This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

A Special Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter translated by JF Nunn and RB Parkinson.


This little book is a treasure.

Yes, every copy of The Tale of Peter Rabbit is a treasure, but this one is extra special because it's written in Classical Ancient Egyptian. That is, in hieroglyphs.

It's all been done with such scholarship, and so much thought and care.

Here's an extract from the translators' notes:

'The only related species [in Ancient Egypt to the rabbit] was the desert hare (Lepus capensis) for which, fortunately, the Egyptian word (skhat*) is well attested, and this appears...terminated by the unmistakable determination of the desert hare. However it must be stressed that the same hieroglyph is widely used as the bilateral phonetic 'wn' and is, in fact, the first hieroglyph to appear on page 7. The word so formed is nothing to do with Lepus capensis.'

The notes go on to discuss the tricky word wheelbarrow, which has been translated as sledge (wenesh), wheels at the time of the  Middle Kingdom only appearing on chariots.

I find the conjunction of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and so much  scholarship completely charming, and the translators' notes raise all sorts of interesting questions.

I'll leave you with this one: as the Eygptian week lasted ten days, was it right to translate fortnight as twenty days (herew 20)?

Do say if you know!

Word To Use Today: one in Classical Ancient Egyptian. The  phrase used for potato in this book is depehew-ta, which means apples of the earth, presumably following the French pommes de terre.

*Because they ran away so quickly?

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