”; their About page says:

By polylingualism we mean the quality of modern culture, which does not have a concrete “frozen” form. This is a fluid mutual adaptation of multiple linguistic (and extra-linguistic) pictures of the world, transforming the global semiosphere. […] The mission (super task) of the journal is to integrate the linguistic and extralinguistic experience of specialists from different countries and scientific fields in order to develop a universal strategy for tolerant interaction between representatives of different languages ​​and cultures. The editorial board of the journal is convinced that language (both one’s own and someone else’s) can be not only a barrier, but also a bridge to comprehending another culture, mentality, and ethnic essence. Weakening the confrontational perception of the Other and the proclamation of the intrinsic value of each language and each ethnic group in a multicultural metasociety is the mission of the journal […].

A noble goal, if expressed in a jargon-laden fashion. Y, who sent me the link, singled out Steven G. Kellman’s 2019 article “Literary Translingualism: What and Why?,” whose abstract reads:

The article is devoted to a comprehensive understanding of the theory of translingualism. Its author, Professor Steven Kellman, discusses the essence of the term he proposed in the context of world literature, citing numerous examples of translingual imagination. Based on the work of writers such as Joseph Conrad, Vladimir Nabokov and others, Professor Kellman demonstrates how the mechanism of intercultural and translational interaction of linguistic and extralinguistic elements works in each individual case. The theory of translingualism enriched the cycle of the humanities (from linguistics to cultural studies, from literary criticism to philosophy) with a new popular episteme, which the editorial board gladly shares with our readers.

The theoretical stuff doesn’t impress me, but there are some intriguing details. Right off the bat, I was struck by “Germany even established an annual award — named the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize, after a nineteenth-century poet who wrote in German, not his native French — to honor writers who write in German as an adopted language.” As it happens, back in 2006 I posted a “provocative rant” by Kemal Kurt complaining about the situation in Germany:

The acceptance and reception of “authors of other mother tongues” is much different in Germany than in France and England. Here there is no tradition of this, for historically there is only one, already cited, example. The list of foreign authors living in Germany and writing in German who have found a broad readership begins with Chamisso, and it ends with Chamisso. In between: nothing.

Maybe things are changing? This passage is provocative, if speculative:

But translingualism also has an ancient pedigree. Much of classical Latin literature was created by outlanders such as Apuleius, Ausonius, Lucan, Martial, Quintillian, Seneca, and Terence — provincials who adopted the language of imperial Rome as their literary medium. Even earlier, it is quite possible that Anatolians, Carthaginians, Etruscans, and other peoples of the Mediterranean basin and Asia Minor appropriated the newly devised alphabet introduced to them by the sea-faring Phoenicians not only by adapting it to their own unlettered tongues but also by writing in Phoenician. Even earlier than that, as far back as the 23rd century B.C.E., when the first poet history knows by name, Enheduanna, the only daughter of the powerful Akkadian king Sargon, wrote in Sumerian, though her first language was probably Akkadian. Within the far-flung empires of antiquity, subjects wrote in the imperial language — Greek, Latin, Persian, Arabic, Chinese, Sanskrit — regardless of what they spoke at home. Indeed, Yasemin Yildiz [6. P. 2] argues persuasively that what she calls “the monolingual paradigm” is an historical aberration that first emerged in late-eighteenth-century Europe.

And this really surprised me:

For Rafael Sabatini, these questions were not important. Writing thirty-one novels, including popular successes such as Captain Blood, Scaramouche, and The Sea Hawk, in his sixth language, English, he did not fuss over language choice as long as he could attain a transparent style that does not call attention to itself but invites readers to lose themselves in the colorful adventures of his characters.

If I knew that about Sabatini, I’d forgotten. To compose an immortal line like “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad” in your sixth language is quite an accomplishment!


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    Much of classical Latin literature was created by outlanders such as Apuleius, Ausonius, Lucan, Martial, Quintillian, Seneca, and Terence — provincials who adopted the language of imperial Rome as their literary medium

    This is pretty silly. It’s like praising John Steinbeck for writing as a “provincial who adopted the language of the British Empire as his literary medium.” This is not a bit like Conrad writing in English, or Chamisso in German.

    Why stop at Apuleius and Terence? Catullus and Livy were both from Cisalpine Gaul. Virgil himself may well have been. Horace was born in Samnite country and his father was not Roman.

  2. Some of these were likely not L1 Latin speakers (Apuleius, Terentius). Others grew up in Roman families among another population (Kipling would be a better analogy than Steinbeck.) One can only speculate what proportion of languages they learned as children. Nothing in the record hints of any of them learning other languages from local nannies or slaves, though that must have been pretty common.

  3. David Eddyshaw says

    Terence and Apuleius may very well have been L1 Latin speakers, though admittedly we don’t really know. I concede that potentially they are indeed Conrad-adjacent, though; but perhaps more Olaudah Equiano and V S Naipaul (respectively.)

    But describing Martial, Seneca and Quintilian as “provincials who adopted the language of imperial Rome as their literary medium” shows a bizarre misunderstanding of how the Roman state actually worked, along with a projection of contemporary concepts of nationality onto Romans who would have been utterly mystified by them. It’s pretty much on a level with describing St Paul as a Turk.

    Bear in mind too that even in Italy, languages other than Latin were still spoken well into the imperial period. In Terence’s day, most Italians were not Roman citizens and didn’t speak Latin. On the other hand, Cisalpine Gaul (homeland of those foreign literary figures Catullus, Livy and Virgil) was not part of “Italy” at all until Julius Caesar made it so. It was a “province” – like Spain.

  4. David Eddyshaw says

    Admittedly, Livy was accused of “Patavinitas” by Asinius Pollio, according to Quintilian (that well-known Castilian.)

    Unfortunately it’s not clear wherein this patavinity consisted. My own favourite theory is that Pollio was actually objecting to Livy’s all-too-evident taste for “uplift.” At any rate, it’s hard to see any evidence that Latin was an L2 for Livy.

  5. Rafael Sabatini’s mother was English, and he lived part of his childhood in England. Italian may have been his L1, but he was fluent in English from childhood. It is much more likely to have been his second, not sixth, language.

    I was also struck by the appearance of “super task” in those quotes. The only meaning I know for that term is referring to a Zeno-esque situation of completing an infinite number if actions in finite time.

  6. I wouldn’t bother if the theme of the post were not “polylingualism”, but the journal mission statement has a nice collection of Russisms. “Super task” for “overarching goal”, “specialists” is ok, but “experts” better, “tolerant interaction” should probably be something else mabe simply “tolerance” and, of course, “far abroad”. There is more, but I let it pass.

  7. David Eddyshaw says

    “Super task” is much better than “overarching goal.” If I am ever placed in the horrific position of having to refer to such a thing in public, it will ease the pain at least to call it a supertask.

    I was familiar with “near/far abroad” from commentary in Western media about the Russian government’s supertasks.

  8. J.W. Brewer says

    WIkipedia says that Sabatini’s son, who died young, was formally named Rafael-Angelo but in practice nicknamed “Binkie,” which bespeaks rather full cultural assimilation into the Wodehousian variety of Englishness.

  9. Go into comments of any Youtube clip with millions of views and you’ll see polylingualism in action.

    And Instagram, TikTok, etc.

    We are already in it – people write comments in their own language with full expectation that they will be understood somehow – perhaps by using Google Translate.

  10. YouTube has the worst comment threads of any major Web site. Never get out of the boat.

  11. Threads?

    Youtube comments are not designed for arguments or flame wars.

    They are supposed to look like:

    USA here. I really wish we could bring this culture back, the wholesomeness of rural life and the joy of honest living and community. You folks always stir my heart. Keep up the great work.
    Хвала Вам за предивну животну енергију и магију – велики поздрав из Србије !!!
    Я японец и не понимаю языка, но это видео заставило меня почувствовать себя хорошо. Спасибо за веселое видео!
    Не последняя причина, по которой я люблю такие видео, это огромное количество этих теплых и душевных комментариев из разных стран, лишний раз доказывающих, что везде есть множество добрых людей, а навязанные разногласия не стоят ни малейшего внимания.
    Бразилия приветствует вас! Saudações do Brasil!
    Greetings from Poland. I love watching Russian culture.
    Со времен “Дуси-Маруси” так здорово не было, раз двадцать уже посмотрел, это какой-то самовосстанавливающийся после съедения пряник.
    Witajcie Kochani. Cudowna, radosna muzyka na bardzo wysokim poziomie. Tworzycie niesamowitą, przyjazną atmosferę na koncertach. Pozdrowienia z Polski.

  12. John Emerson says

    I once eavesdropped an internet argument in garbled English between a Korean and a Lithuanian which began with an agreement that Russians are barbarians but soon enough turned into a back and forth of racial insults.

  13. Memories of the Korean-Lithuanian War linger deep and long.

  14. John Cowan says

    Unfortunately it’s not clear wherein this patavinity consisted. My own favourite theory is that Pollio was actually objecting to Livy’s all-too-evident taste for “uplift.”

    So Robert Graves thought:

    Livy was already going away. But Pollio grinned at the retreating back and said in a loud voice for his benefit:

    “A decent fellow, Livy is, but there’s one thing wrong with him. It’s a disease called Paduanity.”

    This made Livy stop and turn round. “What’s wrong with Padua? I won’t hear a word against the place.”

    Pollio explained to me. “It’s where he was born, you know. Somewhere in the Northern Provinces. There’s a famous hot-spring there, of extraordinary properties. You can always tell a Paduan. By bathing in the water of the spring or drinking it — and I’m told that they do both things simultaneously — Paduans are able to believe whatever they like and believe it so strongly that they can make anyone else believe it. That’s how the city has got such a wonderful commercial reputation. The blankets and rugs they make there are really no better than any other sort, in fact rather inferior, because the local sheep are yellow and coarse-fleeced, but to the Paduans they are soft and white as goose-feathers. And they have persuaded the rest of the world that it’s so.”

    I said, playing up to him: “Yellow sheep! That’s a rarity. How do they get that colour, sir?”

    “Why, by drinking the spring-water. There’s sulphur in it. All Paduans are yellow. Look at Livy.”

    Livy came slowly towards us. “A joke is a joke, Pollio, and I can take it in good part. But there’s also a serious matter in question and that is, the proper writing of history. It may be that I have made mistakes. What historian is free from them? I have not, at least, told deliberate falsehoods: you’ll not accuse me of that. Any legendary episode from early historical writings which bears on my theme of the ancient greatness of Rome I gladly incorporate in the story: though it may not be true in factual detail, it is true in spirit. If I come across two versions of the same episode I choose the one nearest my theme, and you won’t find me grubbing around Etruscan cemeteries in search of any third account which may flatly contradict both — what good would that do?”

    “It would serve the cause of the truth,” said Pollio gently. “Wouldn’t that be something?”

    “And if by serving the cause of truth we admit our revered ancestors to have been cowards, liars and traitors? What then?”

    “I’ll leave this boy to answer the question. He’s just starting in life. Come on, boy, answer it!”

    I said at random: “Livy begins his history by lamenting modern wickedness and promising to trace the gradual decline of ancient virtue as conquests made Rome wealthy. He says that he will most enjoy writing the early chapters because he will be able, in doing so, to close his eyes to the wickedness of modern times. But in closing his eyes to modern wickedness hasn’t he sometimes closed his eyes to ancient wickedness as well?”

    “Well?” asked Livy, narrowing his eyes.

    “Well,” I fumbled. “Perhaps there isn’t so much difference really between their wickedness and ours. It may be just a matter of scope and opportunity.”

    Pollio said: “In fact, boy, the Paduan hasn’t made you see his sulphur fleeces as snow-white?”

    I was very uncomfortable. “I have got more pleasure from reading Livy than from any other author,” I repeated.

    “Oh, yes,” Pollio grinned, “that’s just what the old man of Cadiz said [who walked all the way to Rome to see Livy and, having seen him and saluted him, went back to Cadiz and died]. But like the old man of Cadiz you feel a little disillusioned now, eh? Lars Porsena and Scævola and Brutus and company stick in your throat?”

    “It’s not disillusion, sir. I see now, though I hadn’t considered the matter before, that there are two different ways of writing history: one is to persuade men to virtue and the other is to compel men to truth. The first is Livy’s way and the other is yours: and perhaps they are not irreconcilable.”

    “Why, boy, you’re an orator,” said Poliio delightedly.

    Sulpicius, who had been standing on one leg with his foot held in his hand, as his habit was when excited or impatient, and twisting his beard in knots, now summed up: “Yes, Livy will never lack readers. People love being ‘persuaded to ancient virtue’ by a charming writer, particularly when they are told in the same breath that modern civilization has made such virtue impossible of attainment. But mere truthtellers — ‘undertakers who lay out the corpse of history’ (to quote poor Catullus’s epigram on the noble Pollio) — people who record no more than actually occurred — such men can only hold an audience while they have a good cook and a cellar of Cyprian wine [as Livy said Pollio used to get approval].”

    This made Livy really furious. He said, “Poliio, this talk is idle. Young Claudius here has always been considered dull-witted by his family and friends but I didn’t agree with the general verdict until to-day. You’re welcome to your disciple. And Sulpicius can perfect his dullness: there’s no better teacher of dullness in Rome.” Then he gave us his Parthian shot: “Et apud Apollinem istum Pollionis Pollinctorem diutissime polleat!” Which means, though the pun is lost in Greek, “And may he flourish long at the shrine of that Undertaker Apollo of Pollio’s!” Then off he went, snorting.

    Poliio shouted cheerfully after him: “Quod certe pollicitur Poliio. Pollucibiliter pollebit puer.” (“Poliio promises you he will; the boy will flourish mightily.”)

    When we two were alone, Sulpicius having gone off to find a book, Poliio began questioning me.

    “Who are you, boy? Claudius is your name, isn’t it? You obviously come of good family, but I don’t know you.”

    “I am Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus.”

    “My God! But Livy’s right. You’re supposed to be a half-wit.”

    “Yes. My family is ashamed of me because I stammer, and I’m lame and usually ill, so I go about very little in society.”

    “But dull-witted? You’re one of the brightest young fellows I have met for years.”

    “You are very kind, sir.”

    “Not at all. By God, that was a nasty hit at old Livy about Lars Porsena. Livy has no conscience, that’s the truth. I’m always catching him out. I asked him once if he always had the same trouble as I had in finding the brass tablets he wanted among the litter of the Public Record Office. He said, ‘Oh, no trouble at all.’ And it turned out that he has never once been there to confirm a single fact! […]”

  15. Adelbert von Chamisso

    Chamisso rang a faint bell; as it turns out, there is a boulder in a bay in Tallinn:

    Rocca al Mare mõis ehitati praeguse Eesti Vabaõhumuuseumi territooriumile ning selle rajajaks oli kaupmees Arhur Girard de Soucanton. Mõisast Kopli lahele vaadates on näha üks rändrahn, millele mõisa algomanik pani nimeks Salas y Gomez. See nimi võeti kirjanik Adelbert von Chamisso luuletuse järgi, mis kirjeldab kaljusaart Polüneesia vetes.

    Google translation:
    Rocca al Mare manor was built on the territory of the current Estonian Open Air Museum and was founded by the merchant Arhur Girard de Soucanton. Looking from the manor to Kopli Bay, one can see a boulder, which the original owner of the manor named Salas y Gomez. The name was taken from a poem by the writer Adelbert von Chamisso, which describes a rocky island in Polynesian waters.

    (The versions in other languages don’t have it.)

    Chamisso took part in an expedition bankrolled by Rumyantsev:

    In 1815, Chamisso was appointed botanist to the Russian ship Rurik,[3] fitted out at the expense of Count Nikolay Rumyantsev, which Otto von Kotzebue (son of August von Kotzebue) commanded on a scientific voyage round the world.[1] He collected at the Cape of Good Hope in January 1818 in the company of Krebs, Mund and Maire.[4] His diary of the expedition (Tagebuch, 1821) is a fascinating account of the expedition to the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea. During this trip Chamisso described a number of new species found in what is now the San Francisco Bay Area. Several of these, including the California poppy, Eschscholzia californica, were named after his friend Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz, the Rurik’s entomologist. In return, Eschscholtz named a variety of plants, including the genus Camissonia, after Chamisso. On his return in 1818 he was made custodian of the botanical gardens in Berlin, and was elected a member of the Academy of Sciences, and in 1819 he married his friend Hitzig’s foster daughter Antonie Piaste (1800–1837). He became a leading member of the Serapion Brethren, a literary circle around E. T. A. Hoffmann.

    In 1827, partly for the purpose of rebutting the charges brought against him by Kotzebue, he published Views and Remarks on a Voyage of Discovery, and Description of a Voyage Round the World. Both works display great accuracy and industry. His last scientific labor was a tract on the Hawaiian language. Chamisso’s travels and scientific researches restrained for a while the full development of his poetical talent, and it was not until his forty-eighth year that he turned back to literature. In 1829, in collaboration with Gustav Schwab, and from 1832 in conjunction with Franz von Gaudy, he brought out the Deutscher Musenalmanach, in which his later poems were mainly published.

    Kotzebue has made an appearance here.

  16. How often can researches (pl.) be seen in the wild?

  17. In Late 18th and 19th century formal English, researches is quite standard. Later it’s an affectation but not extinct. I imagine it’s a gallicism.

  18. Eschscholzia californica, the California poppy, is the California state flower, and is perfect as such. Abundant in the state but not outside it, beautiful, and distinctive. Right now they are all over the place, in some places covering hillsides with bright orange.

  19. The BBC I, Claudius adapted that Livy-Pollio scene to good effect, if memory serves.

  20. The scene begins at 11:45 here. It’s an important scene, since Pollio is the first person to treat the eighteen-year-old Claudius with real respect. Pollio also has a very clear and cynical understanding of what imperial politics are like; he advises the future emperor that the best way to get by is to make himself beneath contempt.

    Pollio: Never mind. Look here, Claudius. I’ll give you some good advice. Do you want to live a long and useful life?
    Claudius: Yes.
    Pollio: In that case, exaggerate your stutter and your limp. Let your wits wander and play the fool as much as you like. Do you understand me? It’s a pleasure to talk to you, my boy. I must find Livy.

  21. Damn, now I want to watch the whole series.

  22. Sala y Gomez is an island a bit to the east of Easter Island. What I know it for is that there are archeological traces of Polynesians there, obviously from Easter Island, but when first visited by Europeans, it was uninhabited and the Easter Islanders had quite forgotten about its existence.

  23. John Emerson says

    “I knew that almost everyone who knows you thinks you’re an idiot, but I never believed it until now”.

    Save for future use.

  24. J.W. Brewer says

    It was precisely the generally low quality (even by modern internet standards) of youtube comment threads that made the “sad youtube” project (floruit 2012-15,and could be done again even though the original researcher moved on to other things) so fascinating, because no matter what the overall gold/dross (or wheat/tares) ratio might be, there was value to be found if you approached the quest in the right fashion.

  25. David Eddyshaw says
  26. J.W. Brewer says

    I can’t speak to the accuracy of the prior rant about Chamisso hat linked to, but it does strike me that in the U.S. a writer whose life story was parallel to Chamisso’s (arrived in the U.S. at age 9 or 10 in a refugee family avoiding political turmoil in their country of origin, ended up writing in fluent English rather than his L1 as an adult) would not be particularly noteworthy or surprising and would not get slotted in the same category as Conrad/Nabokov.

    I feel like Elias Canetti has been mentioned in these parts — he was a “German” writer in the sense of writing in German although he never lived in narrow-scope Germany as opposed to Austria or Switzerland. But he first arrived in a German-speaking milieu (Vienna) at the age of seven, at which point German supposedly became his fifth language.

  27. John Emerson says

    Theodore Dreiser was a native speaker of German, and his English style has never been admired.

  28. The first time I read a Dreiser novel, I was surprised that his style wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. His plain descriptive and narrative passages are straightforward. It’s when he tries to wax poetic or philosophical that he sounds awful.

  29. PlasticPaddy says

    Re Dreiser

    Many individuals are so constituted that their only thought is to obtain pleasure and shun responsibility. They would like, butterfly-like, to wing forever in a summer garden, flitting from flower to flower, and sipping honey for their sole delight. They have no feeling that any result which might flow from their action should concern them. They have no conception of the necessity of a well-organized society wherein all shall accept a certain quota of responsibility and all realize a reasonable amount of happiness.

    This has a slight Germanic feel, e.g. “to wing forever”, instead of “to float/glide/flutter forever” and “summer garden” instead of “garden in summer”. Also “for their sole delight” reads awkwardly (although maybe intended as poetic register). Did late 19th century / early 20th c non-legal texts use “wherein” etc.? His (non) use of commas is non-German and reminds me of me ????.

  30. Officially Salas y Gomez, though Sala is used a lot. There are a number of Polynesian so-called “Mystery Islands”, which were inhabited and then abandoned, including Pitcairn, the Kermadecs, and others. S. y G. probably never had any permanent habitation, though, more like a temporary camping spot.

  31. Theodore Dreiser was a native speaker of German, and his English style has never been admired.

    He is supposedly much better in Russian translation.

  32. David Marjanović says

    YouTube rewards engagement: the comments with the highest total number of up- and downvotes are displayed first. It is designed for trolling. It is itself a troll, designed to get people to load pages again and again so they can be shown more ads.


    I’m familiar with that name from Ensatina eschscholtzii, a lungless salamander that forms a ring species around the Death Valley. And I’m still puzzled how schsch happened. *Eschholtz would make sense (Eschenholz “ash wood”; Esche “ash tree”; the details of noun composition still aren’t stable today), but how did schh turn into schsch? The second h isn’t silent…

    Elias Canetti

    That’s the one (!) I was thinking of.

    are so constituted that

    Yep, this use of so is idiomatic in German and stands out in English.

  33. John Cowan says

    “What writes worse than a Theodore Dreiser?”

    Two Theodore Dreisers.”

    —Dorothy Parker (as Constant Reader, the New Yorker book reviewer)

  34. And I’m still puzzled how schsch happened. *Eschholtz would make sense (Eschenholz “ash wood”; Esche “ash tree”; the details of noun composition still aren’t stable today)
    The second element could be a variant of Schulz(e).

  35. @languagehat: If you have never seen the BBC I, Claudius, I heartily recommended it. The central performances by Brian Blessed (who shows he is, contrary to his reputation,* perfectly capable of subtlety when necessary; in this regard, his death scene is particularly impressive), Siân Phillips, and Derek Jacobi are all quite compelling. They are assisted by a talented supporting cast, including memorable turns by George Baker, John Hurt, Patrick Stewart, John Rhys-Davies, and John Castle,** among others. It also benefits from the BBC’s extensive experience with costume dramas; the production design is generally well done, and much of it is directed in rather like the style of a stage play.

    It definitely helps, of course, to know the history of the period, since there are plenty of unexplained references, which you don’t need to understand to follow the story, but which add a richness of background. A little more strangely, there are a few unexplained references to fictional elements from the Robert Graves novels that never made it onto the show. For example, in the last episode, Claudius has taken to quoting from the prophecy he received from the sibyl back in the introduction to the first episode, even though the text of the explicit prophecy was never revealed to the viewer; it makes the emperor’s mutterings in “Old King Log” (and the episode title itself) rather mysterious. There is also at least one other prophecy that is spelled out explicitly on the show but not in the novel. Young Claudius and his relatives witness a bizarre omen involving a eagle and a wolf cub. In the book, the children are sent away before a priest gives the interpretation of the event, leaving young Claudius quite mystified, although the adult Claudius, along with the reader, can easily infer what the prodigy must have meant. In the television version, in contrast, the children are told to remain and hear the interpretation; in fact, it even turns out that the childrens’ responses may actually be omens in themselves.

    * Several Web sites, including TV Tropes, have macros that automatically convert any instance of Blessed’s name to all caps, “BRIAN BLESSED”!

    ** Since he was primarily a theatre actor, Castle is largely unknown in America, which I think is unfortunate. Another role in which I think he really shines is as Geoffrey of Brittany in the film of The Lion in Winter. Castle manages to convey not just that he is the smartest of the princes (the only one who is as clever as Henry and Eleanor), but also that his threatening intelligence is exactly why he is the least favorite of the brothers.

  36. PlasticPaddy says

    @hans, dm
    There is a village Eichholtz in former East Prussia, also surnames Eichscholtz and Eichholtz. Could these be related to Eschscholtz, maybe due to local German spelling coventions or dialect (influenced by Baltic?)?

  37. @languagehat: If you have never seen the BBC I, Claudius, I heartily recommended it.

    Yes, I saw and loved it, but that was over forty years ago now…

  38. @Paddy: I doubt that the first elements of the compounds are related. Eichhol(t)z is “oak wood”, Eichschol(t)z is “oak” plus a form of Schultheiß. In Eschscholtz the first element is Esche “ash tree”, as DM already said.

  39. David Marjanović says


    Oh. That makes sense. And if there’s an Eichscholtz, there could easily be an Eschscholtz…!

    Composite surnames like this are typical of Upper Austria, BTW. Mayreder, Obermaier and the like, indeed Aichmair.

  40. Siân Phillips really steals the show as Livia — I think she basically created the archetype of the power-hungry, manipulative ice queen, long before Game of Thrones. John Hurt’s Caligula is seriously disturbing, too (and even more monstrous than in the books). And Patrick Stewart has hair!

  41. @DM: Same for Bavaria. When Paddy mentioned Eichscholtz, I also started thinking of names like Aichmayer.

  42. Siân Phillips’s Livia dominates the first half of the series. Yet part of what makes the character effective is that, in spite of being a cold-blooded, manipulative killer, she is also powerfully deluding herself about why she does what she does.

  43. marie-lucie says

    “I, Claudius” : Being a fan of Robert Graves at the time, I had read the novel before I saw most of the BBC episodes on TV. What struck me was how English most of the actors looked! But yes, it was very well done, and I would not mind seeing it again. Rereading the book too.

  44. I vaguely recall that some commoners’ speech in I, Claudius was rendered as Cockney, which is good or bad, according to taste.

  45. @Y: At least one lower class Jewish character has a Yiddish accent too (although Herod Agrippa uses the Received Pronunciation). I think John Rhys-Davies also uses a toned-down version of his native Welsh accent for the very plebian Macro.

  46. If I knew that about Sabatini, I’d forgotten.

    I did not know it either. But I did not like Sabatini, when I was a child.

    I read the Treasure Island. It is the same as… the Lord of the Rings.

    I began looking for other pirate novels, but none was great. Sabatini was exciting, it immediately offered what a reader wanted, adventures that is. And it seems it is not what a reader wants. And it offered nothing but this: a uniform gaseous medium without a smell that you move through. A repeating frame, like models of crystal structures. I am describing how it felt. It captured my attention on p.1 and I dropped at page 100 and opened another novel at a random page and saw the same.

    I still respect it, I mean, he impressed me in some way:-) I am just focusing here on what he was lacking rather than what he did have. I know, wise people look for what there is in there, rather than what there is not and take the most of it.

    If it was 6th langauge…It somehow explains why “without a smell”.

  47. Apuleius, Ausonius, Lucan, Martial, Quintillian, Seneca, and Terence

    When I said that Augustine and Apuleius and Priscian are Algerians I meant this too.

  48. If it was 6th langauge…It somehow explains why “without a smell”.

    Good point.

  49. As I compared these two…

    My freind, a flute player who is the pirate version of your hardcore Tolkien fan (he can of course tell you biography of a hundred random pirate captains from any epoch) loves to emphasize that the impressive thing is not the actual pirates as such, but books, films and illustrations of Howard Pyle

    And he once noted that the Treasure Island does not have piracy at all No boarding ships and Flint, stories are told about him, but he is in the past. There is only a treasure.

    I immediately thought about LotR: it has the fading world of elves leaving to the West and a lot of blah-blah-blah about mighty people and mighty heroes of the past. Not the golden age, but people telling stories about it.

  50. They are quite similar actually, but I prefer N. C. Wyeth’s illustrations to Howard Pyle’s—although both can be wonderful.

  51. John Cowan says

    it has the fading world of elves leaving to the West and a lot of blah-blah-blah about mighty people and mighty heroes of the past.

    Of course. Because apart from those Elves (who don’t do much except provide some safe houses), The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are not set in any kind of Golden Age. Don’t be fooled by the archaic language and the mostly pastoral setting: the first book is late-19C and the second is World War I.

    The first book is simpler, so I’ll talk about it (and I am talking only about the book, not the movie). The first sign of anything less than peaceful is when the Dwarves spot a deer they want to kill because they are starving, so although their leader tries to maintain fire discipline (not something that ancient armies have or need), they shoot off all their arrows and miss every time (maybe the deer is magic and maybe not, we don’t know), and as a result they get lost in the forest and eventually captured by the Elves.

    Next comes the defense of Lake-town by Bard and his archers. It starts by Smaug’s aerial reconnaissance of the town, at which point Bard asks the Master of the town to order the archers to fight “to the last arrow”. And that’s exactly what happens, though it’s not clear whether the Master actually does order this. In any case, most of what Bard does is act like a modern officer, sometimes giving orders, sometimes primarily encouragement to fight.

    On his part, Smaug is deploying area bombing dragonfire, so this is about as unlike a classical knight-vs-dragon battle as could be, sword and shield vs. claws and teeth. Meanwhile, most of the men are in the lake and out of reach, and the women and children are steadily evacuated to the lakeshore (in complete conformance with the “Birkenhead drill”), where Smaug figures he can deal with them later. It’s true that Smaug is eventually killed by Bard’s magic heirloom arrow and at maximum range too, but the ordinary archers with their machine guns bows and arrows are what keeps Smaug angry and eventually careless, which is fatal.

    Then comes the Battle of Five Armies, which is in fact much more of a classical-style battle, a collection of mostly single combats culminating in the Beorn vs. Bolg single combat, which we do not see, but only hear tell of later. Indeed, Bilbo misses much of the battle, having been knocked out.

    The Desolation before the gate to Mordor, and Mordor itself, are clearly the French landscape during the war, which Tolkien knew all too well as a young officer. In fact, it is clear that (unlike the moviemakers) he had seen the elephant and had a clear idea of what was realistic (outside the explicit magic) and what was not.

  52. Jown Cowan, my question was, why The Treasure Island and The Lord of the Rings captrured readers imagination.

    A third thing of this kind is Indians (those with feathers on their heads). Tolkien wrote that he liked them, because they have bows and arrows and bows are cool, and I understand him. For Russian boys Indians were principally important.

    My first hypothesis was that it works when characters tell legends and stories to characters. Memories rather than the reality of the novel. LotR has a lot of this – or at least it affected me when I was reading it.

    The second hypothesis is about “fading”.They are last of the Mohicans. Yet they rise and cast a shadow (for the evil, or light for the good guys) on the hero’s provincial present.
    Then a third hypothesis, about a connetion to familiar present is possible too. (then every tween in the Shire now is using a pocket palantír. In Tolkien times there was TV).

    I am not as much trying to find a recipe for the perfect world as I am trying to understand why some things affect us so much. So any number of ideas is good.

  53. Treasure Island is a Young Adult novel, Stevenson actually invented the genre and he knew very well what he is doing, who his readers are and what they expect from his book.

    This is no furniture for the scholar’s library, but a book for the winter evening school-room when the tasks are over and the hour for bed draws near…

  54. PlasticPaddy says

    I think what captures a reader’s imagination is extremely subjective and varies over the individual reader’s lifetime. So you can only come up with a sort of typology:
    Mystery/SF: pre-teen geeks and people who enjoy puzzles
    Fantasy/historical fiction: people who like history and / or dressing up
    Romantic fiction: people who are shy
    Contemporary novels: people who are curious about other people’s lives but who lack the courage or stamina to spy on them
    Non-contemporary novels: people who are (rereading) assigned texts or who are, or like to pose as, misanthropists
    Nonfiction: people who want enlightenment or improvement or who emphasise practicality
    Any of the above: people who want to read what (they think) Oprah, friends, mentors, colleagues, family, or reviewers have read and enjoyed (or hated).
    FWIW, I enjoyed Treasure Island but found “The Hobbit” silly. This may have to do with a factor only implicitly mentioned in the above typology: the long-dead voice that read the former book to me aloud.

  55. Fantasy/historical fiction: people who like history and / or dressing up

    But here we are reformulating the question. It is still a question: why do we like history? After all I am just trying to understand myself.

    Why I, as a little child, loved to listen to my grandmother and her stories about her pre-revolutionary and revolutionary childhood in a half-Jewish half-Old Believer town? Why do I enjoy knowing jokes that were funny back then? It is international, I think: grandmothers telling stories. And children are hardly taught to love it.

  56. This is no furniture for the scholar’s library, but a book for the winter evening school-room when the tasks are over and the hour for bed draws near…

    One of our teachers (grade 5-6) used to read the Hobbit (and then LotR) instead of teaching, when her lesson was the 4th or 5s. No, not the whole lesson, just a part of it.
    But it was not evening, it was afternoon. 4-5 lessons a day back then, from 9 to 2, and 5-6 lessons a day in grade 11. What I think about boarding schools and studies continuing till the evening I said (indirectly), in the other thread.

    Among the two Chinese schoolgirls I talked to on the Internet (one I specifically asked about why their parents make them study math, the other contacted me herself in search of foreing langauge practice*) one reported having lessons till the evening, the other lives in Guangzhou and attends a school where they their phones away, let them call their parents (from school communication room) only occasionaly and let them go home once in two weeks.

    * I warned her that I do not speak English. But they she took a Russian class.

  57. grandmothers telling stories. And children are hardly taught to love it.
    We’re social animals, we love attention, and children like to listen when it’s funny, engaging, and by someone they trust. Doesn’t have to be a grandma – the best story teller I had in my childhood was my grandpa, and with my daughter it was mostly me who told her stories, while my wife preferred to read to her.
    Of course, our ideas about what makes a good, engaging story change while we mature and due to exposure to new stories and ways of storytelling throughout our lifes.

  58. @juha:

    How often can researches (pl.) be seen in the wild?

    Many of my undergraduate students here in the UK seem to have a countable as well as a mass version of the noun. Researches ‘research papers; research projects’ is not uncommon in their writing, at least.

  59. I have the countable plural researches as part of my active vocabulary. However, it has to mean “research projects (undertaken [I think] by separate individuals),” never “research papers.” So I could write something like, “The researches into this topic by Lehnert [3] and Colladay [4] have previously shown…,” in the introduction to a research paper, although I suspect I have never done so. (A quick search of my manuscripts shows no sign of it.) It seems grammatical but awkward, and I suspect that this count sense is something that was not actually part of my native speech, that I picked it up later, possibly from nonnative speaker colleagues.

  60. David Eddyshaw says

    I would usually say “in the course of my researches”; in fact, I would only say “in the course of my research” if I was effectively claiming that I had undertaken some specific investigation targeted at the particular point under discussion.

    “In the course of my research into the hitherto-unexplained high-vowel ‘endings’ which appear after the citation form of Kusaal words in many different contexts clause-medially, I have developed a unified theory of ‘liaison’ which accounts for all such forms.”

    “In the course of my researches into so-called ‘Gur’ languages, I have come to believe that ‘Gur’ does not in fact constitute a unified branch of Volta-Congo.”

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