22 July 2020

S Mary Magdalen (2); Dorothy Sayers guides us through linguistics


As for the howler hortu, I do have a theory. I think it is an example of hypercorrection.

Educated Italians are conscious of the risk of amalgamating the fourth Latin declension with the second, because this is precisely what their own language has done. So they find themselves constantly typing "Sancto Spirito" and then having to correct it to "Sancto Spiritu".

So in this preface somebody hypercorrected the correct 'horto' to the incorrect 'hortu'.

In languages where the letter H is vulnerable, poor ignorant hypercorrecting people like Catullus's Arrius put an H in where it is not supposed to be. Similarly, in our own time, they are nervous about betraying their illiteracy by saying "Tom and me are going to the chipper"; so nervous that, even where "Tom and me" is required by English grammar (e.g. "he was very rude to Tom and me") they hypercorrect and erroneously say "He was very rude to Tom and I" ... ...  poor illiterate things! They will even admit that they somehow can't get out of their minds the idea that "Tom and I " just "sounds right"!!! Such is the power of incompetent nannies and thoroughly bad teachers!! And the terrible, ghastly, desire to sound genteel! Better to sound Rustic than Genteel, sez I.

[Dorothy Sayers had a fine ... and amused ... ear for linguistic nuance. In 1933 (Murder must advertise) she offered, as from a cockney youth, "She is always telling tales on we boys"; and, as from a 'reception clerk', "Strictly between you and I." I wonder how much further this sort of thing can be traced back. In Have His Carcase (1932), Doris, whose "fundamental cockney was overlaid by a veneer of intense refinement", says "'It's not so easy for we dancers.'"]

I suspect that it was hypercorrection which led the old, correct version of a place-name five miles south of here to mutate, in the early modern period, from the historically and philologically correct 'Abendon' to the incorrect 'Abingdon' under the influence of all the other place-names where rustic tongues had carelessly modified -ing to -en'.

                                            DELAYED UPDATING

Theologically, a thorough-going up-to-date Bergoglian would, of course, have to change the final bit of that S Mary Magdalene Preface to "ad mundi fines, Israele scilicet excepto, perveniret". Sometimes, familiar phraseologies ... our automatic linguistic habits ... long survive changes which have happened in realpolitik. [I have noticed, as late as Dorothy Sayers (Strong Poison, 1930), Lord Peter Wimsey referring to "the three kingdoms" ... an anachronistic solecism, of course, since 1707.] Similarly, with all the old habitual formulae still potent just behind their tongues, Bergoglianists sometimes forget the Bergoglianist conviction according to which the Jews are not to be offered saving Faith in Christ our Redeemer. And they thoughtlessly continue to use, unmodified, *silly old outmoded biblical phrases like "preaching the Gospel to all nations" when, by their own theology, they ought to be writing "preaching the Gospel to all nations except, of course, the Jews".

Perhaps they will all have corrected, 'updated', their instincts by the time we get to the Pontificate of S Frances XII, goddess bless her.

*Trigger warning here about the imminence of unAmerican Irony.


Andreas Meszaros said...

... ac prima adoraverat a mortuis resurgentem ...

Nescio si verum sit Mariam primam adoravisse a mortuis resugentem: scribit enim Sanctus Hieronymus in ep. LIX Ad Marcellam:

Quia (Maria Magdalene) Dominum hortulanum putabat et quasi cum homine loquebatur et quaerebat viventem cum mortuis, recte audivit "Noli me tangere" (Joan. 20. 17). Et est sensus: "Non mereris meis haerere vestigiis nec adorare quasi Dominum nec ejus tenere pedes, quem non existimas surrexisse. Tibi enim necdum ascendi ad Patrem meum. Caeterae vero mulieres, (1) quae pedes tangunt, Dominum confitentur et merentur ejus haerere vestigiis, quem ad Patrem ascendisse confidunt."

(1) In Matthaeo 28:9 scriptum sit, quod ad vestigia Salvatoris mulieres corruerint.

Scribe said...

I shall be long gone before St Frances XII becomes Pope, but your mention of her prompts me to echo what some people I know claim to be a fact, namely, that when Pope St John Paul II declared that it was impossible for women to become priests, he was speaking from the Apostolic Throne. But what if he wasn't? When we are all dust, might some enthusiastic Vatican III declare that he was wrong, and let the ladies in? Just asking. The decision to do so in the Anglican Church led to all kinds of horrors, which so far we RCs have been spared.

stephen cooper said...

Off topic, sort of, but considering your indulgence in prognostications on this post, and the relevance of this post to the always important questions of accurate Latin, and knowing, as one knows, that the next great feast to be added to the Roman Calendar might possibly be "The Re-Dedication of St Peter's Basilica in Rome", maybe - and I am not asking for any specific help ---- maybe you and your friends might consider composing some possible collects for that almost inevitable future feast.

Might I suggest a few words from the Book of Daniel or the more hopeful verses from the prison Epistles of Saint Paul as the place to start?

Paulusmaximus said...

I would suppose that the error is most likely the result of confusion of hortus with its quasi-homophone ortus, which does belong to the fourth declension and therefore has ablative "ortu". Ortu is common in the Vulgate. Presumably, the un-thought-out thought-process must have been "they sound almost the same, therefore, they must be inflected in the same way"

PM said...

In addition to human hypercorrection, we now have the menace of the computer spelling checker and autocorrect function. A medieval historian I know says that she often finds that the computer has turned 'nostri' into 'nostril' without asking her.

Maureen Lash said...

Do you not think that the correction might have been made in the other direction and an erroneous ‘h’ added to ‘ortu’, understood as ‘solis ortu’? Maybe The author is not as dim as we have surmised and there is a clever pun intended here.

Tony V said...

Aside from inappropriate use of the nominative, another type of hypercorrection is the 'spelling pronunciation'. Pronunciation of the T in 'often' is rampant in England and has spread to the US. (Are you in contact with Gavin Ashenden? Please have a word with him about this enormity.)

I once heard someone pronounce the T in 'soften', but so far not in 'whistle', 'mistletoe', etc.

Labov termed the phenomenon 'linguistic insecurity'; he did a famous study of postvocalic R in 3 NYC department stores.