Jules Verne Forum



Cetacean a mile wide and 3 miles long

From: Norm Wolcott <nwolcott2ster~at~gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2006 14:28:19 -0400
To: "Jules Verne Forum" <jvf~at~math.technion.ac.il>

In the very first chapter of 20K we have the following paragraph.

A prendre la moyenne des observations faites à diverses reprises -- en
rejetant les évaluations timides qui assignaient à cet objet une
longueur de deux cents pieds et en repoussant les opinions exagérées
qui le disaient large d'un mille et long de trois -- on pouvait
affirmer, cependant, que cet être phénoménal dépassait de beaucoup
toutes les dimensions admises jusqu'à ce jour par les ichtyologistes --
s'il existait toutefois.

To obtain a neutral translation of this paragraph we use google (which uses one of the standard dictionaries ). The words in red I have altered for readability.
To take the average of the observations made with various recoveries reprises -- by rejecting the timid evaluations which assigned to with this object a length of two hundred feet and by pushing moving back the exaggerated opinions which said it broad had a breadth of one thousand and length of three -- one could affirm, however, whom that this phenomenal being went far beyond all allowed dimensions allowed so far by the ichtyologists -- if there it existed however.

Here we note a deficiency in the vocabulary, Babelfish only recognizes "mille" as thousand, not "mile" which is an unusual word in French. If we take a look now at the Mercier translation we find that he parallels the machine translation pretty well except for the size of the object (and the alteration of icthylologists, probably did not know what they were)

Taking into consideration the mean of observations made at divers times -- rejecting the timid estimate of those who assigned to this object a length of two hundred feet, equally with the exaggerated opinions which set it down as a mile in width and three in length--we might fairly conclude that this mysterious being surpassed greatly all dimensions admitted by the learned ones of the day, if it existed at all.

If we look at Butcher's translation we find he uses miles instead of feet as well :

Taking the average of the observations made at the various junctures-rejecting both the timid evaluations assigning the object a length of 200 feet and the exaggerated opinions making it three miles long by a mile wide-it could be affirmed that this phenomenal being greatly exceeded all the dimensions the ichthyologists had admitted until then-if indeed it existed at all.

The Walter translation also uses miles:

Striking an average of observations taken at different times--
rejecting those timid estimates that gave the object a length
of 200 feet, and ignoring those exaggerated views that saw it
as a mile wide and three long--you could still assert that this
phenomenal creature greatly exceeded the dimensions of anything
then known to ichthyologists, if it existed at all.

The Routledge and Ward Lock translations also use miles, so the consensus is universaly "miles".

So now we have only the machine translation offering a thousand feet! Looking back at the original French and the other dimensioins mentioned in the chapter, I come to the conclusion that Verne was talking "feet" not "miles" in the paragraph. But I wonder if there are any other opinions on this matter. ??? could it be that Verne is playing a trick by offering two different interpretations by his use of words?

Received on Tue 11 Apr 2006 - 21:33:52 IDT

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