Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Imaginary conversation

The editor and his editee never meet.  And it is undoubtedly much better thus.

But sometimes, in your head, you can't help but picture this scene....

"This primary source of yours....."


"Well, don't get me wrong - it's so nice that you have one.  Almost unique in my experience of Chinese historiography to date, in fact.  It's just that...."

"Just what?"

"Your citation's in French."


"But your article's in English, so you really ought to translate it.  All except the formal title of the work."

"Oh??  But it's in French."

"I know it's in French, but it should..... oh never mind.  No, the thing that bothers me more is that the author was Dutch."


"And he wrote his memoir.... originally in Dutch?"


"But it was first published in French?"


"In America?"


"In Pennsylvania?"


"In the 1790s?" 


"In French, not Dutch or English?"


"Oh, well, it's possible, I suppose.  But what makes you think this?"

"Er... well... the citation is in French."

"Yes, indeed it is.  The whole citation is in French."


"Well, it's in the Library of Congress.  They wouldn't usually record the description and the origin of the book in French."


"You've never actually read this book in the original, have you?"

"No, of course not.  I can barely speak English."

"Or French?"


"So you found this in a secondary source?"


"What language did you read that in?"


"Was it originally written in Chinese, or translated from some other language?"

"Of course it was a translation."

"Did it include citations in the original language, or only in Chinese?"

"Oh, in the original language!"

"Well, that's good.  And what was the original language of this secondary source?"


You see what I'm dealing with here?  I think I'm getting one of those bruises on the forehead that devout Muslims get from pounding their heads on the ground every time they pray.


JES said...

M.C. Escher would have loved this.

Froog said...

I hope the logic isn't that convoluted. I'm depressed by how many friends of mine have required painstaking explanations of the point of this anecdote. It's almost as if there's something in the water here that slows the mental processes (not impossible!).