Monday, August 18, 2008

You know what would have made the famous Angelina Jolie "Naked Philology" scene in the Beowulf movie even better?

If she had had this tattooed on her lower back:

"None among all the sciences is prouder, nobler or more contentious than philology, or less merciful to error."
Is that a reasonable translation, Marcel, or should I have said "No science" and "more merciless to error" to be idiomatic?


John Cowan said...

You have a typo there: it's streitsüchtiger. "Disputatious" (which Shippey uses in RtME) might be better than "contentious": the German Wikipedia says that (Aristotelian) Disputation is "ein wissenschaftliches Streitgespräch".

If Grimm wanted "no science" he would have said "keine Wissenschaft", surely. No, he wanted to be emphatic: "not one among all the sciences". (Using "none" as an NP strikes me as archaic or poetic.)

I think "less merciful" is right too.

Marcel R. Aubron-Bülles said...

Hi Mike,

I love this hilarious post :)

I agree with John's remark on the "disputatious" as the "Streitgespräch" used to be the mainstay of academic dispute (and part of the exam.) However, my gut feeling tells me otherwise - the "streitsüchtig" is a tendency towards quarrel for quarrel's sake alone - not for the advancement of science. So I'm with Mike on that... :)

My attempt at 19th century English would be:

"Among all sciences there is none so proud, so noble or so contentious as philology - and to error none as merciless."

[That might be a little over the top but I have to stress the fact that we are talking about J. Grimm]

The "none" as John said is not archaic for Jakob Grimm - the "unter allen den" is an archaic formula. Modern German would use "unter den" or "unter allen" but the combination is typical high-brow German of the 19th century.

Hope to be have been of help here. Keep the quotes coming :)

Best Wishes

Valeria said...

Hi, Michael,

This is fun!

I agree with you on your first translation...and Marcel, I love the way yours flows.

How about

"Among all the sciences there is none so proud, so noble (n)or so contentious as philology - and to error none less merciful."

I like that one because we have the sensation of going up (, then being dashed to the ground again with "less merciful." Would that be climax and antithesis?

And it does have that more archaic feel. Michael, yours, however, is clean and elegant in its simplicity.

Anyway, as to terminology, I have the impression that "Disputation" is the term used in Germany for the dissertation defense. So "contentious" would probably be the better fit here.

Please correct me if I'm wrong on any of this.


- Valeria

Ronald Kyrmse said...

Since this is written in Fraktur, it should be written correctly. It makes no sense to use Fraktur with modern German "gemäßigte kleinschreibung" (moderate minusculization) or to employ the round _s_ everywhere. You should have long _s_ in the following words: Wissenschaftler (also _ch_ ligature), stolzer (also _st_ ligature), streitsüchtiger (also _st_ and _ch_ ligatures), besides writing Wissenschaftler, Philologie and Fehler with cap initials. [grouch on] Sorry, but if you do not do it this way you might as well use Comic Sans [grouch off].