Wednesday, 27 June 2012

There is no Latin word for TLDR

The Vatican Library newsletter pops into my inbox every few months, and it brings a smile to my face despite being pages and pages long. This time I was quite struck by the question of translation. The Cardinal in charge has recently retired from the post, and here is just a small part of what the newsletter had to say about this:
We had known for some time that the Cardinal had presented to the Pope his request to be relieved of so heavy a commitment, and we had adopted the attitude of those who understand, who do not wish a loved one to be afflicted with burdens beyond what he is able to bear. But this does not take away from the sorrow of a separation that each individual experiences by retracing the memories of the years, whether many or few, which he or she spent with Prefect, and later with Cardinal Farina.
The language of the Vatican is, of course, Latin. But I still think this was written in Italian and translated into English, not just because the writer is Italian but because there are a few untranslated Italian phrases in the middle, somehow passed over. Have I just never noticed before that Italian is very Latinate in style as well as in actual vocabulary and grammar? You could translate this into Latin without much rearranging.

Plus I love the closing paragraph:
After all that I have told about us, sometimes the thought comes that we are able to do many beautiful things, and sometimes somebody says so explicitly with expressions of appreciation. It is not that we are unhappy about this. But you will allow me not to forget the Biblical passage from the Book of Judges (chapter 7) which tells the story of Gideon and his fight against the Midianites. Gideon had gathered thirty-two thousand men, but the Lord made him reduce the number to only three hundred fighters because – he explained – if they had been so many, they would have been able to boast before him, saying: "It is my own hand that has saved me." I quickly found that in the Library we are about a hundred, only one third of Gideon's three hundred. We are thus even more protected against that sort of dangerous arrogance! Also for this reason, and through Him who has filled our hands, has enlightened our minds and enlivened our hearts, we give sincere thanks.
To be honest, if you told me that this had been translated straight from Augustine or Anselm I'd probably believe you. (Although they were a bit less likely to congratulate themselves on their escape from dangerous arrogance, which is a little Pooterish.)

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