Thursday, 28 February 2019

As I was saying

The words "As I was saying" trigger in me a memory I described a few years ago, here
[<something>] reminded me of a story I heard in a half-remembered lecture, about Juan del Encina.
<autobiographical_note date_range="1971-1972">
In May 1972 I was ... not quite a world authority on sixteenth-century Spanish literature, but Professor E. M. Wilson, my lecturer for that year, was.  
Juan del Encina
Juan del Encina, author of some of the seminal works in Spanish Golden Age literature, was arrested by the Holy Inquisition in the middle of a lecture. He was away for some considerable time (years, I think, but I was never much of a note-taker; I'm sure the details are somewhere on the Internet, if you‘re that way inclined). 
When he returned, his opening words were Dicebamus hesterno  die [="{As} we were saying the other day"].
It was partly because of Professor Wilson's specialism (he had just contributed the chapter on Calderón to the standard work on Golden Age Literature first published in 1971) that the Hispanic Society chose the play mentioned here.
Back on terra firma (this post, phew)  this is in effect an update to one I wrote nearly five years ago, but it's a bit more than an afterthought. It hinges on some research notes I produced in the late 1970s – when my future had more in it than my past.
I found the notes during a massive clearout of things I had written. The earliest was a spy spoof I produced when I was still wearing shorts.
(no reference here, for North American readers, to deshabille. These were the 'my mamma done told me' kind of dress: knee-pants, if you will). 
Just to recap the gist of my speculative idea:
The royal coat of arms of Great Britain bears the motto Dieu et mon droît (a reference to the divine right of kings). Google finds well over 200,000,000 hits for the rather feeble (not to say meaningless) translation 'God and my right'. 
Somewhere (when I had reading rights in the old BM reading room) I found a French bible with the words Le Seigneur est ma justesse, which appears in the AV (no refs. today, my battery's about to die, as is my brain) as 'The Lord is my righteousness'.
Cutting to the chase, let's imagine Dieu e[s]t mon droît was the translation in some French bible of the verse that appears in the AV* as 'The lord is my righteousness'. The French-speaking Plantagenets would have met it. What better motto for Henry (the first king of Great Britain to adopt the motto) to adopt as a statement of a newly defined right (Henry having picked it up from his forebear Richard I, who favoured it as a crusading battle cry [meaning, roughly, 'God's on my side'])? 
*[2019 correction] I was wrong about the AV, which has (Jeremiah 23:6) 'the Lord our righteousness' . The Revised Standard Version   has Jeremiah 23:6 translated as 'the Lord is our righteousness' (as do other versions)
A French version of this battle cry might have been Dieu est notre droit, which in Old French could have had et for este before -st becomes acute, and all this correct spelling stuff wouldn't have bothered Richard I (or his advisers, or chaplain) when he adopted it as his motto at Gisors in 1198. And a few centuries later (as my original post said). it was in use at around the time that defining the divine right of kings became relevant.
Getting One's Metaphors in a Twist
David Coleman is not the only source of Colemanballs. Sports commentaries generally offer a cornucopia of such infelicities. The need for a continuous stream of verbiage almost guarantees it.  In the half-time break of a recent Ireland/England rugby match an  example was produced and allowed to slip away unnoticed (apparently unnoticed in the studio, but linguistically aware observers were on the qui vive). 
England had dominated the first half, but in the last ten minutes Ireland were resurgent, and had a one point lead.  The person leading the panel of interested parties in the studio wanted to say Ireland's tails were up and Ireland's noses were in front. Given the positional sense of the two metaphors (tails up/noses in front) it's no surprise that what came out of the presenter's mouth was the posturally improbable mixture: 
Ireland have their tails in front.
But those shelves won't clear themselves.


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