“God from God, light from light” *(these are direct objects, so the subject and verb are coming up)
Gestant puellae viscera
“A girls’ innards carry” (the subject and verb, and by far my favorite line)
“True God” (and still the direct object)
genitum non factum
“Begotten, not made”
Refrain: Venite adoremus, Dominum “O come, let us adore/The Lord”
Cantet nunc io, chorus angelorum
“Sing it now, chorus of angels”
Cantet nunc aula caelestium
“Sing now, heavenly court”
Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo
“Glory, glory to God in the highest”
Refrain: “O come, let us adore/The Lord”
Ergo qui natus die hodierna
“Therefore, who is born on the day of today”
Jesu, tibi sit gloria
“Jesus, to you be glory”
Patris aeterni Verbum caro factum
“Word of the eternal Father made flesh”
See how the Latin is actually more direct/efficient than the English? Kind of shockingly so?
I think because the original Latin version had so many syllables, to translate the lines into English, additional words had to be added, and sometimes even new ideas such as “Yea, Lord, we greet thee,” which is how the fourth verse begins in English and is one of my favorite lines in that version.
Yes, it’s made up. But it’s no less brilliant for that. Lest we forget, the entire Lord of the Rings cycle started with J.R.R. Tolkien learning to read Old Norse and reading the Elder Edda in it, and then making up several fictional languages based on Norse and Welsh. In the process, he discovered that “a language implies a mythology,” so then he had to make up a mythology to go with his fictional languages … and the rest is literary history.
But back to Lapine. My source here is the amazing, but dense and demanding, novel Watership Down by Richard Adams. The main characters in this book are rabbits. Their problems are rabbit problems. Their solutions are rabbit solutions. The book eases you in to learning rabbit culture, mythology, and yes, language. On the third page of the story, we meet a small rabbit, the runt of the litter, called Fiver, and we get this footnote:
Rabbits can count up to four. Any number above four is “hrair” — “a lot,” or “a thousand.” Thus they say U Hrair – “The Thousand” — to mean, collectively, all the enemies (or elil, as they call them) of rabbits — fox, stoat, weasel, cat, owl, man, etc. There were probably more than five rabbits in the litter when Fiver was born, but his name, Hrairoo, means “Little Thousand” — i.e., the little one of a lot or, as they say of pigs, “the runt.”
Watership Down, p. 13
Presto! We have already learned two rabbit words:
hrair = five, or a thousand
elil = enemies, predators
We’ve learned three words if you count u, which later will be used not only to mean “the,” but also like the vocative O.
In the next few pages, we learn that every warren has a leader, called a Threarah, and that he has a group of enforcers called the Owsla. Later, we will find out that the Threarah is addressed by adding -rah to his name, as in Hazel-rah.
Later still, we will learn some other words:
silflay = eat. Specifically, silflay is the event when rabbits go out at dawn and dusk to graze.
hraka = droppings
tharn = the state a frightened rabbit gets into, when they cannot move or think
Frith = the sun. Also, God in the rabbit cosmology
Ni-Frith = noon
Inle = the moon. In rabbit myths, the Black Rabbit of Inle is the embodiment of Death.
Fu Inle = moonrise
yona = hedgehog
homba = fox
hrududu = motor vehicle (I think this one is onomatopoetic.)
embleer = damned … O.K., I just checked the glossary, and it actually means “stinking, e.g. the smell of a fox.”
zorn = destroyed, desolate. Denotes a catastrophe.
All this vocabulary is taught as it comes up in the story, through footnotes that are just as fascinating as the story, and through words being used in context.
By the time we had almost finished the book, I and my son could immediately understand the untranslated line that Bigwig (Thlayli), a warrior rabbit, speaks in defiance of the leader of an enemy warren:
“Silflay hraka, u embleer rah.”
After finishing, in the post-reading-a-really-good-epic glow, I belatedly discovered that the book has a glossary at the back. But by that time, we hardly needed it.
… so I’ll just post another quote from Dorothy Sayers.
Our perfect writer is in the act of composing a work –let us call it the perfect poem. At a particular point in this creative act he selects the “right” word for a particular place in the poem. There is only one word that is “dead right” in that place for the perfect expression of the Idea. The very act of choosing that one “right” word, automatically and necessarily makes every other word in the dictionary a “wrong” word. The “wrongness” is not inherent in the words themselves –each of them may be a “right” word in another place. (Footnote: Always excepting, of course, words like “sportsdrome” and “normalcy,” which are so steeped in sin that no place is “right” for them, except Hell, or a Dictionary of Barbarisms.)
The Mind of the Maker, p. 103
Does anyone have any other candidates for this category of words?
Everyone has to have their 15 minutes of appearing on video, right?
My wonderful sister, who has a YouTube channel, graciously offered to interview me about The Scattering Trilogy. Here, you can watch us chat about genres, languages, and paganism, and how it all fits in.