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translating usus

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translating usus

Postby justerman » Mon Sep 28, 2009 8:38 am

Caesar’s Gallic Wars contains the following indirect speech (1.30.2):
“ . . . eam rem non minus ex usu terrae Galliae quam populi Romani accidisse”

This seems to mean something like:
“this thing happened no less to the benefit of the land of Gaul than to the Roman people”

I’m having trouble with “ex usu”. Since the core meaning of “ex” is "out of", the Latin "usus" seems here to have the sense of being a source, from which fortunate events can emerge. Is that a reasonable conclusion?

If so, I can’t think how the concept could be expressed in English without cumbersome periphrasis, so presumably translations will tend to lose the way Latin speakers thought – a pity.
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Re: translating usus

Postby modus.irrealis » Mon Sep 28, 2009 1:03 pm

How about something like "of use", where I wouldn't be surprised if the English is based on the Latin, or "of benefit". "Of" is similar to "ex" in having a core meaning related to "source", "origin", and so on.
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Re: translating usus

Postby adrianus » Mon Sep 28, 2009 3:21 pm

This pair looks odd to me: "the land of Gaul", "the people of Rome". I see in texts sometimes "[terrae]" in brackets, as an insertion, but, if it is a later insertion, is it not better to read without it: "as much to the advantage of the people of Gaul [emphasized] than of the Roman people"? Just wondering.

Hoc conjugium externum mihi videtur: terra Gallia, populus Romanus. Nonnumquàm terrae verbum quibusdam in editionibus intra parentheses (sicut addendum) scribitur. Nonnè meliùs est sic sine "terrae" verbo legere (si addendum serum benè est): "populus Romanus" et "populus Galliae",—qui populus Galliae vim habet, ergo ex ordine naturale Galliae verbum ponitur? Meditor modò.

Sorry for digressing, justerman/modus irrealis.
Vestrâ veniâ, justerman/modus irrealis, digredior.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: translating usus

Postby justerman » Mon Sep 28, 2009 6:45 pm

Yes modus.irrealis, the usage "of benefit" does suggest that "benefit" once had the sense of being a source, though I don't think that sense has survived.

Now I think more about it, fatalistic cultures (which would include classical Rome?) might have the concept of events emerging from fate, and perhaps the concept of fortunate events emerging from fortune.

I agree with you, adrianus, that "land of Gaul" and "Roman people" are awkward together. If we accept that Caesar wrote well, that suggests to me that, like "usus", "terra" might, for Latin speakers, have had a sense which our dictionary makers have not captured.
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Re: translating usus

Postby adrianus » Mon Sep 28, 2009 8:05 pm

Well, the question I am posing is whether he wrote "terrae" at all, and, if he did not, was he not referring to the "people" of Gaul, rather than to the land.
Verum dicere, an Caesar "terrae" verbum scripsisset rogo, et, si id non scripsisset, an populum Galliae, non terram, significasset.

I don't think he wanted to write either "Galliae quam Romae populi ex usu" (because that limits the sense of Romans to the city), and "Galliae quam Romani populi ex usu" won't work (the genitives are ambiguous between the noun and the adjective) but "Galliae quam populi Romani ex usu" flows better by separating noun and adjective (and won't read ambiguously). See earlier, also (ch.17): "gallorum quam romanorum imperia preferre", where the names are in the exact same sense...unless I'm talking nonsense or it's an inconsequential detail.
Meâ sententiâ, nec "Galliae quam Romae populi ex usu" nec "Galliae quam Romani populi ex usu" sensum quaestum dat. Optimum immò "Galliae quam populi Romani ex usu". Vide etiam in capitulo septimo decimo hoc: "gallorum quam romanorum imperia preferre", cum eodem sensu subtile nomina generum apparent...nisi nugas dico vel inutilis est res.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: translating usus

Postby justerman » Tue Sep 29, 2009 8:19 pm

Sorry adrianus, but could you take me slowly through:

"Galliae quam Romani populi ex usu" won't work (the genitives are ambiguous between the noun and the adjective)

and

"Galliae quam populi Romani ex usu" flows better by separating noun and adjective

And if JC had wanted to say people of Gaul, why not "Galli quam Romani populi" ?
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Re: translating usus

Postby adrianus » Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:08 am

Bear in mind that I could be talking nonsense, but this is my feeling. It's a matter of style not grammar. Romani is an adjective and Galliae is a noun. By saying "Galliae quam Romani" I think it confuses, but the separation between them in "Galliae quam populi Romani" draws attention to their different natures. I find it almost impossible to articulate. It's a fuzzy idea, and fuzzy ideas are seldom correct.

Res minus grammaticam magis orationem spectat, ut opinor. Fieri autem posse me blatterare te moneo. "Galliae quam Romani" in dicendo, quia unum nomen aliud adjectivum est, confundit, ut credo. His duobus vocabulis plùs separatis, distinctiones clariùs se ostenduntur. Me exprimere molior, et non dubito quin fallam. Nebulosa sententia mea, quae, eâ ratione, falsa appellatur necesse est.

And if JC had wanted to say people of Gaul, why not "Galli quam Romani populi" ?
That's a good point, I suppose. I can't answer it. Est bonum argumentum, puto, cui respondere non possum
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: translating usus

Postby justerman » Wed Sep 30, 2009 7:46 am

Thanks adrianus, I understand your point. And remember reading that balance was inportant to Latin writers.
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