Posted by Li Yar's Ghostwriter on February 09, 2004
In Reply to: An heart-felt plea posted by Bob on February 08, 2004
: : : God bless America - one nation under a groove.
: : : I have American friends, I like quite a bit of American popular culture, I respect the desire for individuality and free expression, I recognise the achievements of the people who have become Americans I even prefer that the USA for all its faults is the dominant military superpower BUT on this board and in our quest for enlightenment can we please give due weight to sources and think about the likelihood of citations being correct 'first use'. I really enjoy this site and the stimulating debate it creates, but I am tired of finding fairly modern US citations being flagged up as 'first use'.
: : : Please think about the expressions and the words used before quoting Oprah or Marvel comics as 'first use'.
: : : it's all good debate for me to point out that a quote has an early source say in Dante, the Bible, Greek philosophy or Hieroglyphs, but we should police ourselves and not write rubbish.
: : : PS at least when Li Yar posts, you know he may be kidding...
: : I don't think American chauvinism is causing the problem. It's just that this board has a large proportion of U.S. readers because the U.S. population is large; people tend to hear phrases from nearby sources (e.g., Oprah); and many don't understand that phrase origins are a matter for scholarly investigation and that evidence is needed. They confuse the first time THEY saw a phrase in print with the first time ANYONE did, or they assume that the first explanation they see of "the Whole nine yards," for example, must be correct.
: : If it matters, I'm American.
: At the risk of belaboring the obvious, this site is devoted to phrases in the English language, and it is therefore unlikely that first use would come from "Dante, the Bible, Greek philosophy or Hieroglyphs." Dante did not write "Abandon all hope..." He wrote "Lasciate ogni speranza..."
: That's why Heywood, who may have never said an original thing, is so often cited as a "first use." Let's continue to go to the written evidence for early citations, and let the chips (US, UK, heiroglyphs, whatever) fall where they may.
That is a valid point about phrases - some phrases, like "Ecce homo" or "res ipsa loquitor" stay in their original language, but others we know in translation - "who guards the guards?" - should we consider a translation as a first use, or is it simply like changing the medium for the message?
I like Macchiavelli's The Prince, Kafka, The Tao Te Ching, the Book of 5 Rings and most of all - Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" - all of them I read in translation (sadly) - yet there are phrases and sayings that have found wider audience. How should we treat that?