Isidore of Seville on Color (Pt.2) [12:53-55] (Latin)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
The Trickiness of Translating Color (2)
High Riders and Low Riders
Closing

{A stained glass window from The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, also known simply as Seville Cathedral. Image from the Wikipedia.}

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Abstract

Isidore continues his descriptions of colors, and ends with an indirect description of a pony express.

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Translation

[53] “Roan is what the common folk call guaranen. Brazen itself the commons call this; which is colored in the way of bronze. On the other hand, myrtle is simply purple.

[54] “Moreover, they call it [dowry], the color that is the same as the ass’ color: that itself and ash grey are the same. They are also those colors in the wild breeds: those born, as the horse breeders say, without the ability to pass on the refinement of civilization.

[55] “Moors are black, truly the Greeks call black mauron. Gallic horses are in fact small horses, which the commons call brownish. Truly gifted the old ones call those which drive back, that is lead; or which run on public ways, going to and fro as they are accustomed to do.”
(St. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 12:53-55)

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Recordings

Latin:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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The Trickiness of Translating Color (2)

Some things just don’t seem to be translatable. This week’s section isn’t as bad as last week’s, but one word seems to have been left behind by Modern English: “guaranen.”

This word is indeed mysterious, but it must at the least refer to some color involving brown and white since it’s comparable to the color roan, itself the name for the color of animals whose pelts mingle brown and white closely together.

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High Riders and Low Riders

Throughout the descriptions and explanations this week, Isidore consistently refers to the commons as having a different vocabulary. Since he’s writing about horses, an animal that has many functions in human societies, this makes sense.

The common folk are likely to use horses to work and get around, whereas the wealthy are those that breed them for show and for speed – arguably less utilitarian ends. A gap between these two groups is also seen in the differing terms for copper colored: “cervinus” and “Aeranen,” (12:53). The first of these refers to the color of deer and the second to the color of a valuable metal thought to last forever.

Color terms are likely to come from things encountered in daily life, since this gives them a grounding in shared experience, and the difference in experience of the wealthy and the commons is underscored by the gap between the deer that the wealthy had time to admire and a valuable metal that the commons may well have coveted.

Curiously, this creates something of a yin-yang relationship, in that each group contains a germ of the other.

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Closing

Check back here on Thursday for the final exchange of attacks between team Beowulf and the dragon.

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