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Sherlock Holmes and English
Posted: 30 September 2012 05:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Actually jezail doesn’t seem to have been uncommon, doubtless owing to the large number of old India hands in England. There’s no shortage of cites in OED.

jezail, n.

Etymology:  < Persian jazā’īl, a large musket or rifle (used with a rest), a swivel-gun, wall-piece; according to Redman, corrupt. of jazā’ir: compare jazā’irī a matchlockman, one of the guard of the Safawī kings.

A long and heavy Afghan musket.

1838–42 Gen. A. Abbott Jrnl. Afghan War (1879) ii. 167 The assailants had flint locks to their juzails.
1862 H. Beveridge Comprehensive Hist. India III. viii. iv. 414 The Afghan jezails carrying much farther than the British muskets, poured in a fire which could not be returned.
1881 F. T. Palgrave Valley of Death in Visions of Eng. ix, The one who out~slipp’d the jezail and the knife!
1889 R. Kipling Departm. Ditties (1899) 67 Two thousand pounds of education Drops to a ten-rupee jezail [rhyme defile].
1892 R. Kipling Barrack-room Ballads 84 All night the cressets glimmered pale On Ulwar sabre and Tonk jezail.
attrib.
1892 Pall Mall Gaz. 21 Apr. 4/3 Colonel Durand himself receiving a very serious wound in the groin with a jezail bullet—a garnet enclosed in lead.

Derivatives

jeˈzailchee n.  [ < jezail n. with Turki agentive suffix chī] a soldier carrying a jezail.

1862 H. Beveridge Comprehensive Hist. India III. viii. v. 434 It was deemed necessary ‘..to get rid..of the detachment of jezailchees’.

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Posted: 30 September 2012 08:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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lionello - 30 September 2012 05:30 AM

… it’s always struck me odd that he should mention the “jezail bullet” somewhere in his body, without another word. Perhaps jezails were commonplace objects in late 19th century Britain ;-). I know that when I first saw that word, I went straight to the nearest dictionary (even though “bullet” reveals a great deal).

Thank you for that, Lionello, in trying to find out how familiar “jezail” might have been to Conan Doyle’s original audience, I’ve managed to antedate a word in the OED by nearly 20 years - “jezailchee”, “a soldier carrying a jezail”, which the OED first records from 1862, but which pops up twice in The Times of January 6, 1843 (p3) in a long report on “The Disasters In Affghanistan [sic]”, an account of the calamities that overtook the British Army at the start of the First Afghan War. It appears that while the Afghans were armed with jezails, which had a considerably greater range (since the barrel was much longer) than the British musket, there were detachments of (presumably native) troops under British officers with the British Army who had the same weapon, since the Times account mentions “Captain Mackenzie’s jezailchees” and “the Jezailchees under Captain Trevor”. (It also talks about “the fatal jezail fire which had already so grievously thinned our ranks”.)

The jezail is mentioned on more than a dozen occasions between 1841 and 1892 in The Times, including in a report from January 22, 1859 (p9), where the Times correspondent wrote that “"Before we left Lucknow a very fine and very wild-looking set of fellows, Tonnochy’s Jezailchees (so called from their use of the jezail, a long matchlock) marched in from Cawnpore.” Kipling’s “Arithmetic on the Frontier” , published in Departmental Ditties in 1886, contains the lines “Two thousand pounds of education/Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.” And in the edition of April 21, 1892 (p3) a report on “The Hunza-Nagar Expedition: The Storming Of Nilt” includes the remarkable detail that “Colonel Durand himself received a very serious wound in the groin with a jezail bullet - a garnet enclosed in lead.”

I doubt that Conan Doyle imagined Watson with a lead-coated garnet still embedded in him, but it looks as if the British public would not have been unfamiliar with the jezail ("< Persian jazā’īl, a large musket or rifle (used with a rest), a swivel-gun, wall-piece; according to Redman, corrupt. of jazā’ir: compare jazā’irī a matchlockman, one of the guard of the Safawī kings’ - OED) as a weapon used by Afghanis.

Incidentally, those of you that have seen the excellent TV updating of Sherlock Holmes to the 21st century, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin “permanent look of bewilderment” Freeman as Dr John Watson, will have noticed that just like his 19th century counterpart, this Dr Watson is also an ex-Army doctor who was wounded while serving in Afghanistan.

Edit: Ha! Pipped by Aldi while getting lost in old copies of The Times.

[ Edited: 30 September 2012 08:14 AM by Zythophile ]
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Posted: 30 September 2012 09:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Somewhat off-topic, but I’m rather unimpressed with the new TV show. I really enjoyed the first episode; how they integrated the details of the Holmes canon into the 21st century (e.g., Watson being an ex-Army doctor who had served in Afghanistan) was very clever. But after that wore off, I found the mysteries either uninteresting or downright silly. It seems when they’re relying on Conan Doyle’s material it’s quite good, but when the writer’s venture into creativity on their own, they show they’re just not up to snuff. Plus, Cumberbatch’s portrayal is rather uninteresting. He’s not bad, but he doesn’t breathe life into the character, like Jeremy Brett did. Freeman, however, is excellent, as usual.

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Posted: 30 September 2012 09:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Another Holmes TV series premiered on CBS a few days ago. This one is called Elementary with Jonny Lee Miller playing Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr Joan Watson. Set in modern day NY Holmes works as a consultant for NYPD. The first episode was dire. The Beeb are not amused, claiming CBS nabbed the idea from their show, which is a rather silly claim, if only for the reason that CBS produced two similar projects years ago: The Return of Sherlock Holmes 1987, a TV movie with Holmes in a contemporary setting partnered by a Dr Jane Watson, and Sherlock Holmes Returns], 1993, another TV movie with the same scenario but minus the female Watson, or in fact any Watson at all.

Much as I love the original stories I’m no purist about these things. If they want to bring Holmes into the modern world, fine. But it should be done well. For instance I hugely enjoy the old Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce (edited to replace Stock, see below) movies with Holmes operating in 1940s USA. (Actually the first two films, made by 20th Century Fox, were set in Victorian England, but when Fox dropped the series Universal took up the baton and made 12 more in a modern setting, probably for budgetary reasons.)

[ Edited: 30 September 2012 11:14 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 30 September 2012 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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I never got to see a Sherlock Holmes movie with Nigel Stock - But I well remember Nigel Bruce as a bumbling Dr. Watson, opposite the incomparable Basil Rathbone’s Holmes.
Odd that nobody’s mentioned the brilliant spoof “Without a Clue” (1988 or thereabouts, with Ben Kingsley and Michael Caine), which gave the Sherlock Holmes legend a highly original and very entertaining twist. I loved it, and used to replay the decrepit tape every few years, until my VCR sighed and died.....

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Posted: 30 September 2012 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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I’m an idiot, lionello, of course it’s the incomparable Nigel Bruce. Don’t know where Stock came from, probably straight from the decanter. I’ll go back and edit my post and explain the lapse there to preserve the flow of the thread. Thanks for the correction!

Ah, that’s where I got Nigel Stock from! He played Dr Watson on British TV for some years. (Link)

[ Edited: 30 September 2012 11:17 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 30 September 2012 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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The original written Holmes stories were wonderful. And still are. Some of the films and dramas that were relatively faithful to the originals are wonderful. Basil Rathbone is unforgettable, and I really like Ben Kingsley, but to rip the characters out of their historical context and “re-use” them strikes me as… ah, I don’t know… how about, “artistically incestuous?”

Are the producers that desperate for content that they feel the need to do this? A “female Watson?” Did they manage to resist the “dumb blond” stereotype? I bet the calabash had to go.

It sounds more like a sophomore film student assignment to me.

Maybe I’m just cranky. It probably was fun to write and produce. Yea, I’m, just cranky.

In other news, Man Beats Dead Horse!

See? Cranky.

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Posted: 30 September 2012 12:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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I first read Sherlock Holmes as a selection from my uncle’s farmhouse library of about 30 books. One of the few other books I could understand was “None Dare Call It Conspiracy” published or distributed by the John Birch Society. Or maybe it was “While You Slept” about the Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia. Sure, there were other books in other houses, but there on the farm, if you went outside you were put to work. Anyway, the point is that virtually all the references in the literature seemed like Tolkiennesque riddles, designed to confuse me personally. The same thing was true when I picked up Kipling’s short stories later on. Who the heck knew what a sapper was? And that was just the beginning. So oddly enough, the one reference I didn’t need an explanation for was “sawed-off shotgun.” From these humble beginnings, I’ve always been pretty tolerant of an author’s unwillingness to explain himself. But it’s nice to learn some of the real info after all these years. It is in fact important to know that Watson was carrying some lead, not unlike Wild Bill Hickock.

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Posted: 30 September 2012 01:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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It is in fact important to know that Watson was carrying some lead,

Not necessarily. According to a source cited by Wikipedia, .... “juzzails fired roughened bullets, long iron nails, or even pebbles”.

;-)

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Posted: 30 September 2012 03:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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sobiest - 30 September 2012 11:15 AM

A “female Watson?” Did they manage to resist the “dumb blond” stereotype?

I haven’t seen the show but Watson is being played by Lucy Liu, so I don’t think we have a dumb blond.

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Posted: 30 September 2012 04:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Somewhat off-topic, but I’m rather unimpressed with the new TV show. I really enjoyed the first episode; how they integrated the details of the Holmes canon into the 21st century (e.g., Watson being an ex-Army doctor who had served in Afghanistan) was very clever.

As you probably realise, the original Dr Watson was also an ex-army doctor who had served in Afghanistan.

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Posted: 30 September 2012 11:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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I have a book (rescued, years ago, much the worse for wear, from the recycle plant of my whilom employers*), the title page of which proclaims it to be: The Complete Sherlock Holmes by A. Conan Doyle, with a Preface by Christopher Morley**. The book (xi + 1323 pp.) was published in 1936 by Doubleday, Doran & Co., and on another page, claims to be “the only complete, definitive edition of these famous stories”. I wonder, OP Tipping, if yours is the same edition --- or has some other, later entrepreneur come up with another “complete, definitive edition of these famous stories”? Or does your “Complete Sherlock Holmes” consist of more than one volume?

Actually, “The Complete Sherlock Holmes”, unqualified, is a slightly ambiguous title, since it could be read as meaning “all the Sherlock Holmes stories” - in which case, it would have to include the Sherlock Holmes stories written by other authors. I believe there are several such stories, at least one of them (IIRC) by a descendant of Conan Doyle. But I think we would all agree that a Sherlock Holmes story not by Conan Doyle can’t really be a Sherlock Holmes story—at best, a pallid shadow of the real thing.

* Aldiboronti: a paper recycling plant can be almost as good a source of unusual books as a grotty second-hand book shop.  Try one sometime. You might find Orlando there ;-)

** Morley uses an amusing term to describe Conan Doyle: infracaninophile, “a helper of the underdog”.

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Posted: 01 October 2012 03:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Well, I will tell you what I can.

This is a two-volume set that includes all Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. It is part of the Bantam Classics series, (Bantam Books being a member of the Random House stable). The introduction is by Loren D Estleman.

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Posted: 01 October 2012 03:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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As you probably realise, the original Dr Watson was also an ex-army doctor who had served in Afghanistan.

Of course, but the way the producers integrate this fact into the story, giving Watson PTSD, etc. is quite good. This was just an example. There are other clever integrations, like the running joke of everyone mistaking Holmes and Watson for lovers since they’re adult men sharing an apartment.

but to rip the characters out of their historical context and “re-use” them strikes me as… ah, I don’t know… how about, “artistically incestuous?”

I disagree. There’s a long history of adapting characters and stories into other media and contexts in literature, stage, and film. (Not to mention rearranging, remixing, and covering musical compositions.) Should all James Bond films be set in the 1950s starring a character who is a sociopathic thug? Should Superman forever dwell in the 1930s? Recasting the context can be an extremely effective way to breathe new life into a character when a particular actor has defined the character in the “canonical” style (which for me and Holmes is Jeremy Brett, a far superior performance to Rathbone). Of course it has to be well done.

There are many, many “complete” editions of Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle’s stories are out of copyright and anyone can publish them royalty-free.

But I think we would all agree that a Sherlock Holmes story not by Conan Doyle can’t really be a Sherlock Holmes story—at best, a pallid shadow of the real thing.

I don’t agree. The author does not own the character. (At best, the author has a limited-term license for use of the character.) The wonderful thing about characters like Holmes, Bond, King Arthur, Superman, etc. is that they become ingrained in the culture. The stories get retold and recast in myriad different ways.

[ Edited: 01 October 2012 03:59 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 01 October 2012 07:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Thanks, OP Tipping.

There are many, many “complete” editions of Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle’s stories are out of copyright and anyone can publish them royalty-free.

Of course, Dave. Silly of me. I quite overlooked the fact that my edition was published more than 75 years ago.

A propos second-hand books: if anyone’s ever in Vancouver, B.C. - that most amiable of cities - I recommend a visit to “The Bookstore at Ambleside” in West Vancouver, at (IIRC) Marine Drive and W. 15th Street. Not in the least grotty (very far from it), and a treasure house of aging and old books, where one can browse for hours and hours and hours (breathing that wonderful odour), and never fail to come up with something worth the visit. It was there that I acquired a first edition of the “Shorter Oxford Dictionary” (too hefty to schlepp home - it’s still in B.C., at my brother’s place) - and (after a years-long quest) an almost pristine ;-) copy of “The New English Bible”. I hope—oh, how I hope!—that outpost of civilization’s still there.

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