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Thursday, 13 March 2008


I don't know what Gibbon called the 'decent obscurity of a learned language' but I can wholly grasp the meaning of it and know exactly the feeling!
On a more serious note, to name that odd feeling the English tongue uses a German word (die Angst). Meanwhile, Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) borrowed an English word (spleen) that he used in his poetry and then introduced in the common French language. And 'melancholy' itself is a Greek word.
It appears that those two people were unable to find an appropriate word in their own languages and as a result they had to borrow a foreign word to name that feeling.
It would be nice to know what happened in other tongues. I don't remember what word Sigmund Freud used, maybe the German word 'Angst'?

The "Democritus, Jr." introduction is one of the greatest pieces of writing in English. Nice to see someone writing about it.

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  • Nothing is of greater consolation to the author of a novel than the disovery of readings he had not conceived but which are then prompted by his readers. (Umberto Eco, Reflections on The Name of the Rose)
  • ... relatively few persons in London ... can afford the luxury of one or more servants. No fewer than 3,700,000 have no servants at all, and of the half million that have servants 227,000 have only one. (The Times, 6 June 1895)
  • Standing among savage scenery, the hotel offers stupendous revelations. There is a French widow in every bedroom, affording delightful prospects. (Tyrolean inn brochure, according to Gerard Hoffnung)
  • (A doctor is at an elderly relative's deathbed) "The old sawbones, eh?" he bellowed ... "Just in the nick, perhaps. Haul the old girl back by the short hairs, if you ask me. Devilish smart at his work ... Always take a fence with more confidence when I know he's out with us."
  • Too often, when a man of Monty Godkin's mental powers is plunged in thought, nothing happens at all. The machinery just whirs for a while, and that is the end of it. (P G Wodehouse, Heavy Weather)
  • ...the breed that take their pleasures as Saint Laurence took his grid (Kipling, The Five nations)

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