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Old 03-07-2018, 06:14 PM   #1
AlexBell
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More help with 'old English' please

I'm now working on an ebook of 'The Castle of Otranto' by Horace Wallace, which purports to be a translation of an original book written shortly after the end of the Crusades, in the English of the times. I'm using the Cassels 1886 version from the Internet Archive.

The first phrase is

'he asks innocently, pour soul!'

'poor soul!' would fit very well in context.

The second phrase is much more difficult, and I can't make any sense out of it.

'No, No, Madam, Lady Isabella is of another guess mould than you take her for.'

It's said by a serving maid to her mistress, Lady Matilda, about a high born guest in the castle. Isabella and Matilda are very good friends, and heroines in the story.

Last edited by AlexBell; 03-08-2018 at 08:58 PM.
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Old 03-07-2018, 07:12 PM   #2
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The Universal Dictionary of the English Language published in 1897 has on page 2404:

Quote:
guess [A corruption of guise (q.v.).]
Guise, manner, fashion, sort.
"My lady isabella is of another guess mould." - H. Walpole
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Old 03-07-2018, 08:08 PM   #3
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That's not old English. It's modern english written in 1764, although it's old enough to be a bit difficult. I suggest looking for an annotated edition to get some help with the language.

I read The Canterbury Tales in middle English a few decades ago in a paper edition that had a glossary. Without that glossary I'd have gotten no-where. With it reading it was difficult but I managed and I learned more about the English language than in any other single thing I ever did.

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Old 03-07-2018, 11:18 PM   #4
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Yeah, modern English begins around 1500ish; Shakespeare wrote in early modern English. If you just see a few antiquated words here and there, it's not even Middle English, let alone Old English.

Middle English you can puzzle out but many words are spelled quite differently and the grammar has a more complex structure to it.

Old English is arguably easier to read for a fluent current German speaker than a current English speaker; it's free of most of the French/Romance influences and still makes strong use of heavily inflected forms (including of nouns and such), freer word order, and other traditional Germanic grammar forms.

For fun, here's the Lord's Prayer in Middle English (a fairly late form, but still Middle English):

Quote:
Oure fadir that art in heuenes,
halewid be thi name;
thi kyngdoom come to;
be thi wille don, in erthe as in heuene.
Yyue to vs this dai oure breed ouer othir substaunce,
and foryyue to vs oure dettis, as we foryyuen to oure dettouris;
and lede vs not in to temptacioun, but delyuere vs fro yuel. Amen.
It'd be tough to read things written in this language, especially if you didn't know what they were ahead of time. But even without specific instruction, you can puzzle through it to a large extent and at least get the gist of most bits, though you'll miss nuance and be completely confounded by certain words and constructions. The farther back you go, the more alien it gets.

Old English, on the other hand, is much tougher to read—even for just a gloss of what the content is—without some background:
Quote:
Fęder ure žu že eart on heofonum;
Si žin nama gehalgod
to becume žin rice
gewurže šin willa
on eoršan swa swa on heofonum.
urne gedęghwamlican hlaf syle us todęg
and forgyf us ure gyltas
swa swa we forgyfaš urum gyltendum
and ne gelęd žu us on costnunge
ac alys us of yfele sožlice

Last edited by sjfan; 03-07-2018 at 11:20 PM.
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Old 03-08-2018, 01:19 AM   #5
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What are you actually asking for here, Alex?

Is the text you've quoted what the author wrote? Yes, it is; please don't "modernise" it!
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Old 03-08-2018, 01:33 AM   #6
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And then there was the vowel and consonant shift as well. Plus some books were written in older styles for a purpose. The KJV of the Bible for example. It used words and manners of speech that were already dated at the time of the translation, but it was felt that using the older forms would add to the text (or so I understand). I'm sure it probably wasn't the only book that was so written though. I wonder how many 'new' books written in the 1500's have been thought to be of older vintage due to the language used in them.
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Old 03-08-2018, 01:46 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
What are you actually asking for here, Alex?

Is the text you've quoted what the author wrote? Yes, it is; please don't "modernise" it!
I've read several of the books AlexBell has contributed to the library, and I'm thankful to him for modernising the language. The original will still be available whereever he found it for those who prefer it.

If I read "'No, No, Madam, Lady Isabella is of another guess mould than you take her for.'" I'd understand the broad meaning, but I'd read "mould" as a noun, wonder if the word "guess" was a typo and what it was supposed to be, and get thrown out of flow of the story a bit.
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Old 03-08-2018, 02:06 AM   #8
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Provided that the fact that the book has been edited is prominently stated in the description, I have no problem with it either, although my personal preference would always be to read what the author wrote.
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Old 03-08-2018, 07:11 AM   #9
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I agree with Harry. I prefer to read the original text. Something from the 18th century should be no problem for anyone used to literature of that century: Robinson Crusoe, anything by Henry Fielding, Moll Flanders etc. These are classics which most well-read people have read.

Chaucer does need some translation, but I prefer to also see the original (possible in pbooks which have the original on the left and a translation on the right).
Imagine the cheek of translating Shakespeare!

A few months ago I bought the hardback of the RSC's Shakespeare Complete Works and was horrified to find some words translated. In The Tempest, Ariel uses the term "Bermoothes" which has been changed to "Bermuda"; other words have been weakened by making them more modern. I bought the book because it's single column and has a slightly larger font than most Complete Works.

The point being that I dislike interfering with the original unless, like middle English, it's absolutely necessary.

Last edited by BookCat; 03-08-2018 at 07:25 AM.
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Old 03-08-2018, 10:48 AM   #10
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My preference is for spelling to be modernized but words left unchanged with explanations when the meaning has changed,
like this All the Canterbury Tales: Modern Spelling and Original Words. A Reader-Friendly Edition. where the spelling is modernized (as is generally done with Shakespeare) but otherwise the words are left as is and definitions/explanations are provided.

[PDFs of this version of the tales can also be found here http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/we...phy/murphy.htm with permission to download for personal or pedagogical use]
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Old 03-08-2018, 10:54 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ekbell View Post
My preference is for spelling to be modernized but words left unchanged with explanations when the meaning has changed,
Sure. Almost nobody reads Shakespeare with "First Folio" spelling, for example.

Eg:

Quote:
Flauius. Hence: home you idle Creatures, get you home:
Is this a Holiday? What, know you not
(Being Mechanicall) you ought not walke
Vpon a labouring day, without the signe
Of your Profession? Speake, what Trade art thou?
Words like "mechanicall", "walke", "signe", etc, tend to be replaced with modern spellings, as do the now-obsolete use of "U" and "V", as in "Vpon" and "Flauius" for "Upon" and "Flavius".
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Old 03-08-2018, 09:06 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jhowell View Post
The Universal Dictionary of the English Language published in 1897 has on page 2404:
Thanks for the explanation for 'guess' and for the link to the dictionary. I'll get that dictionary as soon as I can. In the meantime do you have any alternative to 'mould'?

Last edited by AlexBell; 03-08-2018 at 09:13 PM.
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Old 03-08-2018, 09:11 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
Sure. Almost nobody reads Shakespeare with "First Folio" spelling, for example.

Eg:



Words like "mechanicall", "walke", "signe", etc, tend to be replaced with modern spellings, as do the now-obsolete use of "U" and "V", as in "Vpon" and "Flauius" for "Upon" and "Flavius".
And not many people, I think, read the original books with the 'long s' as in Walpole's original text and in Ann Radcliffe's original The Italian.
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Old 03-08-2018, 09:27 PM   #14
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Quote:
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Provided that the fact that the book has been edited is prominently stated in the description, I have no problem with it either, although my personal preference would always be to read what the author wrote.
It seems to me that for any book the author is the most important part of a chain composed of the author, the publisher, the printer, and the typesetter - and where necessary the translator.

Would you really read Walpole's book in its original version, using 'the long s'? It's in the Internet Archive.
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Old 03-09-2018, 12:49 AM   #15
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I've seen facsimiles of Elizabethan documents using the strange S. Reading them soon becomes second nature (once you stop reading them as f).

Harry: do you have a reference for the Shakespeare quote? I have a small collection of Complete Works and I'd like to look it up to see if any of them use the original. The RSC version is supposed to be based on the first folio (which caused some controversy) but has modernised spellings. Thanks.
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