Saturday, July 4, 2009

Hat Audio: Barchester Towers

Not caring to be outdone by "Language Hat: the Movie", I wondered which Hatticker personae would be suited to read which roles in the audiobook of a novel or play. (Unfortunately, the film will be delayed because the casting studios had to be shut down by the riot police.)

I first tried casting for several novels at once, so that as many people as possible would get a slot. But I quickly ran out of diplomatic choices for "problematic" characters, since there are too many agreeable Hattickers.

Also, I was annoyed to find there's no way around Noetica for the really heavy roles, some of which I would have liked for myself. For instance Lady Bracknell. But few Americans are seriously up to that mark of verbal delivery, certainly not me. Mr. N., being commonwealthy, has a more precise sense of the required intonation patterns, I don't doubt.

So I restricted myself to Barchester Towers, which I think turned out plausible enough if you remember the characters. Still, I couldn't find anyone for poor old Dr. Proudie.

Mrs. Proudie____________Noetica
Dr. Proudie_____________A. N. Other
Mr. Slope_______________Grumbly

Mr. Harding_____________Crown
His daughter Eleanor______Codfish
Archdeacon Grantly_______Hat
His wife Susan___________marie-lucie
John Bold_______________jamessal

Mr. Popular Sentiment______Nijma
Mr. Pessimist Anticant______John Emerson
The Jupiter_______________David Marjanovic

Noetica is assumed capable of masterful intonation, Grumbly definitely can muster smoldering resentment. Crown is fair to a fault, like Mr. Harding. Hat occasionally politicks to set things straight, while m-l calmly and reasonably subdues the storms of opinion. jamessal is a bit hot-headed, but gets the girl Eleanor in the end. Nijma is against Too Much Information, while John reviles fatuousness. David's views often seem to be set in booming type.


AJP CROWN said...

Ok, I'll bite. Who is 'N.N.'?

Stuart Clayton said...

I didn't realize that "N.N." is not common in English. I have always known it, in Germany, as an abbreviation for "nomen nominandum (est)" (= the name is still to be specified).

According to a Spiegel website, it is understood "in general academic use" to abbreviate "nomen nescio" (= I don't know the name). The website also says lawyers take it to stand for "nomen nominatur", supposedly also with the meaning "the name is still to be specified". But that can't be right, if my basic Latin still serves: "nomen nominatur" would translate as "the name is being named".

AJP Crown said...

Oh, sorry, now i see.

Ok, I'll get back to you on the others...

Stuart Clayton said...

I think the writer of the Spiegel article got his Latin and German tense-markers mixed up. Here is the last paragraph:

N.N. heißt für den Kanzler-Juristen Schumann nichts weiter als "Nomen Nominatur" -- der Name wird genannt. N. N. kann nach akademischem Brauch auch "Nomen Nescio" bedeuten -- den Namen weiß ich nicht.

The sentence Der Name wird genannt, standing alone, could be regarded as ambiguous. "Wird", from the auxiliary "werden", signals the passive voice as well as the future tense. So it could be taken to mean "The name is (being) named" as well as "The name will (yet) be named".

But in practice I guess there are few occasions when "the name is being named" would make any sense. Maybe on the night of the Oscar awards, the presenter at the microphone has just opened the envelope, the television commentator says, with bated breath interspersed with pauses: "and now ... the excitement is palpable in the audience ... the name is about to be named ...". To disambiguate, the German here would be Der Name wird GERADE genannt (= is just about to be named, is being named at this instant). To specify the future tense, one would say Der Name wird NOCH genannt (= the name will be named).

So, in the context of items being left off a list, der Name wird genannt can only be the future tense, i.e. der Name wird NOCH genannt. But "nomen nominatur" is unambiguously passive, as far as I know. It cannot express a future tense. "Nomen nominatur" can't translate as "the name is still to be specified".

marie-lucie said...

You are right about the impossibility of a future in this case, but it is more probable that the indicative present in "nomen nominatur" has been wrongly regularized from the subjective present "nomen nominetur" which would mean "let a name be specified", a phrase which would apply to a fill-in-the-blank document.

AJP CROWN said...

I've thought long and hard about Dr Proudie.

It's quite hard to know who among us could play a good-looking man who is bullied by his wife. I can only suggest MMcM, not because Ms McM is in any way comparable to Mrs Proudie, but because she seems like a strong woman. Ms McM in recent years took up polo and flying, whereas M himself walks or takes the subway -- neither action in itself a sign of weakness, I should add.

Stuart Clayton said...

MMcM sounds to be an appropriate choice, on your representations. It's just that I myself don't know him (i.e. his persona @H@), so I hesitate. I conceived the very idea of a casting for BT as a contrast to the "fun" idea of Language Hat: The Movie. I wanted to take persona more seriously. But then it's no wonder I found my knickers in a twist when in the execution of the idea I encountered the "undiplomatic" in the form of Dr. Proudie.

I'm just not cut out for lightheartedness - you know, wearing a Hawaiian-print shirt and careening across the disco dance floor. I should stick to my persona of cantankerous old sweetheart.

Stuart Clayton said...

Thanks for the tip about "nominetur", marie-lucie. I'm going to follow that up.

I'm surprised you didn't correct my confused contrasting of "passive voice" and "future tense". It was very hot weather yesterday in Cologne, and I'm not accustomed to using grammatical terms - I have as little need of them for German as for English. My comments about the auxiliary "werden" made German sound like some exotic Mongolian dialect that would be hard to learn in Europe. You may remember my irritation a while back in a Hat thread, with regard to "whether riesig is an adjective or an adverb", and I said something like "it functions as it functions, and that's all there is to it". That reflects my considered opinion that after a certain point "grammatical rules" are a hindrance, rather than a help, to mastery of a language.

In any case, my two examples

1. Der Name wird (gerade) genannt
2a. Der Name wird (noch) genannt

are both passive constructions, of course, but 1. is in the (continuous) present, 2. is in the future tense. 2a. is exactly equivalent to

2b. Der Name wird genannt werden

Everyday folks (possibly outside David's neck of the woods, one can't be too careful here) hardly ever use the construction "wird ... werden" in future passive constructions. Ambiguity is avoided in advance by the inclusion of
things like gerade or noch, or is removed later by the addition of one of these, should the listener ask for clarification. Schoolèd folks can be heard to use "wird ... werden", but not continually. Someone who persistently used "wird .. werden" would be taken to be a furriner in thrall to a grammar book.

I should have written something like "the auxiliary verb "werden" functions either as part of a future active construction, or else as part of a present or future passive construction". By "construction" I mean the whole sentence, as well as the context of discourse. It's all very well to distinguish semantics and syntax from a theoretical point of view, in actual speech practice they work effectively only in tandem. That was also my point about riesig.

3. Der Politiker wird den* Schriftsteller wegen dessen Spiegel Artikels kritisieren.
    The politician will criticize the writer for the latter's Spiegel article.

4a. Der Politiker wird vom* Schriftsteller in dessen Spiegel Artikel kritisiert.
    The politician is criticized by the writer in the latter's Spiegel article.

4b. Der Politiker wird vom* Schriftsteller in dessen (angekündigtem) Spiegel Artikel kritisiert werden.
    The politician will be criticized by the writer in the latter's (forthcoming) Spiegel article.

In these examples, I have marked with an asterisk the point in the sentence where, as a listener, you already have subconscious expectations as to how the wird will turn out to be functioning: either as part of a future
construction, or else as part of a passive construction. You hear wird den or wird vom, and immediately you are in a confident syntactico-semantic frame of mind. It is not the case that when you hear wird you enter a forest of ambiguity, and then have to puzzle your way out by phrase structure analysis of the completed sentence.

I make bold to claim that German is "anticipatory", more than English is. Syntax and meaning in German give you a very good idea of what's coming, far in advance of what comes. The common idea that "in German you have to wait till the end of the sentence to know what is being said" is an ignorant idea. The opposite is true, apart from the case of particular writers or speakers who go out of their way to string you along.

AJP CROWN said...

I found my knickers in a twist
You can't have that attitude as a casting director, Grumbly. Just imagine you'd been asked to cast Der Untergang, you're going to have to say to someone "Look, don't take it personally, but I think you'd be terrific as a tired old Führer".

But we have a versatile cast and you have been unerring in your choices so far. In all, this idea is far more entertaining and interesting than mine, and there are many more audiobooks books to be recorded ...

We know you're not cut out for lightheartedness, Grumbly. I think you'd better put on the miniskirt and get back on your motorbike.

Noetica said...

Certainly, Grumbler: I'm happy to take on cross-gender roles, if I am the only candidate with the requisite finesse generally.

dearieme said...

For "NN", in English you could use "ANO". Those are the initials of "A. N. Other" i.e. "another". It's a popular trick with sports teams, but I don't know whether Americans would understand it.

Stuart said...

"A. N. Other" it is, thanks dearieme! Even Americans should understand that, after a pause for reflection. I've known "N.N." for so long in Germany, I still can't get it into my head that it's unfamiliar in English, which after all is full of little Latin thingies such as i.e., viz., vide supra, A.M., P.M., A.D., etc. etc. (sic!)

Nijma said...

I too would be more than happy to take on a cross gender role. I see from googling this thing

that the character of Mr. Popular Sentiment is actually meant to be Charles Dickens, and in this play he is "the recipient of a couple of sideswipes" in a dispute about Civil Service reform and inefficiency and mismanagement in government.

"'I never learned to love competitive examination' Trollope declared, with wry understatement, in An Autobiography. In fact, he hated them. They only served, he felt, to keep out gentlemen in favour of swots."

Imagine! Entrance to government service to be determined by merit and public examination! The elimation of patronage and nepotism!

I see this role is meant to be played as a heavy, and I shall certainly endeavor to take these thespian responsibilities as seriously as they deserve.