Thursday, 16 May 2019

Knowing when to fold

I just heard Terry Wogan on Desert Island Discs Revisited using the expression (when talking about ending his career) "I'll fold up my tent".

I wrote about metaphors for arriving and leaving over 3 years ago (here) but I think it's due for a new outing. As so often in this context, I quote The Man:
Elcock explains: 
While VENĪRE remained everywhere the usual verb for 'to come', two new terms conveying a more visual image were  borrowed from maritime language. The older of these, which prevailed in Spain, was PLĬCARE, first used with reference to the folding of sails (cf Port. chegar, Sicilian chicari). In Rumanian a pleca means inversely 'to go, to depart'; this is because the metaphor there was military, and referred to the folding up of tents  (cf. Eng. 'to decamp').  AD-RIPARE, 'to  come to shore', was a somewhat later creation which found favour in Gaul (cf Prov. arribá [HD: Elcock does not mention plegar here, but he has already mentioned it in another context]. From Provence it spread to Catalonia, and during the Middle Ages was carried thence to Sardinia, as arribare.   
The Romance Language (I've given this source more than once, but make no apology for that: it's very good.)
So, whereas I had hitherto relied on the decamp example as a metaphor for leaving in English, I can now add to my body of examples (in that Terry Wogan quote) the explicit metaphor of folding a tent.
As it happens, as that edition of Desert Island Discs dates from before the beginning of the Harmless Drudgery blog, in fact the example was already there, waiting for me to hear the repeat. But anyway...
But, I was thinking of the spoken language. As I said in that earlier post
Catalan often straddles the French/Spanish camps, so I expected a pair like the Provençal ones. But Cat. plegar has a different metaphorical use: stop work, knock off  – reminiscent of primary school teachers' instructions: When you've finished, FOLD your arms on the desk in front of you.
And the arm-folding image as a sign of work done is unequivocal ...
(not the most apt of words in this context, considering the last two syllables...
Hmm. There's something to be said on each side of that argument. If all the arguments were on the same side, it'd be univocal. 
[The metaphor that evokes univocality is "singing from the same hymn-sheet" {unless harmony's involved, of course, but this is getting silly {Getting?}}]
... but you know what I mean – clearly meaningful)
...  in an English context (and I imagine in many others).
And apropos of nothing (I just happened to see it in a fruitless quest for information just now)...

The dates of these restrictions 
may be subject to change.

No, no  no.  They ARE subject to change. What they MAY be is changed, in which case they would be subjected to change.

I do wish people wouldn't toss the subjunctive around willy-nilly with some vague it's-not-my-fault-guv "meaning".  But I must take a deep breath and ignore it. There are worse things, I know...
Anyway, I think it's time I folded my arms.


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