Accidental filmic poetry

Tonight we're rewatching The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in honor of Ennio Morricone, the composer of its iconic score, who died today. Deediedeedledee nwah nwah nwaaaaahhh

And I've just had a thought about the title that turns on the quite different interpretations of the-Adj constructions in English and Italian, which I mainly know about from this paper by Hagit Borer and Isabelle Roy .

In English, "the Adj" generally only allows a generic reading, and often refers to the class of humans characterized by the adjective, as in the poor, the rich, etc. In Italian (and French, Spanish, etc.) this isn't the case; the construction, although based on the same syntax, can also receive a particular referential singular interpretation. Borer and Roy ascribe this to the presence of identifying number and gender features on the determiner in those languages.

In the original Italian title of the movie, Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo ('The good.masc.sg, The ugly.masc.sg, the bad.masc.sg.) these 'The-Adj' sequences are referential; they refer to the three main characters Blondie, Angel Eyes and Tuco. The Italian title is more or less equivalent to English "The good guy, the bad guy and the ugly guy". 

In English, though, the grammatical structure of the title can only get the generic reading. The use of these forms in the film to refer to three protagonists, then, bestows an archetypal quality on those characters; they're metonymically interpreted as instantiating the whole classes of good people, bad people and ugly people respectively. And the kind of mythic force it imparts somehow fits so perfectly with the grandiose yet tongue-in-cheek quality of the whole film, to me it's really a fundamental part of its impact, humor and appeal.

My question is, do you think Leone and the scriptwriters understood this property of the English translation? Or did they read their English calque of the Italian grammatical structure just as they would have read the Italian? The Italian title, in fact, with its masculine singular marking, cannot be understood in the same way as the English is. To represent the English interpretation in Italian, apparently, the plural would be needed: i belli, i brutti, i cattivi. My guess is that neither the writers nor the director realized that the title read so differently in English. 

 According to Wikipedia, the Italian title was a last-minute suggestion of screenwriter Luciano Vincenzoni, and the title for the English version was determined by the studio after some alternatives were bandied about and rejected. I wonder if someone at United Artists recognized the different reading, and the epic quality it imparted, when they were discussing the choice!

Thanks to Roberta d'Alessandro and other Facebook linguists for Italian judgments and discussion!

 

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Barge bilge

The CCP government is dragging a large barge through Victoria Harbor to celebrate their takeover of Hong Kong and the imposition of the hated National Security Law on the former semi-autonomous region.  On one side:


(Source)

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GFHG, SDGM

Hong Kong opponents of PRC / CCP totalitarian rule can read the title of this post.  Many of them can also read this geometric typeface:

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With precision and elegance

From Victor Steinbok:

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Candida Xu: a highly literate Chinese woman of the 17th century

Throughout history, female literacy in China was extremely low.  It was only in the 20th century that sizable numbers of women were able to read.  An exception to this general rule was Candida Xu (in Chinese called Xǔ Xú Gāndìdà, 许徐甘第大, Xǔ Xú shì 许徐氏,Xǔ Gāndìdà 许甘第大,Xú Gāndìdà 徐甘第大, and Gāndìdà 甘第大 [source]).  The double surname Xǔ Xú 许徐 — highly unusual for a woman in premodern China — derives from her marriage to a man named Xǔ Yuǎndù 许远度, to whom she bore eight children.  They observed the Catholic custom whereby the husband did not take concubines.

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Universal Rating Scale

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George Whitefield

More than a decade ago, I posted about the oratorial skills of George Whitefield: "If I could only say 'O!' like Mr. Whitefield", 5/15/2009. He was an itinerant preacher who played an indirect role in the origins of the University of Pennsylvania, whose original 1740 home was a building constructed in an unsuccessful attempt to lure Whitefield to settle in Philadelphia. What I didn't know at the time was that Whitefield later played a central role in the introduction of slavery to Georgia, where he did settle:

Slavery had been outlawed in the young Georgia colony in 1735. In 1747, Whitefield attributed the financial woes of his Bethesda Orphanage to Georgia's prohibition of slavery.He argued that "the constitution of that colony [Georgia] is very bad, and it is impossible for the inhabitants to subsist without the use of slaves.

Between 1748 and 1750, Whitefield campaigned for slavery's legalisation. He said that the colony would not be prosperous unless farmers had slave labor. Whitefield wanted slavery legalized not only for the prosperity of the colony, but also for the financial viability of the Bethesda Orphanage. "Had Negroes been allowed", he said, "I should now have had a sufficiency to support a great many orphans without expending above half the sum that has been laid out." Whitefield's push for the legalization of slavery "cannot be explained solely on the basics of economics." It was also that "the specter of massive slave revolts pursued him."

Slavery was legalized in 1751. Whitefield saw the "legalization of slavery as part personal victory and part divine will." Whitefield now argued a scriptural justification for slavery. He increased his number of slaves, using his preaching to raise money to purchase them. Whitefield became "perhaps the most energetic, and conspicuous, evangelical defender and practitioner of slavery."

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Better said in Cantonese

A banner carried in the streets of Hong Kong on July 1:

Artist

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Freeest or freest

I wrote this sentence:  "Hong Kong was one of the freeest cities on earth".  My automated spell checker flagged "freeest", so I changed it to "freest", and the spell checker let that stand.  But in my mind I was still saying "freeest", with two syllables, whereas when I see "freest", it's very hard for me to think of that as having two syllables.  So how are we to pronounce the superlative degree of the adjective "free"?

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Revenge bedtime procrastination

Tweet by Daphne K. Lee:

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On the invention of writing in Egypt and China

The next SCRIBO guest will be John Baines (Oxford), on the invention of writing in Egypt and China, with the title:

“Pairs of Early Script Forms: Contrasting Aesthetics in Early Egypt and China”. 
 
Don’t miss it next Wednesday 8th July, *4.30pm* (Italy time) = *10:30am* (Philadelphia time).
 
The Zoom link is direct: https://tinyurl.com/y9mu7bpo
 
It will also be streamed live on the INSCRIBE ERC Project Facebook page.

Silvia Ferrara <silvia.ferrara@gmail.com>

SCRIBO Seminar (INSCRIBE ERC Project, Bologna)

[h.t. Joe Farrell]

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Party game

Today's SMBC:

Mouseover text: "I actually only made this so nobody will ever invite me to a party again."

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Similes for female pulchritude in an ancient Chinese poem

From Shī jīng 詩經 (Poetry Classic), circa 6th c. BC:

(Her) hands are like catkins;
skin is like congealed lard;
neck is like larva of longicorn;
teeth are like calabash seeds;
forehead (like that of) cicada,
eyebrows (like antennae of) moth,
(her) enchanting smile is winsome;
(her) beautiful eyes are clear-set.
         — Ode 57, tr. Diana Shuheng Zhang

Shǒu rú róu tí
fū rú níng zhī
lǐng rú qiú qí
chǐ rú hù xī
qín shǒu é méi
qiǎo xiào qiàn xī
měi mù pàn xī.
      —— Wèi fēng·shuòrén

手如柔荑
膚如凝脂
領如蝤蠐
齒如瓠犀
螓首蛾眉
巧笑倩兮
美目盼兮。
 —— 衛風·碩人

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