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Sherlock Holmes and English
Posted: 18 November 2012 04:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 106 ]
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Well, well. A Study In Scarlet is proving to be a rich source of curios.

“An ulster”: This is a kind of overcoat.

“The Lowlands”: which we would now call Netherlands.

“Street Arabs”: homeless children

“As was married only this time twelvemonth”. I found this an interesting phrase. I would have thought that “last twelvemonth” or “a twelvemonth” would have been more conventional but this character’s English was quite colourful and non-standard: possibly meant to be a Northerner, though this is not specified.

“A-singin’ at the pitch o’ his lungs about Columbine’s New-Fangled Banner, or some such stuff”
This was an unreliable constable’s account of a drunkard’s antics. Clearly what Doyle is alluding to is the national anthem of the USA but I found it interesting that he made reference to an old name for America (Columbia) that does not in fact appear in the song. Doesn’t really make sense for that to have been in the constables addled recollections but perhaps it was a little joke on Doyle’s part.

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Posted: 18 November 2012 06:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 107 ]
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“An ulster”: This is a kind of overcoat.

“Street Arabs”: homeless children

These are both very familiar to me; they occur frequently in literature.

“A-singin’ at the pitch o’ his lungs about Columbine’s New-Fangled Banner, or some such stuff”
This was an unreliable constable’s account of a drunkard’s antics. Clearly what Doyle is alluding to is the national anthem of the USA but I found it interesting that he made reference to an old name for America (Columbia) that does not in fact appear in the song. Doesn’t really make sense for that to have been in the constables addled recollections but perhaps it was a little joke on Doyle’s part.

The constable is mixing “The Star-Spangled Banner” up with “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,” which was practically an alternate anthem a century ago (and in fact the former was not adopted as the official national anthem until 1931).  Charles Ives used “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” as the triumphant finale of his Second Symphony (a wonderful piece of music, by the way, like so much of Ives).

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Posted: 18 November 2012 01:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 108 ]
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when I was a little boy at school in England, I remember we sang (or rather bawled) a song:

“Britannia,the pride of the ocean,
The home of the brave and the free,
The shrine of the sailor’s devotion,
No land can compare unto thee”

After a little browsing, I find that the same tune (with, of course, slightly different lyrics) has long been sung on both sides of the pond - no doubt with equal gusto.

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Posted: 18 November 2012 04:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 109 ]
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The constable is mixing “The Star-Spangled Banner” up with “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,”

Thanks.

These are both very familiar to me; they occur frequently in literature.

I’ve seen Street Arab in Dickens but either I’ve not encountered ulster before, or encountered it and not bothered to look it up.

[ Edited: 18 November 2012 04:54 PM by OP Tipping ]
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Posted: 18 November 2012 05:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 110 ]
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Arab has some currency in North American usage, with a long A as the initial phoneme. DARE records it from 1903, referencing usage in the mid-nineteenth century, in the sense of “a wild-looking person, esp. a child.” The sense of “street urchin” is recorded from 1911. And there is the Baltimore use of Arab referring to a street peddler of fruits and vegetables. (They’re depicted in The Wire, and on at least one occasion a character uses the word.) The Baltimore street peddler sense is recorded from 1935.

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Posted: 18 November 2012 05:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 111 ]
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"Arab has some currency in North American usage, with a long A as the initial phoneme.”

Is it just me, or is the use of initial long vowels sometimes an ethnic put-down?  Is /aɪ’tælɪən/ a less respectful form than /ɪ’tælɪən/, for instance, or just a neutral variant? Is /aɪˈræn/ a less formal than /ɪˈrɑːn/?

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Posted: 19 November 2012 03:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 112 ]
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My gut feeling is that if you are using one of these terms as an ethnic put-down you would be more likely to use it with an initial long vowel but that it could also just be a neutral variant.  Not much help, I know.

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Posted: 19 November 2012 07:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 113 ]
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OP Tipping - 18 November 2012 04:56 AM

“An ulster”: This is a kind of overcoat.

Specifically a sleeved overcoat with a fitted cape http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulster_coat

The Lowlands”: which we would now call Netherlands.

“Lowlands “ in English, when it doesn’t refer to the Scottish Lowlands but the ones in Northern Europe, generally means more than just the Netherlands: it would take in Belgium and Picardy as well as places such as Cleves in Germany.

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Posted: 19 November 2012 07:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 114 ]
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"The Netherlands” has covered all those regions at various times. The term has not always been restricted to the territory that is currently part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

There’s also the low countries.

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Posted: 19 November 2012 08:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 115 ]
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Is it just me, or is the use of initial long vowels sometimes an ethnic put-down?

I think it’s more that the kind of people (rural or small-town, non-bicoastal-sophisticate) who are likely to lack familiarity with other cultures and languages are also likely to preserve older pronunciations (with the long vowel) and to have dismissive or antagonistic feelings toward those other cultures, or at least not to have the sensitivity to ethnic jokes/putdowns that bicoastal sophisticates have learned to simulate even if it doesn’t come naturally.  Note that I am speaking descriptively (if with mild irony about the sophisticates, because they tend to be full of themselves); having friends and relatives in both camps, I am not inclined to look down on either.  In any case, no, the long vowels are not in themselves a putdown, and it would be a mistake to equate saying Eye-ranian or Eye-talian with hating the respective ethnic groups.

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Posted: 19 November 2012 08:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 116 ]
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Thanks, lh.

Re Lowlands, it turns out he _did_ mean a place in Belgium (Liege).

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Posted: 19 November 2012 09:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 117 ]
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I agree with lh: there’s correlation, but no causation.

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Posted: 19 November 2012 05:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 118 ]
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In The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane (spoiler alert!) a man who has been swimming and has odd marks on his body cries “Lion’s Mane”.
It turns out that he has been killed by the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish.
This is the name by which Cyanea capillata is commonly known. Holmes only refers to it by this formal binomial. He does quote an extract from a real account by a real natural historian, John George Wood, in which a comparison is made between C. capillata and the mane of a lion.

The Lion’s Mane Jellyfish is not known in the area where this story is set (Sussex) but is not especially rare in Scotland’s western shores or in the Irish sea. It’s one of the more dangerous beasties in British waters so has some notoriety now.

Either this was the easiest mystery ever devised since “who’s got your nose??”, or the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish was not well known in Doyle’s time, or perhaps was just not known by that name. Maybe this story was what made that name popular.

EDIT: By happy coincidence, someone has popped a picture of one on to Dropping The Science today.
http://cheezburger.com/6774793216

[ Edited: 20 November 2012 02:51 AM by OP Tipping ]
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Posted: 20 November 2012 07:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 119 ]
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Dave Wilton - 19 November 2012 07:49 AM

“The Netherlands” has covered all those regions at various times. The term has not always been restricted to the territory that is currently part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

True, but what I was trying to point out was that what “we would now call Netherlands” ie the modern usage of “the Netherlands”, which is restricted to the country of that name, is not the same as “the Lowlands” as used by Doyle.

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Posted: 20 November 2012 04:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 120 ]
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And a fair rejoinder it was, Zythophile. A’thank’ee.

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