Friday, May 31, 2013

Latin quotes

Res nolunt diu male administrari
Things refuse to be mismanaged long

Latin proverb:
Crimen quos inquinat, aequat
You can speak to your accomplice on even terms

Primi in omnibus proeliis oculi vincuntur
The eyes are the first to be conquered in every battle

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Essay on Friendship by Ralph Waldo Emerson, published 1904

Page 214

Emerson writes what a friend is:

A friend is Janus-faced; he looks to the past and the future. He is the child of all my foregoing hours, the prophet of those to come, and the harbinger of a greater friend.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Glossaries - a Lemma

A proposal of my own (would you call it a Lemma?):

If you remove all verbs from a glossary about a particular theme there will be no loss of knowledge in the glossary about that theme.


Amphisbaena a mythological, ant-eating serpent with a head at each end, spawned from the blood that dripped from the Gorgon Medusa’s head in Greek mythology.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Victor Hugo, Les Contemplations (L'Hydre)

"Car, au-dessous du globe où vit l'homme banni,
Hommes, plus bas que vous, dans le nadir livide,
Dans cette plénitude horrible qu'on croit vide,
Le mal, qui par la chair, hélas ! vous asservit,
Dégorge une vapeur monstrueuse qui vit !
Là, sombre et s'engloutit, dans des flots de désastres,
L'hydre Univers tordant son corps écaillé d'astres ;
Là, tout flotte et s'en va dans un naufrage obscur ;
Dans ce gouffre sans bord, sans soupirail, sans mur,
De tout ce qui vécut pleut sans cesse la cendre ;
Et l'on voit tout au fond, quand l'½il ose y descendre,
Au delà de la vie, et du souffle et du bruit,
Un affreux soleil noir d'où rayonne la nuit !"
- Victor Hugo, Les Contemplations, VI.26 Ce que dit la bouche d'Ombre

La légende des siècles

L'hydre Univers tordant son corps écaillé d'astres ;

The Hydra-shaped universe twists its body covered in scales of stars ;

Old Norse

Hann tekr sverthit Gram ok leggr i methal theira bert. (He takes the sword Gram and puts it in the middle of their bed.) - Nordic mythology, Völsunga Saga

Urdu - Gaelic similarities

Kinara (= at the water's edge in Urdu); Cinn Mhara (= head of the sea in Gaelic); Kinvara (English) – amazing similarities!

Noam Chomsky's book "New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind"

An interesting passage from Noam Chomsky's book "New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind," published in 2000

Pp 120, 121

He talks about the computational procedure in language having no counters:
"The computational procedure has properties that may be unique to it, in substantial part. It is also "austere", with no access to many of the properties of other cognitive systems. For example, it seems to have no "counters". It registers adjacency; thus every other syllable could have some property (say, stress). But it cannot use the notion three. There are no known phonological systems in which something happens every third syllable, for example; and syntax seems to observe a property of "structure dependence", unable to make use of linear and arithmetical properties that are much simpler to implement outside the language faculty."

Page 161
"It has very recently been discovered that while insects seem marvelously adapted to particular kinds of flowering plants, in fact insects achieved virtually their present diversity and structure millions of years before flowering plants existed. When they appeared, 'there was already waiting for them an encyclopedia of solutions waiting for the problems to be solved,' Richard Lewontin (1990) points out intending to stress the meaninglessness of these intuitive categories for biology."

Page 163
"Darwin firmly denied that he attributed 'the modification of species exclusively to natural selection', emphasizing in the last edition of Origin of Species that 'in the first edition of this work, and subsequently, I placed in a most conspicuous position – namely, at the close of the Introduction – the following words: 'I am convinced that natural selection has been the main but not the exclusive means of modification.' This has been of no avail. Great is the power of steady misrepresentation' (cited in Gould 1982). Darwin took explicit note of a range of possibilities including nonadaptive modification and unselected functions determined from structure." 

The book "After Babel" by George Steiner - excerpts

From the wonderful book "After Babel" by George Steiner, 1992 on page 97:

Seeing a dripping spring, an Apache will describe it as 'whiteness moving downward'.

Page 137:

It is commonplace to insist that much of the distinctive Western apprehension of time as linear sequence and vectorial motion is set out in and organized by the Indo-European verb system. That system with, as Émile Beneviste emphasizes, its referral only to the subject and not to the object, and its supple classifications of conditions of state, makes up the locale, the 'time-space' of our cultural identity.

Page 165:

It has long been established that the Indo-European frameworkof of threefold temporality - past, present, future - has no counterpart in Semitic conventions of tense. The Hebrew verb views action as incomplete or perfected. Even archaic Greek has definite and subtly discriminatory verb forms with which to express the linear flow of time from past to future. No such modes developed in Hebrew. In Indo-European tongues 'the future is preponderantly thought to lie before us, while in Hebrew future events are always expressed as coming after us'.

Page 166:

I would want to argue strongly that man alone has developed a grammar of futurity. Primates use rudimentary tools but, so far as has been observed, they do not store tools for future usage.

There is experimental evidence, derived from the measurement of fossil fuels, that Neanderthal man, like the newborn child, did not have a vocal apparatus capable of emitting complex speech sounds.

Talleyrand's maxim: 'La parole a été donneé à l'homme pour déguiser sa pensée'.


According to Nietzsche in his paper 'Über Wahrheit und Lüge im aussermoralischen Sinne': 'A comparison between different languages shows that the point about words is never their truth or adequacy: for otherwise there would not be so many languages.'


A poem is maximal speech. 'Au contraire d'une fonction de numéraire facile et représentatif comme le traite d'abord la foule,' writes Mallarmé in the preface to René Ghil, 'le dire, avant tout rëve et chant, retrouve chez le poete, par nécessité constitutive d'un art consacré aux fictions, sa virtualité.' (a Saying - un Dire)


He talks about Cicero's famous precept not to translate verbum pro verbo, in his Libellus de optimo genere oratorum of 46 B.C. and Horace's reiteration of this formula in the Ars poetica some twenty years later.

The adage, familiar to Novalis and Humboldt, that all communication is translation, took on a more technical, philosophically grounded force in the twentieth century.

...Giordano Bruno's assertion, reported by Florio, that 'from translation all Science had its offspring'....

Goethe wrote to Carlyle in July 1827: 'Say what one will of the inadequacy of translation, it remains one of the most important and valuable concerns in the whole of world affairs.'

The true road for the translator lies neither through metaphrase nor imitation. It is that of paraphrase 'or translation with latitude, where the author is kept in view by the translator, so as never to be lost, but his words are not so strictly followed as his sense, and that too is admitted to be amplified, but not altered'.

Translation is the perpetual, inescapable condition of signification.

”Silence is not the contrary of the Word but its guardian.”
George Steiner
The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H.

Notes on Sanskrit

Some notes on Sanskrit. I'm very much a beginner, but I see a lot of similarities with European languages.
"Iskrtir nāma vo mātātho yūyam stha Niskrtīh"
"Your mother (her) name (is) Healer, hence you too are Removers (of illness)."
nāma = name
vo mātā = your mother
yūyam = you
stha (estis) = are (to be)

The letter "n" is present in Greek (poimên, termôn, etc.), and absent in Sanskrit (ātma, rājā, etc.) and in Latin (sermo, homo, etc.).

poimên = shepherd
termôn = place of sanctuary
(Irish: An Tearmann)
ātma = self
rājā = king
sermo = speech
homo = man
"Chariot" in Sanskrit is "ratha", in Latin "rota", Lithuanian "rātas". The German for "wheel" is "rad". And we have "rothar" in Irish (Gaelic) for "bicycle". "roth" is "wheel" in Irish (Gaelic). All related! The connections are there, over such long distances and back many centuries.
Rigveda 8.24.15: nahy àngá purá caná jajñé vīrátaras tvát "a hero stronger than you has not been born."
vīrátara = more manly

Sentence in Sanskrit from the Rigveda 7.71:
ápa svásur uşáso nág jihīte
away sister dawn night departs
"Night departs from her sister dawn."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Notes on Chateaubriand's work "Mémoires d'outre-tombe."

Volume I, Book 21, Chapter 13, ff 862 – 865

Entrées des Alliés dans Paris.

I was very surpised to read in this Chapter about the Allies (Russia and Prussia) entry into Paris in 1814 after Napolen's retreat from Russia. This is something I never heard about in school or read about anywhere else!

This is how Chateaubriand describes the scene:

… Toutefais cette première invasion des alliés est demeurée sans example dans les annales du monde: l'ordre, la paix et la modération régnèrent partout; les boutiques se rouvrirent; des soldats russes de la garde, hauts de six pieds, étaient pilotés à travers les rues par de petits polissons français qui se moquaient d'eux, comme des pantins et des masques de carnaval. Lex vaincus pouvaient être pris pour les vainquers; ceux-ci, tremblant de leur succès, avaient l'air d'en demander excuse. La garde nationale occupait seule l'intérieur de Paris, á l'exception des hôtels oú logeiaent les rois et les princes étrangers. Le 31 mars 1814, des armées innombrables occupaient la France; quelques mois après, toutes ces troupes repassèrent nos frontières, sans tirer un coup de fusil, sans verser une goutte de sang, depuis la rentrée des Bourbons. L'ancienne France se trouve agrandie sur quelques-unes des ces frontières; on partage avec elle les vaisseaux et les magasins d'Anvers; on lui rend trois cent mille prisonniers dispersés dans les pays où les avait laissés la défaite ou la victoire. Après vinght-cent années de combats, le bruit des armes cesse d'un bout de L'Europe à l'autre …

…On proposait á Alexandre de changer le nom du pont d'Austerlitz:« Non,» dit-il, « il suffit que j'aie passé sur ce pont » avec mon armée. » …

… Alexandre Après avait quelque chose de calme et de triste : il se promenait dans Paris, à cheval ou à pied, sans suite et sans affectation. Il avait l'air étonné de son triomphe; ses regards presque attendris erraient sur une population qu'il sembleait considérer comme supérieure à lui : on êut dit qu'il se trouvait un barbare au milieu de nous, comme un Romain se sentait honteux dans Athènes. Peut-être aussi pensait-il que que ses même Français avaient paru dans se capitale incendiée; qu'à leur tour ses soldats étaient maîtres de ce Paris où il aurait pu retrouver quelques-unes des torches éteintes par qui fut Moscou affranchie et consumée, Cette destinée, cette fortune changeante, cette misére commune des peuples et des rois, devaient profondément frapper un esprit aussi religieux que le sien.

demeurée = has remained
goutte = drop
vaisseau = flow
attendri = tender
éteintes = extinguished

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Russian word shum from the Noise of Time by OSIP Mandelstam

These notes are about the difficulties encountered by the translator with the Russian word shum in the
the book, The Noise of Time, by OSIP Mandelstam

Book: The Noise of Time by OSIP Mandelstam
Translated by Clarence Brown
The translator had difficulties translating the title of the book.

He wrote:

The Russian title of The Noise of Time is Shum vremeni. The translation of shum is difficult out of all proportion to the miniature size of the word. My first choice was “noise,” and it found favor with some but there was impressive insistence that shum is best rendered by “sound.” On the point of yielding, I was stopped by that dean of scholiasts, Vladimir Nabokov, whose four-volume translation of and commentary on Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (New York, 1964) arrived in the nick of time. In his annotation of line 9 out of One: xxxv – Prosnulsja utra shum prijatnyj, rendered by him as “Morn’s pleasant hubbub has awoken” – Nabokov provides us with a characteristic little essay on the various nuances of shum. The transliteration in what follows is his:

“An analogous line occurs in Poltava (1828), pt. 11, 1. 318: razdálsya útra shúm igrívïy, `morn’s frisky hubbub has resounded.` Compare these epithets with those used by English poets, e.g., Milton’s ‘the busy hum of men’ and John Dyer’s ‘the Noise of busy Man.’

“Generally speaking, the sense of shum implies a more sustained and uniform auditory effect than the English ‘noise.’ It is also a shade more remote and confused. It is at heart more of a swoosh than a racket. All its forms – shum (n.), shumnïy (adj.), shumyashchiy (part.), shumet’ (v.) – are beautifully onomatopoeic, which ‘noisy’ and ‘to noise’ are not. Shum acquires a number of nuances in connection with various subjects: shum goroda, ‘the hum of the city,’ ‘the tumult of the town’; shum lesov, ‘the murmur of woods’; shumyashchiy les, ‘the sough of forests’; shumnïy ruchey, ‘the dinning stream’; shumyashchee more, ‘the sounding sea,’ the rote, the thud, and the roar of the surf on the shore – ‘the surgy murmurs of the lonely sea,’ as Keats has it in Endymion 1. 121. Shum may also mean ‘commotion,’ ‘clamor,’ and so forth. The verb shumet’ is poorly rendered by ‘to be noisy,’ ‘to clatter.’” (Vol. 2, 143f.)

The solace which I find in this is not, of course, what Nabokov has to say about “noise,” since he specifically rejects it in favor of “hubbub.” It is the evidence of his uneasiness with the latter, which produces the delightful change-ringing on the various shades of shum. As in all such cases, the final choice is a matter of taste.

The relevance of these deliberations to Mandelstam’s work is central. The insipid word “sound,” which is virtually without overtones, cannot serve to describe the disjointed, elliptical style of these memoirs. If the faint but deliberate cacophony that arises from this mumbled juxtaposition of Finnish sleigh-bells, strolling brass bands, the alpine chill of concerts by Hofmann and Kubelik, the wheezing of Julij Matveich, and Vladimir Gippius’s bellowing summons to the hack seems to the reader, as it does to me, inadequately reflected in “noise,” let him contemplate in Nabokov’s note some of the things to which Mandelstam’s inner ear was attuned when he named his work Shum vremeni.

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