More help with French, please
#1  AlexBell 01-11-2019, 05:38 AM
I have nearly finished The Elementary Spirit by E.T.A. Hoffmann for the MobileRead library, but need help with a short conversation in French.

One man says: Monsieur, pretez moi un peu, s'il vous plait, votre canif.

And the other, the villain, replies: Oui, Monsieur, d'abord le violà, je vous le rendrai.

Can anyone translate this to English for me? I need help with what they are implying as much as the literal translation, especially with the literal translation. They seem to be close to fighting.

#2  un_pogaz 01-11-2019, 08:49 AM
Good guy: Sir, lend me a little, please, your penknife.
Villain: Yes, sir, here it is, I'll give it back to you.

(personal assumption: in his abdomen)

Spoiler Warning below

Sorry about that sarcastic answer, but:

Why didn't you go see your friend Google or his better performing cousin Deepl translator?

But thank you for coming here to ask help
Have a good day and good reading

#3  Arios 01-11-2019, 12:13 PM
Hi Alex,

As suggested by un_pogaz, for this kind of short sentences Google translate is sometimes enough and even good. However, the problem here has 2 parts:

1) the French structure of the sentences is somewhat strange ex.: «Monsieur, pretez moi un peu, s'il vous plait, votre canif.» could be translated by: "Please sir, lend me your penknife temporarily", but I digress! and

2) some words are misspelled: "violà" (should be "voilà") or "plâit," (should be "plaît") in other versions of this text. However, it seems that Google Translate can deal with misspelled words.

So I agree with what un_pogaz suggested.

Have a nice day Alex!

#4  Doitsu 01-11-2019, 07:09 PM
Quote Arios
1) the French structure of the sentences is somewhat strange...
Both sentences have been taken verbatim from a popular 18th century French grammar book for German speakers: Nouvelle grammaire allemande... by Johann Valentin Meidinger.

The usage of these two sentences is kind of an inside joke by German writer E.T.A. Hoffman, because one of the characters uses these random textbook example sentences instead of "proper magic spells."

BTW, the German original sentences read as follows:

Mein Herr, leihen Sie mir gefälligst ein wenig Ihr Federmesser.
Ja, mein Herr, sogleich. -- Da haben Sie es.
Ich werde es Ihnen mit Dank wieder zustellen.

the English back translation is:

May I borrow your penknife for a while, Sir?
Yes sir, right away sir. -- Here you go.
I shall return it to you with my thanks.

#5  AlexBell 01-11-2019, 10:32 PM
Thanks to you all. I was aware of Major O'Malley's use of the French grammar for his spells - perhaps as a cover - but I was so fussed about the meaning that I forgot.

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