Jules Verne Forum



Re: Cetacean a mile wide and 3 miles long

From: <rick1walter~at~comcast.net>
Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2006 19:50:25 -0400
To: jvf~at~Gilead.org.il

Norm and Garmt--

This is a fun exercise, but it seems to me, Norm, that you're dreaming up a
problem that doesn't exist. Your analysis makes Verne out to be a clumsy
writer, and I simply don't agree.

Let's remember that the accepted translation of Verne's original is clear
and elegant: large d'un mille et long de trois = a mile wide and three
long; mile is an understood substantive after three. Clear. Simple.

But your attempted formulation of this, Norm, is seriously incomplete. You
write: <a width of a (a. thousand, b. mile) and a length of three (a.
thousands; implied, b. miles:implied).>

To be even reasonably accurate, this needs to read: <a width of a (a.
thousand; FEET IMPLIED, b. mile) and a length of three (a.thousands:
implied; FEET AGAIN IMPLIED, b. miles:implied).

In the accepted translation, we have one understood substantive in the
immediate context of its referent. But in your version, Norm, we have THREE
understood substantives, NONE in the immediate context of their referent.
In the first case we have cogent writing, in the second clumsy writing. And
I've NEVER found Verne to be a clumsy stylist.

Further, there are many usages of "mile" in 20,000 LEAGUES, none
problematic that I can see. The problem is Babelfish, Norm, which produces
the kind of incoherent gibberish in your case that it so often does.

Again, it seems to me that Verne wrote this passage with his customary
skill, whereas you, Norm, are imagining difficulties that simply aren't

All the best,

Rick Walter in Albuquerque.

Original Message:
From: Norm Wolcott nwolcott2ster~at~gmail.com
Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2006 18:36:02 -0400
To: jvf~at~Gilead.org.il
Subject: Re: Cetacean a mile wide and 3 miles long

Garmt, that was my original confusion. What I thought was obvioius to the
Forum was apparently not so. What I was attempting to say was that there
were two ways of translating the sentence:

"who gave it a width of a (a. thousand, b. mile) and a length of three (a.
thousands; implied, b. miles:implied). One can pick either a or b but not a
and b. Therefore the question of a width of a thousand feet and a length of
3 feet cannot arise.

You can read the sentence two ways. When a word has two meanings, there may
be a question of which is the one intended. A length of 3000 feet and a
width of 1000 feet would still be much larger than the "timid estimates of
200 feet in length". The measurement of the "Shannon" giving 650 feet is
still much less than 3000 feet, thus fitting in with the numerical
interpretation of 1000x3000 feet.

I think the question is one of culture not language. In English if one asked
"How many miles is it from New York to Chicago?", the answer could
reasonably be "About a thousand". We have no trouble understanding that the
thousand refers to miles. French being more precise might require an
explicit statement "cerque d'un mille milles" An answer of "cerque d'un
mille" in French culture is perhaps to be literally interpreted as "about a
mile", and not "about a thousand miles".

Not being an expert on French culture, I am unable to express an opinion. Is
it possible ethat Verne was being purposely vague here, offering the reader
a choice of reasonable and unreasonble interpretations?

----- Original Message -----
From: "Garmt de Vries" <G.deVries~at~phys.uu.nl>
To: "Jules Verne Forum" <jvf~at~Gilead.org.il>
Sent: Wednesday, April 12, 2006 3:22 AM
Subject: Re: Cetacean a mile wide and 3 miles long

On Tue, 11 Apr 2006, rick1walter~at~comcast.net wrote:

> Norm--
> You finish saying: <I come to the conclusion that Verne was talking "feet"
> not "miles" in the paragraph.>
> By this logic, your cetacean is a thousand feet wide and three feet long.
> Surely not.

You could also read it as:

> 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

"a length of 200 feet" ... "one thousand [feet] wide and three [thousand]

But I would say that Verne really means 1x3 miles.


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