Sunday, 2 May 2010

In the library

And on line

As introduced yesterday on Conductive World, I have been into a Public Library to find a big, authoritative Latin dictionary, because there does not seem to be one on the Internet.

So there is something in 2010 that you can't get on the Internet.

Goodness, how inconvenient this all was. I had to go somewhere and look around for something – but this didn't cost me a penny and was hardly a chore. And once this process was under way, I realised how nice it was. A great big book (and I mean big) that the Library had bound itself in its own hefty binding, and the silence of a room of hushed, industrious folk. What could be more conducive to settling down and getting my head round something complicated. I hadn't realised how long it must have been since I last did this – and how much it had once been such an everyday part of living. I guess that one might study something nowadays and never experience the like, doing it all (like I am writing this now) through a diddy typewriter on the knee.

The Library has something else too, somebody to guide and advise you when you are lost – a librarian – about which probably in this context, nuff said.

All of which aside, however, there are limits. The enjoyable exercise of consulting the OLD (the Oxford Latin Dictionary) inevitably threw up all sorts of lines of thought and enquiry, which that estimable Library just could not be expected even to begin to answer. My abused and exhausted little laptop could.


Conductive World's posting yesterday was extraordinarily and insultingly parochial in its world view (perhaps I should write Weldanschauung, because my parochial nation has not even felt the need to coin a proper word to cover such a notion). I was looking for something authoritative on the Latin language, so off I went in search of a Latin-English dictionary, even though I was checking up on something that had occurred in – well, let us say for the moment, in Hungarian. I doubt that there are many, no let us be honest, any Latin-Hungarian dictionaries in Britiish public libraries.

So this morning I have gone on to the internet to see what I might find. I entered “Magyar-Latin Szótár', and up came the URLs. Hungarians are old-hands (and dab hands) at dictionaries – you have to be if you have a relatively small population base and you speak a language like Hungarian – and they are certainly no slouches when it comes to putting things on line. There is therefore, of course, an online Hungarian-Latin dictionary: indeed there are several. A couple have to serve my immediate purpose. After all, if people want to follow this line of enquiry further, they really ought to be Magyar. It's really not my job.

The dictionaries that I found appear to be computer-generated, not scholarly based. There are no sources or examples. This is not meant as criticism or special pleading, there is an important place for such things. They also include words and terms that the OLD does not, because it stops at the year 200AD and those Hungarian dictionaries seem to include late Roman Latin, mediaeval Latin, church Latin, scientific Latin and probably other Latins too. Add to this that present Hungarian territories were the last place that Latin was actually spoken as a secular living language, amongst administrators, up to the early nineteenth century, and you can be assured that these Hungarian dictionaries were sampling Latins far from coterminous with that documented by the OLD.

In two Hungarian dictionaries

I concentrate here upon the verb, conduco:

összegyűjt, egyesít, egyesít; bérbe vesz

zsoldjába fogad, díjazás, leszegodtet, szerzodtet, szegodtet, kibérelés, szolgálatába fogad, szerzodtetés, felfogad, kibérel, felbérel, fizetés, bérelés, bérel, bérbevétel, alkalmazás, alkalmaz

Many things, but not a word about vezetni – 'to lead'.

Comparing these two little Hungarian dictionaries with OLD, however, is hardly comparing like with like. As far as I can see the definitive Hungarian Latin-Magyar dictionary is Györkösy, Alajos's Magyar-Latin Szótár (Budapest, Akadémiai Kiadó, 1960). I doubt that I shall find this in a local public libray hereabouts but, come to think of it, I can think of one person who just might have a copy of this at home.
Anyway – apart from its being a public holiday and raining again – why should I be bothering with all this Hungarian stuff? Never mind what the Hungarians think their word konduktív means, what did András Pető intend when he coined it. For that, a better guideline might be a Latin-German dictionary, and I bet that there are some wonderfully authoritative examples of that.

But there are people enough in Germany who profess a serious Wissenschaftliche interest in things konduktive. They might attend more to what the word might mean. That can remain someone else's problem.

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