About the Language

I spoke one of the many old German dialects.  A modern English speaker has difficulty understanding  Shakespeare.  It is even more difficult for a modern German to understand my tongue, spoken or written, for it was not until after Martin Luther’s Bible that the German language began to unify.

But educated men wrote in Latin and spoke Latin when they were talking to a scholar of a different language or when they did not wish to be understood by the common herd or when they wished to impress one another.  Thus Erasmus and the Englishman Thomas More formed a great bond of friendship.

Then there was the effect of Humanism on our writing, especially during my early years.  We were obsessed with classical languages, took Latin names for ourselves, and wrote with great flourish.  I actually began one of my letters thus: 

Wolfgang Fabritius of Haguenau to Johann Rudolf von Hallwyl, canon and treasurer of [the Church of the] Holy Virgin in Basel, Greetings.  Johnn Rudolf, most honourable and illustrious on account of your learned nobility. . .

Great Apollo, how we wrote before the weight of our news crushed out the flourishes.

So, Best Reader, before you complain that Capito sounds too modern, too stilted, too verbose, not verbose enough to be authentic, consider:

Do you really want to read old German translated to old English by way of Latin with a Humanist’s circuitous wending?  On the internet, that fastest of posts?  No.

Think not of how Capito speaks, but of what Capito tells. . .

Published on February 12, 2011 at 9:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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