One sports headline quoted someone calling the end of the Australia v China women’s basketball match, in which China was awarded a foul with with 0.6 seconds remaining, a “travesty”. Another quoted someone calling the end of the men’s high jump, in which Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi decided to share the gold medal rather than jump off for gold and silver, a “farce”. I’m not familiar enough with the rules of either sport to be able to comment on the sports angle, but I’m familiar enough with words to know that travesty and farce were both originally theatrical words.
Travesties (trans + vestire) were ridiculous parodies of serious works. The actors may or may not have cross-dressed (compare transvestite). Farces (farcīre, farsus, stuffed) were “fillings”, light, humorous plays between more serious works, or standalones (which sometimes made serious points about eg the relationship between masters and servants, or men and women). Farce still (possibly just) bears its original meaning (“My new play is a farce”), but travesty doesn’t (“My new play is a travesty”).
This is another example, if one is needed, that the meanings of words change over time. People who say “This word means that (and can only mean that), because the etymology of X means that” are almost certainly wrong. Silly people. (I thought I’d blogged about silly before, but apparently not.)
Nine years ago I used the then-current London Olympics to talk about the Olympic Games, Olympic sports in particular and other sports in general, especially those popular in the students’ countries or which they played, which also gave a lot of opportunities for asking questions with who, what, where, when, how, how much, how many, how many times, how long and why. At the time, I had two students from Greece in my class, who actually lived within sight of Mount Olympus. One of them especially said “Oooh, is Greek word” any time we encountered a Greek word, which was obviously a lot during this class. The other one thought very carefully and said “swimming dancing to music” as an Olympic sport. With a little bit of knowledge of Greek I was able to guide him towards swimming with (σύν, sún, syn-) music and in time (χρόνος, khrónos, chron-) to it.
“Swimming dancing to music” is actually a very good attempt to communicate when he didn’t know the actual word.
Last night my wife and I had dinner with friends in their new apartment. After dinner, we watched an episode of the Korean drama 응답하라 1988 (eung-dap-ha-ra), of which I was previously unaware (more about that later). Unlike the dramas my wife watches online, this one, on a streaming service, had English subtitles, so I was was able to follow most of the story (apart from figuring out who was who and how they were related). At one point the female lead and one of her male friends are sitting in the rain. He asks “Why are your hands so cold?”. She replies “Because my heart is warm”.
That is equivalent to English “Cold hands, warm heart”, which I haven’t seen or heard for years. My wife later told me that the full expression in Korean is 마음이 따뜻하면 손이 차갑다, or If you heart is warm, your hands are cold. (There are variations on the internet, including some which put the hands first, as in English.) I haven’t been able to find whether this expression is meant to be literal, figurative or both, and which way round the cause and effect is. My Facebook friends have been unable to help me. As is the often way with most of these sayings, there are multiple interpretations.
I later found that 응답하라 1988 was shown on Korean cable tv in late 2015 – early 2016, which explains why I didn’t know it. I was in Korea at the time, but not watching any cable tv (and very little free-to-air tv). The title 응답하라 1988 is officially given as Reply 1988, which doesn’t make much sense. Some sources give it as Answer me 1988, and Google and Bing both translate 응답하라 by itself as respond, both of which make more sense.
Australians are reliving the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, which ran from 15 September to 1 October 2000. One story which was quite notorious at the time and which has featured in the media recently involves the US swimmer Gary Hall Jr. He was widely quoted as saying that “we [the US 4 x 100m freestyle relay team] will smash them [the Australian team] like guitars”. There were, and are, two problems with that quotation. The first is what happened actually on the night of 16 September 2000:
The second is the way that the Australian media quoted, and still quote, what Hall wrote, which was actually: “My biased opinion says that we will smash them like guitars. Historically the U.S. has always risen to the occasion. But the logic in that remote area of my brain says it won’t be so easy for the United States to dominate the waters this time.”
“My biased opinion” and “it won’t be so easy to dominate” give him just enough wriggle room. It was his biased opinion, and it wasn’t so easy.
Quotations need to be concise, but it is easy and often tempting to select and present portions of a quotation which give a distorted meaning, or even the opposite meaning.