Friday, April 23, 2010
Have you ever heard of a painter who cannot produce a single painting to show his art? Here we have a wordsmith who's never composed a dictionary and yet he is considered a lexicographer.
You have guessed right: I own it I have a bone to pick with this servile sycophant, this flunky, this fawner.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
By John Simpson
University of Oxford
My introduction to Spanish proverbs occurred when I was working on the letter A for the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs. The earliest piece of evidence I had for the proverb It takes all sorts to make a world came from Thomas Shelton’s seventeenth-century English translation of Don Quixote: ‘In the world there must bee of all sorts’. I think the information has stuck with me all these years because I wasn’t expecting the first reference to an English proverb to come from a Spanish source. I’m not sure why I wasn’t expecting this: after all, English (at least since the Norman Conquest) shares much of its proverb heritage with the countries of continental Europe. But following the trail of many words, I imagined that we would find early references to English proverbs in Latin, or in French, rather than in Spanish.
But this European heritage of proverbs is strong. Many exist in parallel in a number of European languages, as the records of these languages show. Proverbs often arise as a response to the trials and tribulations of human existence, and the European experience meant that a proverb that was relevant to Spaniards, or to the French, may well be equally relevant to the English. It took me several years more to realize that proverbs often arise from adversity. They are often a traditional, stoic response to something that has gone wrong. ‘Oh well, don’t worry: it takes all sorts to make a world’. Not always, but often enough for the proverb to have a significant role in consolation.
Delfin Carbonell’s careful review of the modern proverb in Spanish and English investigates the history of our proverbs, and elucidates their meaning (which is not always as clear-cut as one might expect). Proverbs date from the earliest documentary records and have survived right up to the present-day. They still have a function in contemporary society (how often do they crop up in newspaper headings or in chapter titles, for example?). They connect us with our past, with the thoughts and emotions that our predecessors experienced in situations curiously similar to ours today. And Dr Carbonell is right to draw our attention to the need to work from primary source material. There is a bad old tradition in dictionary writing whereby proverbs are handed down from lexicographer (dictionary-writer) to lexicographer, and this dictionary record can in some cases outlive the existence of the proverb itself in actual speech. By concentrating on living testimony to the proverb (whether in modern books or newspapers, or even on the Internet), today’s editor can highlight those proverbs which are really current today, and can screen out (because of lack of evidence) those proverbs which have drifted out of use and into obsolescence. This necessity to cite real, contextual examples underpins all proper scholarly work in lexicography, and informs sound popular texts based on these. Readers often do dictionary-makers the honour of believing what they write, and so it behoves the dictionary-writer to get things right in the first place.
I shall be interested to see what success the present editor has with his unialphabetical system. As far as I am aware, it is an innovation in bilingual paroemiology (as pedants call proverb study). Any system which forces information on us in a new way is worthy of consideration. Advances in knowledge come from breaking the traditional bounds, and seeing links where they have not been recognized before.
Unialphabet – Sample Entries
THE NEW DICTIONARY OF CURRENT SAYINGS AND PROVERBS, SPANISH AND ENGLISH
with citations from all English-speaking countries
An apple a day keeps the doctor away – una manzana al día de(l) médico te ahorraría.
— “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play: The sing-song slogan, so similar to an apple a day keeps the doctor away, was discarded by Mars after 40 years...” Independent, Aug 2, 2004. UK. || “Routine chores: I view using Defrag on a Windows machine as the computer world's equivalent of an apple a day to keep the doctor away.” Palm Beach Daily News, FL, Aug 2, 2004. US. || “She also wrote that while eating an apple a day might keep the doctor away, eating an onion a day would probably keep everybody away.” The Southern Illinoisan, IL, Jul 29, 2004. US. [a Dicho muy popular en inglés que tiene un poso de verdad ya que la manzana es una fruta muy saludable. La equivalencia castellana que ofrezco aparece en varios refraneros pero es, como se ve en MANZANA, traducción del inglés. La coletilla añadida al refrán por el Southern Illinosian es de Graffitti: Two Thousand Years of Wall Writing, 1971.]
The rotten apple injures its neighbors – la manzana podrida pierde (pudre) a su compañía.
— “But one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel.” D. McKenzie, Raven Feathers his Nest, 1979. UK. || “We do have blighted properties in a given block -- and blight, like a rotten apple in a basket, can spread. You've got to nip it in the bud.” CNI Newspapers, WI, 16 Jan 2004. US. || “School. Many students choose to excel in academics or sports. A few rotten apples do not always spoil the whole bunch.” Henderson Daily Dispatch, NC, May 24 2004. US. [a De origen latino: “pomum compuctum cito corrumpit sibi junctum.” Existe cita de 1340. Su uso ha decaído aunque existen variantes, como la de la segunta citación que se aporta.]
Nunca es tarde para aprender – never too old to learn.
— “¿El magisterio? No es que me vea dando clases a niños dentro de unos años, pero creo que nunca es tarde para aprender.” El Correo Digital (Álava), 13/12/2003. Esp. || “El disco tiene su música como banda de sonido, es más orgánico. Nunca es tarde para aprender.” El Tiempo, 14/8/2004. Colom. || “Nunca es tarde para aprender, puede ser el lema del mexicano Juan José Ortiz Montuy, quien a sus 86 años obtuvo una maestría en Ciencia Política...” La Nación, 15/8/2004. Venzl. || “... de su edad, sabe ya que con voluntad, decisión y dedicación, es posible retardar la natural involución del cerebro, que nunca es tarde para aprender y que...” Revista Cambio, 1/8/2004. Esp. [a Séneca, Epistolae LXXVI “tamdiu discendum est, quandiu nescias: si proverbio credimus, quandiu vivas...” Older people are always whining about their incapacity to learn. It’s probably a question of laziness more than age.]
► LORO Loro viejo no aprende a hablar
Aprendiz de todo, maestro (profesional) de nada – Jack of all trades, master of none.
— “Trata en lo personal, sin esforzarse demasiado, de mejorar al leerse la imagen interior que tiene de sí. Aprendiz de todo, maestro de nada, no se empeña en buscar giros ampulosos y alambicados.” Augusto Roa Bastos, Vigilia del Almirante, 1992. Para. || “No es admisible un superfedatario omnipresente, conocedor de todo y maestro de nada.” El Mundo, 22/11/1994. Esp. || “El reportero es un aprendiz de todo y un maestro de nada.” El Mundo, 15/3/1996. Esp. || “Raphael es un aprendiz de todo y profesional de nada, siempre que se me ve he logrado ser un poco mejor que la ocasión anterior...” La Prensa, 5/6/2004. Nicar. [a Those who try to learn many trades end up being masters of none.]
► ABARCAR Quien mucho abarca, poco aprieta
April showers bring forth May flowers – marzo ventoso y abril lluvioso traen a mayo florido y hermoso.
— “April showers may or may not have brought May flowers. In case they haven't, why not plant a few yourself?” Cleveland Plain Dealer, OH, 9 Jan 2004. US. || “... stop raining? Who can care that April showers bring May flowers, that there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?” Washington Post, DC, 2 Jan 2004. US. [a Una variante es “April showers bring May flowers”, ya desde 1560 y que sigue muy vigente en la actualidad. Existe en varios idiomas europeos. Tras la adversidad viene la buena fortuna, las flores y el buen tiempo.]