Monday, July 14, 2008

Mary Warnock on conceptual translation from the Greek

The New Statesman's report by Antonia Quirke of the Radio 3 programme, The Essay: Greek and Latin Voices (7-10 July, Radio 3, 11pm) - four short programmes on Plato -- includes the following useful point:

The elderly philosopher Mary Warnock told a story about how when she was young she used to go around with a book of Greek vocab, dutifully checking the meaning of each word she came across and thinking ("if indeed I thought at all") that, for every Greek word, there existed one exact English equivalent.

This worked until one day she found a description of a child's face as "chloris", which translates as "bright green" - surely odd. So she asked her brother, who explained that it was in fact the word used to describe "freshly opening leaves in spring. And I realised that chloris was not really a colour at all, but a word for clarity and freshness, suitable as a word for children." Hence Warnock's passion for Greek: its translation into English has to be conceptual.

1 comment:

Jane said...

Thank you so much for this it is a wonderful story and is a helpful quote for me to work into my introductory piece about languages and translation in an issue of our house journal. I think our issue of the NS hasn't yet arrived and I've not yet got used to reading it online - I still prefer the sofa!

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