Friday, January 27, 2006

Idiom on a hot summer's arvo

I enjoy working on the endmatter of scholarly editions. It's sometimes great reading, albeit a tad dry. This excerpt made me LOL -- it's about the pitfalls of late 19th-century Canadian typesetters translating an Australian book:

So sensitive were the typesetters to the possibility of unfortunate double meaning that the innocent phrase 'Keep up your pecker, old man' required that 'courage' be substituted for 'pecker'; and the description of hard-ridden horses as 'knocked up' was clearly seen as potentially ambiguous in an objectionable way and had to be reduced to 'used up'. The account of a mare as being 'like some women when they get their monkey up' perhaps had the Montreal typesetters scratching their heads as to the meaning of this inoffensive colloquialism (it means, to become angry). They deleted it, preferring to err on the safe side. The idiom 'That cock wouldn't fight' survived in the weekly but was translated by the experienced compositors of the daily as 'That wouldn't go': it meant much the same thing, but it was minus the cock.

Heh. I can see the editor's wry grin as he wrote that last line.

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