« AnteriorContinuar »
ernorship, and Tippecanoe Harrison and John Tyler for the Presidency and the Vice-Presidency respectively.
Tissue ballots, ballots printed on very thin paper, enabling a voter readily and without detection to deposit more than one when voting. The device is said to have been first employed in South Carolina, and its use is charged against the whites in the Southern States, where there is a large negro population, as a means to secure to themselves a preponderance in the governments of the States.
Toad-eater. This word has been a fruitful subject of conjecture among etymologists. Bishop Copleston suggests a derivation from the Spanish todito, which he says means a factotum, a derivation endorsed by Lord Lyttleton and Cobham Brewer. But factotum is a totally different thing from toad-eater, and there is no such word as todito in Spanish. Nor is it likely that the term has been corrupted from any foreign language, as its use is too recent to allow of its having undergone any serious modification from its original form. In Miss Fielding's “David Simple" (1744) the word is used by one of the characters, and was then so uncommon that its meaning is asked by another. “It is a metaphor," says the original speaker, “taken from a mountebank's boy eating toads in order to show his master's skill in expelling poison. It is built on a supposition that people who are so unhappy as to be in a state of dependence are forced to do the most nauseous things that can be thought of to please and humor their patrons.” This explanation is probably correct. In the works of Thomas Brown, of facetious memory, among some letters supposed to be written from the dead to the living is one from Joseph Haines, a celebrated mountebank performer in Smithfield (died 1701), in the course of which he talks of having an understrapper to draw teeth for him and be his toad-eater on the stage." There is a similar French phrase, “avaler les cra. pauds," or, more frequently, “les couleuvres" (" to swallow adders"), which no doubt has a similar history.
It may be mentioned as a singular coincidence that the Latin for “toad" is bufo, or, in mid-Latin and modern Italian, buffo, which is the same as buffoon.
Too thin, now classed as an Americanism, in the sense of inadequate, transparent, insufficient, easily seen through, is even in this sense good old English supported by excellent authority. Thin as a metaphor seems to involve the idea of a veil (such as the ancients called ventus textilis, or “woven wind") which would serve to display as much as to conceal the person. Thus, Shakespeare in “King Henry VIII.,” Act v., Sc. 3, makes the king say,
You were ever good at sudden commendations,
They are too thin and bare to hide offences. Precisely the modern sense: “Your commendations are too thin-i.l., too transparent-to hide your offences." In Smollett's “ Peregrine Pickle" (1751) the hero informs Emilia that he is going abroad. Tears gush to her eyes. She explains that the hot tea makes her eyes water. “This pretext," says Smollett, " was too thin to impose on her lover.” The modern sense again. Alexander H. Stephens is said to have revived the phrase and flung it into the currency of vernacular speech. This was in 1870. In answer to a Republican speech, he cried, in that shrill piping voice which always commanded silence, “Mr. Speaker, the gentleman's arguments are gratuitous assertions made up of whole cloth, -and cloth, sir, so gauzy and thin that it will not hold water. It is entirely too thin, sir."
Toujours perdrix! (Fr., “Always partridges !") a phrase expressing dis.
satisfaction at some wearisome repetition. It has some analogy with the English phrase "too much of a good thing." The traditional story runs that Henry IV., being reproved by his confessor for certain conjugal infidelities, turned round upon him with the question, “Father, what dish do you like best of all ?” “ Partridges, sire,” was the response. Shortly afterwards the holy man was put under arrest. Day after day came partridges, and nothing but partridges, for his meals. At last the poor ecclesiastic turned with loathing from his favorite dish. Then the king visited him and asked solicitously how he fared. The confessor complained of the incessant diet of partridges. “But," said the king, “ you like partridges better than anything else.” “Mais toujours perdrix !” expostulated the man of God. Whereupon Henry explained that he for his part was devoted to his queen : “mais toujours perdrix !"
But in truth the story dates long before the time of Henry IV. It may be found in the “Cent Nouvelles nouvelles," compiled between 1456 and 1461 for the amusement of the Dauphin, afterwards Louis XI., by the noblemen and gentlemen of his court. It is the tenth of the series. The principal personage is “un grand seigneur du royaulme d'Angleterre," the dish "pastés d'anguilles," and the person thus practically admonished to mind his own business the noble lord's favorite page.
Juvenal has a phrase of similar import. Speaking of the wear and tear of school-masters' lives, bound to listen to the same stale theme in the same singsong manner, he declares, “ It is the reproduction of the cabbage that kills the poor wretches” (“Occidit miseros crambe repetita,” Satires, vii. 154). Gifford's translation runs,
Till, like hashed cabbage served for each repast,
The repetition kills the wretch at last. There is a reminiscence here of the old Greek proverb δις κράμβη θάνατος, which survives in England in the proverbial phrase "colewort twice sodden"
=“stale news," in Scotland in the similar “cauld kale het again," and both in England and in America in the better known " I don't boil my cabbage twice,” which is the rural way of saying that “Shakespeare doesn't repeat."
Trading. In American vernacular, trading means simply exchanging one thing for another : thus, two Yankee boys would not uncommonly “trade jack. knives." In political parlance it is the name of a peculiarly insidious form of political treachery : 1.8., a governor is to be elected in a State, and at the same election, say, Presidential electors; the followers of the gubernatorial candidate of one party agree with their political enemies that, in return for the latter voting and procuring votes for their candidate for governor, they will themselves vote and procure votes for the others' candidate for President. The practice, when a number of officers are voted for, is susceptible of numerous combinations, and many devices are resorted to to secure the end in view. A favorite method is the printing and distribution of mixed tickets, with the names of the candidates of various parties conspiring to “trade.” Careless and illiterate voters thus frequently unwittingly help the "traders.”
Translation, Curiosities of. The "traitor translator” has been a fruitful source of wrath on the part of the betrayed author and of amusement on the part of the general public. Some of his blunders are really bewildering, One can understand how Cibber's comedy of “Love's Last Shift" lent itself to travesty as “ La dernière Chemise de l'Amour," how Congreve's tragedy of “The Mourning Bride” might become “L'Épouse de Matin,” or how “The Bride of Lammermoor” might be turned into “La Bride (“the bridle" de Lammermoor.” One can even understand how the the English student could have rendered the Greek embrontetos (a thunderstruck, or idiotic, 20
person) by "a thundering fool.” But Miss Cooper, the daughter of the novelist, tells a story which is well-nigh incredible.' When in Paris, she saw a French translation of “The Spy," in which a man is represented as tying his horse to a locust. Not understanding that the locust-tree was meant, the intelligent Frenchman translated the word as "sauterelle," and, feeling that some explanation was due, he gravely explained in a note that grasshoppers grew to an enormous size in America, and that one of them, dead and stuffed, was placed at the door of the mansion for the convenience of visitors on horseback. Another case where the translator, vaguely conscious that his version lacks intelligibility, increases the fun by volunteering explanations, is that of the Frenchman who rendered a “ Welsh rabbit" (in one of Scott's novels) “a rabbit of Wales," and then inserted a foot-note explaining that the superior favor of the rabbits of Wales led to a great demand for them in Scotland, where consequently they were forwarded in considerable numbers. Far more candid was the editor of an Italian paper, Il Giornale delle due Sicilie, who, Translating from an English newspaper an account of a husband killing his wife with a poker, cautiously rendered the latter word as pokero, naïvely adinitting, "we do not know with certainty whether this thing 'pokero' be a domestic or a surgical instrument."
As a rule, the public have to bear this sort of thing as well as they can and try to lighten the burden by grinning. But in Paris, when L'Opinion Nationale undertook to publish a translation of “Our Mutual Friend" under the title of “ L'Ami Commun," the readers arose en masse after the first seven chapters had been issued, and protested against the continuance of a tale which abounded in such monstrous absurdities. And the public were right, though they probably held the author rather than the translator responsible. A literary gentleman who translates "a pea overcoat" as “ un paletot du couleur de purée de pois" ("a coat of the color of pea soup”) is capable of almost any enormity. And in fact he was guilty of the following. 'In introducing Twemlow to the reader, Dickens employs this language : “There was an innocent piece of dinner-furniture that went on easy casters, and was kept over a livery-stable yard in Duke Street, St. James's, when not in use, to whom the Veneerings were a source of blind confusion. The name of this article was Twemlow.” The rendering of this sentence was as follows: “Il y a dans le quartier de St. James, où quand il ne sort pas il est remise audessus d'une écurie de Duke Street, un meuble de salle-a-manger, meuble innocent, chaussé de larges souliers de castor, pour qui les Veneerings sont un sujet d'inquiétude perpétuelle. Ce meuble inoffensif s'appelle Twemlow."
But what can be expected of a nation where so great a man as Alexandre Dumas undertook to introduce a translation of Goethe's "Faust" in Paris, though he confessed that he only knew enough of the German language to ask his way, to purchase his ticket on a railway, and to order his meals, when in Germany?
German, indeed, has proved as great a stumbling-block to our Gallic neighbors as English. A certain Bouchette, the biographer of Jacob Boehm, gave, in an appendix, a list of his works. One of these was Boehm's “Reflections on Isaiah Stiefel." Now, Stiefel was a contemporary theological writer ; but the word stiefel also means a “boot," and poor M. Bouchette, knowing that the subject of the treatise was scriptural, fell into the delicious error of translating the title as “Réflexions sur les Bottes d'Isaïe."
It is well known that Voltaire, in his version of Shakespeare, perpetrated several egregious blunders; but even in our own time some of his country. men have scarcely been more happy in their attempts to translate our great dramatist's works. Jules Janin, the eminent critic, rendered Macbeth's words "Out, out, brief candle !” as “Sortez, courte chandelle !" Another French
writer has committed an equally strange mistake. Northumberland, in the “Second Part of King Henry IV.,” says,
Even such a man, so faint, so spiritless,
So dull, so dead in look, so woe-begone. The translator's version of the words italicized is, “Ainsi, douleur, va-t'-en !" (“Thus, grief, go away with you !")
In a recent illustrated catalogue of the Paris Salon, which gives rough sketches of the pictures, with their titles in English and in French, there is one sketch representing a number of nude ladies disporting themselves in the clouds, to which the English inscription is “Milk Street.” Your astonishment is changed to delight when you find that this is a translation of “La Voie lactée."
An English temperance orator in Paris preached a sermon in French to a large audience, and at the close of his animadversions recommended his astonished hearers to eschew everything but l'eau de vie, which means “brandy," but by which he intended “the water of life.”
The translation by a miss in her teens of “never mind” into "jamais esprit" is matched by a version, which once amused the undergraduates of a Phila. delphia university, of the title of a popular song. The Latin translation is as follows: “Qui crudus enim lectus, albus et spiravit.” Our classical readers might puzzle over the above for a long time without discovering that it means “Hurrah for the red, white, and blue !" But even this was eclipsed by the Englishman who, coming to a foreign teacher to be “finished” in German, was asked to write a sentence in colloquial English and then to translate it. He wrote, “ He has bolted and has not settled his bill,” translating it by “ Er hat verriegelt und hat nicht ansiedelt seinen Schnabel.” Verriegeln meaning “ to bolt a door," ansiedeln " to settle as a colonist," and Schnabel “the bili of a bird," this extraordinary sentence really signified, “He has driven in a bolt and has not colonized his beak.”
But the height of pretentious absurdity was reached in a volume of translations of Spanish poems published in London several years ago, which contained such gems as the following:
I stand by smiling Bacchus,
In joy us wont to wrap he;
The knowledge to be happy.
In fair as diamond splendor
Me light he's born to render.
With living beings swarmy;
Can never come to harm me. Transpire. This word (from the Latin trans, "across” or “through," and spirare, to “breathe") originally meant to emit insensible vapor through the pores of the skin. By a logical and admissible extension of meaning, it came to be used metaphorically in the sense of to become known, to emerge from secrecy into comparative or positive publicity. But a man who talks, as so many of our newspaper men insist on talking, of events that have recently transpired, commits a brutal outrage on the language which he should cherish as his birthright.
Treacle Town, a sobriquet for Macclesfield, England. This curious name is said to have arisen from the accidental overthrow of a cask of treacle which was left outside a grocer's shop. The mishap occurred one morning just as
the work-people were on their way to the mills, and the treacle flowing down the street was too much for them. They focked to the spot to dip their breakfast bread in the sticky stream, until at last it seemed that the whole town was walking about eating bread and treacle. Bristol has also been given the same name, which in this case arises from the large quantity of treacle supplied by the numerous sugar refiners in and about the town.
Troy Weight. The smallest measure of weight in use, the grain, has its name from being originally the weight of a grain of wheat. A statute passed in England in 1266 ordained that thirty-two grains of wheat, taken from the middle of the ear or head and well dried, should make a pennyweight, twenty of which should make an ounce, while twelve ounces were to make a pound. The pound, therefore, consisted then of seven thousand six hundred and eighty grains. Some centuries later the pennyweight was divided into twentyfour grains, which make the troy pound, as now used, five thousand seven hundred and sixty grains. The pennyweight was the exact weight of the old silver penny.
Trumpet, Trumpeter. The familiar phrases “blowing your own trumpet," and "your trumpeter is dead," implying, in an easy, jocular way, that you have to sing your own praises because nobody else will do so for you, are, not impossibly, derived from a curious practice until recently surviving in Venice. When a student had won any academic honors his proud parents employed a couple of men to go through the city proclaiming the fact. An eye-witness, writing to the London Standard in September, 1866, thus describes the method : “A quiet, respectable-looking man was blowing loudly upon a horn, while another, having the appearance of a gondolier out of employ, stood by him. When the first man had done blowing his trumpet, he began to read, in a very loud, sing-song tone, like that of an English bell. man, from a printed sheet which he held in his hand. I could not catch all that he said, but the purport was that Enrico, the excellent son of his excellent parents, Giovanni and Gigia Pacotti, had gained a prize at school, and therefore Evviva Enrico, Evviva Giovanni and Gigia, and Evviva the rest of their egregious family. He then blew a loud blast upon his horn, and the gondolier, who had been standing by perfectly impassive, and taking quantities of snuff, probably to give him an appearance of unconcern, immediately began to halloo in a loud but monotonous voice, and without the smallest enthusiasm, excitement, or even interest, Viva, viva, viva! about fifty times, the man with the horn coming in with a blast of that instrument as a finale.” It has also been suggested that the phrases have reference to Matthew vi. 2: “ Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men.” It appears from Harmer's “Observations," vol. i. p. 474, that Eastern customs tally with this. He says, “ The dervishes carry horns with them, which they frequently blow, when anything is given to them, in honor of the donor. It is not impossible that some of the poor Jews who begged alms might be furnished like the Persian dervishes (who are a sort of religious beggars), and that these hypocrites might be disposed to confine their almsgiving to those that they knew would pay them this honor."
Trust is dead. The familiar sign, “Old Trust is dead. Bad pay killed him," is a relic of antiquity. In Coryat's “Crudities hastily gobled up in five moneths trauells in France, Savoy, Italy, Rhetia, commonly called the Grisons country, Helvetia alias Switzerland, some parts of High Germany and the Netherlands," a quarto printed at London in 1611, is the following passage : " At the south side of the higher court of mine inne, which is hard by the hall