Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Talk about things that are not necessarily related to music or the guitar.
gitgeezer
Posts: 2301
Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:09 pm
Location: Southeastern U.S.

Re: Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Post by gitgeezer » Fri Jan 05, 2018 4:40 pm

“Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.” ― Aesop

Suddenly they heard growling and barking. “What is that?” said the Country Mouse. “It is only the dogs of the house,” answered the other. “Only!” said the Country Mouse. “I do not like that music at my dinner.” Just at that moment the door flew open, in came two huge mastiffs, and the two mice had to scamper down and run off. “Good-bye, Cousin,” said the Country Mouse, “What! going so soon?” said the other. “Yes,” he replied; “Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.” —Aesop

“Dost think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale? —SHAKESPEARE (“Twelfth Night”)

from The Old Foodie:

The phrase ‘cakes and ale’ as a metaphor for earthly pleasures is generally attributed to Shakespeare, but it is in fact a great deal older. It appears several times in a version of the ancient Egyptian ‘Book of the Dead’ – a funerary text (actually a roll of papyrus) containing instructions and advice to help the deceased person negotiate the passing into the afterlife.The following extracts are taken from the version known as ‘The Papyrus of Ani’ (written in about 1240 BC), as translated by E.A.Wallis Budge in 1913. 

Let there be given unto me bread-cakes in the House of Refreshing, and sepulchral offerings of cakes and ale, and propitiatory offerings in Anu, and a permanent homestead in Sekhet-Aaru, with wheat and barley therein-to the Double of the Osiris, the scribe Ani.

Hail, O ye who give cakes and ale to perfect souls in the House of Osiris, give ye cakes and ale twice each day (i.e., in the morning and in the evening) to the soul of 
the Osiris Ani, …..

Cakes and ale and joints of meat from those which are on the altar of Ra shall be given to him [the deceased person], and his homestead shall be among the fields of the Field of Reeds, and wheat and barley shall be given unto him therein, and he shall flourish there even as he flourished upon earth.

And he [the deceased] shall present as offerings oxen, and feathered fowl [geese], and incense, and cakes and ale, and garden herbs.

The following quote suggests its modern metaphorical usage:

… says the deceased to the god Thoth: “But let the state of the spirits be given unto me instead of water, and air, and the satisfying of the longings of love, and let quietness of heart be given unto me instead of cakes and ale.”

User avatar
Andrew Fryer
Posts: 2681
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 9:13 pm
Location: London SE5

Re: Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Post by Andrew Fryer » Fri Jan 05, 2018 5:33 pm

gitgeezer wrote:
Fri Jan 05, 2018 4:40 pm
“Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.” ― Aesop
This is interesting, but also highly problematic.
What Aesop (himself via Babrius, a Greek writing in Roman-influenced Scazons) says is,

“τοιαῦτα δειπνῶν” εἶπε “χαῖρε καὶ πλούτει,
καὶ τοῖς περισσοῖς αὐτὸς ἐντρύφα δείπνοις,
ἔχων τὰ πολλὰ ταῦτα μεστὰ κινδύνων.
ἐγὼ δὲ λιτῆς οὐκ ἀφέξομαι βώλου,
ὑφ' ἣν τὰ κρίμνα μὴ φοβούμενος τρώγω"

I paraphrase: "enjoy yourself and be rich dining on such strange and superfluous things [the contents of a rich man's kitchen/dining room have been described in preceding lines] in danger. I won't desert my homely clod under which I gnaw barley without fear".

In other words, your quote isn't Aesop at all; it is a, probably Tudor, "translation" that must have influenced Shakespeare, and which must be considered to be part of English literature. Whoever wrote it clearly thought that beans and bacon were poor fare. Maybe he'd had a bad experience with some cassoulet in France.

Also beans rang the first alarm bell with me - the Pythagorean dietry codes proscribed beans because they believed that beans, along with some other veg, had souls (which is something we haven't yet discussed on the vegan thread) although I suspect this was because beans make you fart. Babrius mentions pulses but not beans. Also, there is no mention of any meat in the poem, just things like figs and cheese and honey and dates. Which, I agree, is curious.
1975 Calatayud y Gisbert, Yamaha CG131S.

gitgeezer
Posts: 2301
Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:09 pm
Location: Southeastern U.S.

Re: Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Post by gitgeezer » Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:59 pm

Shakespeare's introduction to Aesop was very likely "Aesop's Fables," first printed in English by William Caxton in 1484. It was translated from a French version. As a schoolboy, Shakespeare would have been fed a steady diet of the fables, which show up in many of Shakespeare's works. His "much ado about nothing" was taken from Aesop's "The Mountain in Labor." His "cakes and ale" was taken from Aesop's "The Country Mouse and the City Mouse." Regardless of how the expression read in Greek, by the time it got to Shakespeare it was Caxton's "cakes and ale."

No one in Aesop's or Shakespeare's time could read the Books of the Dead, but the many entries in those books indicate that "cakes and ale" was a common expression among Egyptians. There was a good deal of contact between Greece and Egypt, and Aesop may have picked up the expression in this way. Aesop is a shadowy figure in history. He seems to have been born around 600-620 BCE, but where he was born and where he lived are uncertain. Scholars have given him various origins, and at least one believed he was born in Egypt before being captured and enslaved by Greeks.

CathyCate
Posts: 682
Joined: Mon Jun 01, 2015 2:25 am
Location: Metro Detroit, Michigan

Re: Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Post by CathyCate » Fri Jan 05, 2018 7:25 pm

edcat7 wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:22 am
Evocacion wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:58 am
edcat7 wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 10:12 am
I'm an avid reader (mainly of serious books and classics) but my spelling is only so-so and likewise my vocabulary is fairly limited. When I was a child I was told to have a dictionary nearby so when I didn't understand a word I could look it up. Now I tend to bypass those words or try to work it out from the context. I'm also lousy at cross word puzzles, what am I doing wrong?
Perhaps you are reading paper books, rather than ebooks. Most of the classics are out of copyright, and so are freely available on Project Gutenburg in several different formats - EPUB, KIndle etc.
The advantage of using an ebook reader is that it comes with a dictionary, so words can be looked up in seconds. On my reader, for example, I click on the menu, choose Actions, then choose Dictionary, then tap on the word I want to look up. Much easier than taking the dictionary down from it's shelf and leafing through.

Can't help you with crossword puzzles though. I prefer Sudoku.
I'm sure getting an e-book is the way to go, especially when I work in Greece and carry a ton of books. I'm a technophobe and have just ordered my first smart phone (new but obsolete) off the bay. My pet hate is people who are addicted to their mobiles and are glued to them. This is especially noticeable on the train. I much prefer reading a battered paper book. I might buy a small dictionary.
edcat7
While you are shopping, buy some crossword dictionaries if you want to complete more crossword puzzles. They require a skill set that may not be as related to education level or IQ as you may suppose. Of course giving up on them is another option. I did so and the world still turns :D

amezcua
Posts: 363
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2016 9:50 pm

Re: Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Post by amezcua » Fri Jan 05, 2018 10:19 pm

My annoyance with Hemingway had no substance as it was just a piece of vague prejudice . Not everything is tidy and logically arranged so prejudice is the quick and cheap way to put it in order .Just as well to come clean and admit it . But I don`t even feel guilty about it.Totally unjustified Ha Ha .

User avatar
Andrew Fryer
Posts: 2681
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 9:13 pm
Location: London SE5

Re: Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Post by Andrew Fryer » Sat Jan 06, 2018 11:22 am

gitgeezer wrote:
Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:59 pm
"cakes and ale" was a common expression among Egyptians. There was a good deal of contact between Greece and Egypt, and Aesop may have picked up the expression in this way.
Since Aesop doesn't mention ANY alcoholic beverage, NO!

(warning, we talk of "Aesop", but we don't have any of his writings extant, assuming he ever existed or wrote. All we have is other people's paraphrases of what they call Aesopic fables. Our main source is Babrius, a writer in Greek, although he only uses Roman models, and Phaedrus, a writer in Latin. We have other minor "sources"; it's impossible to know if what they write is genuine or just old urban myth)

I'll take your word for it that the Book of the Dead uses a Hamitic word that has been translated as "cake" and mentions alcoholic beverages. The Egyptians had lots of different fermented drinks that we refer to as "beers" (not "ales"), and Aristophanes lists dozens of different Greek things that we translate as "cakes". In reality we have no knowledge of what many of these were - some were sweet, some were savoury. But even this neglects the context - did the Egyptians refer to them as frivolous foods, or essentials for a happy life for anyone who is deserving enough? As religious offerings? Were bread and water staples or punishments? Were what we call their "cakes" sweet or savoury?

You are confusing expression and sentiment. I have demonstrated that Aesop didn't use the expression.
When you quote something, you are quoting the expression, not the sentiment.
The sentiment is that everyone dies. Perhaps a Greek said "everyone dies."
The King James Bible's English expression of the sentiment is "we go the way of all flesh". This is a literal translation of possibly Jerome's Latin (? I have read this Latin in Geoffrey of Monmouth, but I don't know which Bible Geoffrey would have used. I assume Jerome).
If you write a book entitled "The way of all flesh", you are quoting the KJB English expression. The Greek who said "we all die" is not using this expression, just expressing the sentiment. He is not the source of the expression "The way of all flesh"; the KJB is. You are not quoting the Greek. The KJB is regarded less as a translation of the Bible than it is regarded as a landmark in English literature.

If Aesop mentions figs and dates and cheese and honey he is listing dainty foods.
He is saying figs and dates and cheese and honey; he is not saying "Cakes and Ale"; he's not speaking English for a start.
If the expression "cakes and Ale" is first used in a book published by Caxton, then the quote is from Caxton, it is not from Aesop, and it is not from the Egyptian Book of the Dead either.
1975 Calatayud y Gisbert, Yamaha CG131S.

User avatar
Andrew Fryer
Posts: 2681
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 9:13 pm
Location: London SE5

Re: Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Post by Andrew Fryer » Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:22 pm

Monoglots have deep problems understanding the nature and limitations of translation, don't they?

Imagine how much confusion would occur if some American were to translate Proust's madeleine as a Twinkie!
"Twinkies were invented in France in the 19th century because Proust used to eat them as a boy"

I was forgetting, there's Marie Antoinette's "let them eat cake"
What she actually said, if it is not just supposition, is "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche"
If English translators in the modern age don't even know what brioche is, then how are they going to know what ancient Egyptian things were?
1975 Calatayud y Gisbert, Yamaha CG131S.

gitgeezer
Posts: 2301
Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:09 pm
Location: Southeastern U.S.

Re: Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Post by gitgeezer » Sat Jan 06, 2018 2:50 pm

Andrew Fryer wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:22 pm
there's Marie Antoinette's "let them eat cake"
What she actually said, if it is not just supposition, is "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche"
If English translators in the modern age don't even know what brioche is, then how are they going to know what ancient Egyptian things were?
There's more than one problem with this story. First, there's no record of Marie Antoinette having said it. Secondly, according to the story, she says it after having been told that the peasants have no bread. So translating brioche as a kind of bread makes no sense: "The peasant's have no bread? Then let them eat bread."

So it can be argued that translating brioche as "cake" was not an error in translation, but simply an attempt to avoid the tautology of a literal translation. A single word is needed and it must allow the story to make at least a particle of sense. It seems to me that "cake" will do as well as any, considering that brioche "has the richer aspect of a pastry because of the extra addition of eggs, butter, liquid (milk, water, cream, and, sometimes, brandy) and occasionally a bit of sugar."

ddray
Posts: 494
Joined: Sun Apr 23, 2017 3:10 pm

Re: Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Post by ddray » Sat Jan 06, 2018 2:54 pm

Andrew Fryer wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 11:22 am
The King James Bible's English expression of the sentiment is "we go the way of all flesh". This is a literal translation of possibly Jerome's Latin (? I have read this Latin in Geoffrey of Monmouth, but I don't know which Bible Geoffrey would have used. I assume Jerome).
If you write a book entitled "The way of all flesh", you are quoting the KJB English expression. The Greek who said "we all die" is not using this expression, just expressing the sentiment. He is not the source of the expression "The way of all flesh"; the KJB is.
Bad example. It's not "go the way of all flesh", but "go the way of all the earth" in the Bible. "Ego ingredior viam universæ terræ" in the Vulgate. The "flesh" paraphrase comes from Donne, I think. But let's give pedantry contests a break on this lovely (but coooold) day.

User avatar
Andrew Fryer
Posts: 2681
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 9:13 pm
Location: London SE5

Re: Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Post by Andrew Fryer » Sat Jan 06, 2018 3:29 pm

OK, so it's the Douay-Rheims version, not the KJV, and it's in Geoffrey of Monmouth (docens viam universae carnis esse quam initurus erat). Clearly it's out there somewhere, wherever Samuel Butler got his expression from. That is all that really matters.
1975 Calatayud y Gisbert, Yamaha CG131S.

ddray
Posts: 494
Joined: Sun Apr 23, 2017 3:10 pm

Re: Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Post by ddray » Sat Jan 06, 2018 3:35 pm

Andrew Fryer wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 3:29 pm
OK, so it's the Douay-Rheims version, not the KJV, and it's in Geoffrey of Monmouth (docens viam universae carnis esse quam initurus erat). Clearly it's out there somewhere, and presumably this is where Samuel Butler got his quote from. That is all that really matters.
Oh come on now. That's the very sort of mistake you jump on. It's the difference between a Twinkie and a madeleine.

User avatar
David Gutowski
Posts: 212
Joined: Fri Apr 22, 2016 4:14 am
Location: Ft.Mohave Arizona

Re: Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Post by David Gutowski » Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:34 am

I like Twinkie's but I prefer bobka cakes...my grandmother on my fathers side would send us bobka cake during Christmas and she made them herself and they were delicious. It's a Polish treat... she brought over the recipe from Poland in 1912 and I've always been grateful she didn't sail on the Titanic because, in all likely hood, I wouldn't be here today.
3 hard things for humans to do: dentist visit, public speaking, offering forgiveness.

Carrillo Grand Concert '02
Yulong Guo Chamber '17
Bozo 135 '70
Washburn Rover R020
Paulino Bernabe 10 '12
Jose Ramirez 125 '10
Hernandes '73
Lake #1 '72

User avatar
Denian Arcoleo
Composer
Posts: 6089
Joined: Tue Jul 25, 2006 3:39 pm
Location: Somerset, England

Re: Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:59 pm

petermc61 wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 7:13 am

Curious to know the nature or source of that evidence. Your comment did rather surprise me.
Cheers
Peter
The easiest way to get a grasp of this is to read the work of John Taylor Gatto.

User avatar
petermc61
Posts: 6102
Joined: Sun Apr 08, 2012 12:11 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Post by petermc61 » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:24 am

Denian Arcoleo wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:59 pm
petermc61 wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 7:13 am

Curious to know the nature or source of that evidence. Your comment did rather surprise me.
Cheers
Peter
The easiest way to get a grasp of this is to read the work of John Taylor Gatto.
Thanks Denian, but my problem isn’t being able to grasp something, it’s whether there is sufficient evidence in the first place. Mr Taylor is known to have written some interesting books and was acknowledged to have been a good teacher. I am not sure that makes him the source of reliable data to support your statement that literacy levels in the USA declined over the course of a century.

Cheers
Peter

Rasputin
Posts: 624
Joined: Fri May 12, 2017 12:25 pm

Re: Decline of Vocabulary; Good or Bad?

Post by Rasputin » Wed Jan 10, 2018 8:24 am

Nine times out of ten the explanation for provocative claims of this kind is in the definition of terms - it beggars belief that that literacy levels are higher in the US today then they were a century ago, if we are talking about the percentage of the total population who can basically read and write, but I would guess that is not the definition that this Gatto character was using. He may have been talking about the vocabularies of those who can read, for instance - I wouldn't be surprised if they are smaller today than a century ago... so it all depends on what we mean by a decline in literacy levels.

Return to “The Café”