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Old 05-06-2017, 05:41 AM   #1
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Please translate 'classical proverb'

Elizabeth von Arnim's first novel, The Benefactress is set in Germany, and was published in 1901. She describes 'Unkraut vergeht nicht' as an 'eminently consolatory proverb', but I can't make any sense out of it with Google translate or Collins dictionary.

Can anyone help, please?
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Old 05-06-2017, 07:33 AM   #2
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Hi Alex,

The literal meaning is "weeds don't go away".

It's a proverb that means that a bad person is hard to get rid of. English equivalents would be expressions like "a bad penny always turns up again", or "the Devil looks after his own".

Last edited by HarryT; 05-06-2017 at 07:50 AM.
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Old 05-06-2017, 08:08 AM   #3
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Hi Alex,

The literal meaning is "weeds don't go away".

It's a proverb that means that a bad person is hard to get rid of. English equivalents would be expressions like "a bad penny always turns up again", or "the Devil looks after his own".
Your translation is correct, however, the proverb doesn't necessarily refer to bad persons. For example, the Wahrig dictionary defines it as:

Quote:
zähe, kräftige Menschen gehen nicht unter
and the Duden dictionary defines it as:

Quote:
einem Menschen wie mir/ihm/ihr passiert nichts
The Oxford English German dictionary translates it as:

Quote:
it would take a great deal to finish off his/her/our sort
which is most likely closer to the intended meaning.
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Old 05-06-2017, 08:00 PM   #4
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Thanks to you both. I appreciate the trouble you've taken.

I'm still left with the problem of what to put in the end note for a 21st century reader who knows no German. I'll probably put something like

Unkraut vergeht nicht: Literally 'Weeds don't go away', in the sense that...and choose one of the suggestions you have given.

I'm beginning to think I've bitten off more than I can chew. I'm up to 52 end notes so far. But I still think that to leave them untranslated would be a shame. It's certainly not Elizabeth's best book, but it's well worth reading.
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Old 05-07-2017, 02:33 AM   #5
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I'm beginning to think I've bitten off more than I can chew. I'm up to 52 end notes so far. But I still think that to leave them untranslated would be a shame. It's certainly not Elizabeth's best book, but it's well worth reading.
Feel free to post all German questions here rather than relying on Google Translate.
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Old 05-07-2017, 08:32 AM   #6
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Feel free to post all German questions here rather than relying on Google Translate.
Thanks, Doitsu

I really appreciate all the help I've been given, and have another but different query.

I'm in the final stages of preparing The Benefactress for the MR library. Towards the end of the book the person the heroine is going to marry is in a German prison, and the author describes in horrifying detail the conditions in the prison.

I know that Graf Henning von Arnim-Schlagenthin, the author's husband, spent some time in prison, and suspect some of the details she gives came from personal observation. But I don't know whether he was imprisoned before the book was published in 1901, or later. He has an entry in the German Wikipedia, but I can't read it.

Could you read it for me please, and tell me when he was imprisoned? I always like to do a brief introduction 'About this edition' in the ebooks I do, and if he was imprisoned it would be worth mentioning that in the introduction.

Also, I've read in one of the articles on her that they separated in 1908. Could you tell me whether that's in his Wikipedia article?
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Old 05-07-2017, 09:17 AM   #7
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I know that Graf Henning von Arnim-Schlagenthin, the author's husband, spent some time in prison [...] Could you read it for me please, and tell me when he was imprisoned.
According to this German source, von Arnim-Schlagenthin was arrested in 1899.

According to this old German 11/12/1899 newspaper von Arnim-Schlagenthin was released on bail for health reasons on 11/08/1899. He supposedly had to pay 200,000 Marks. (It's mentioned on page 13 of the PDF under Kleine Chronik.) The newspaper also mentions that he spent several weeks in prison in connection with criminal proceedings against former members of the Stettin National-Hypotheken-Kreditgesellschaft bank.

Last edited by Doitsu; 05-07-2017 at 10:15 AM.
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Old 05-07-2017, 08:29 PM   #8
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According to this German source, von Arnim-Schlagenthin was arrested in 1899.

According to this old German 11/12/1899 newspaper von Arnim-Schlagenthin was released on bail for health reasons on 11/08/1899. He supposedly had to pay 200,000 Marks. (It's mentioned on page 13 of the PDF under Kleine Chronik.) The newspaper also mentions that he spent several weeks in prison in connection with criminal proceedings against former members of the Stettin National-Hypotheken-Kreditgesellschaft bank.
Yes! That fits in very well with Elizabeth's style of using material from her own life in her books, and her first hand knowledge of conditions in jail.

I spent hours scouring the internet, but could not find anything about this possibility in the English literature.

Thanks again - and with the thanks another request. On the original opening cover of The Benefactress there were the lines:

Man bedarf der Leitung
Und der männlichen Begleitung

which comes from a longer verse written by Wilhelm Busch. It's said to be quite earthy. What does it mean in English?
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Old 05-07-2017, 11:16 PM   #9
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Thanks again - and with the thanks another request. On the original opening cover of The Benefactress there were the lines:

Man bedarf der Leitung
Und der männlichen Begleitung
These lines are from chapter 7 of Busch's popular humorous story Die Fromme Helene (= Pious Helen) about an old spinster. (The story doesn't end well for her; she becomes an alcoholic and accidentally kills herself.)

Here's a literal translation of the first two verses:

Code:
Ratsam ist und bleibt es immer              It is and always was advisable
Für ein junges Frauenzimmer,                For a young lady
Einen Mann sich zu erwählen                 To choose a man for herself
Und wo möglich zu vermählen.                And, if possible, get married. 

Erstens: will es so der Brauch.             First: Because custom dictates it.
Zweitens: will man's selber auch.           Second: One wants to do it.
Drittens: man bedarf der Leitung            Third: One needs guidance
Und der männlichen Begleitung;              And male companionship.
Leitung could also be translated as leadership/management/direction and männlichen Begleitung could also be translated as male companion/company.

Last edited by Doitsu; 05-07-2017 at 11:30 PM.
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Old 05-08-2017, 05:17 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doitsu View Post
These lines are from chapter 7 of Busch's popular humorous story Die Fromme Helene (= Pious Helen) about an old spinster. (The story doesn't end well for her; she becomes an alcoholic and accidentally kills herself.)

Here's a literal translation of the first two verses:

Code:
Ratsam ist und bleibt es immer              It is and always was advisable
Für ein junges Frauenzimmer,                For a young lady
Einen Mann sich zu erwählen                 To choose a man for herself
Und wo möglich zu vermählen.                And, if possible, get married. 

Erstens: will es so der Brauch.             First: Because custom dictates it.
Zweitens: will man's selber auch.           Second: One wants to do it.
Drittens: man bedarf der Leitung            Third: One needs guidance
Und der männlichen Begleitung;              And male companionship.
Leitung could also be translated as leadership/management/direction and männlichen Begleitung could also be translated as male companion/company.
Thanks again.
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Old 05-08-2017, 05:26 AM   #11
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@AlexBell: BTW, if you're curious about Busch's kind of humor, a very good English translation of one of his stories is available at MR:

Plish and Plum
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Old 05-08-2017, 06:16 AM   #12
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She describes 'Unkraut vergeht nicht' as an 'eminently consolatory proverb', but I can't make any sense out of it with Google translate or Collins dictionary.
The meaning of this proverb relies heavily on tone of voice and the relationship between speaker and subject.

When used about an outsider, especially in a derogatory fashion, HarryT's suggested English equivalents of "a bad penny always turns up again", or "the Devil looks after his own" come quite close to the German meaning. The situation changes completely when the subject is part of the speaker's in-group (the "us", not the "them", in any given "us vs. them"): in this case, the meaning is a slightly self-deprecating "we may not be the prettiest blooming flowers, but we're resilient and we'll get through this - and anything else -somehow"). And I believe it is this consolatory sense that Elizabeth von Arnim is referring to.
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Old 05-08-2017, 06:43 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Gudy View Post
The meaning of this proverb relies heavily on tone of voice and the relationship between speaker and subject.

When used about an outsider, especially in a derogatory fashion, HarryT's suggested English equivalents of "a bad penny always turns up again", or "the Devil looks after his own" come quite close to the German meaning. The situation changes completely when the subject is part of the speaker's in-group (the "us", not the "them", in any given "us vs. them"): in this case, the meaning is a slightly self-deprecating "we may not be the prettiest blooming flowers, but we're resilient and we'll get through this - and anything else -somehow"). And I believe it is this consolatory sense that Elizabeth von Arnim is referring to.
Thanks, Gudy, that's useful to know. I've only ever heard the expression used in a derogatory sense. Proverbs are always difficult to translate!
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Old 05-10-2017, 10:55 PM   #14
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Thanks to you both.

As I remember it Elizabeth is being ironical rather than conciliatory - it reads to me as a bit of a put down.

Last edited by AlexBell; 05-12-2017 at 12:30 AM.
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