This I Know I Think
Life on the verge of understanding
August 12, 2017 Categories: writing. No Comments on A man after my own heart

Rose Wild writes a marvelous column in The Times each Saturday. It’s a miscellany of things that readers have objected to over the week, and always brings out the kind of Times reader that so characterises the newspaper. Today was no exception. Continuing a theme started in previous weeks, the validity of expressions like “least worst”, reader Rudi Leavor of Bradford won the gold medal. Referring to Wagner’s Das Rheingold, in which the giants Fasolt and Fafner fall out over the hoard of gold (go on, we’ve all done it) he quotes Fafner singing billig behalt’ ich die grosste Halfte fur mich. Readers, admittedly few in number, of this blog will immediately recognise both the meaning of this phrase in English (“I keep the greatest half for myself”) and the obvious grammatical error. For those whose knowledge of German grammar requires some brushing up, Mr Leavor very helpfully points out that the correct expression should have used grossere, “greater”, rather than grosste. For most of us that would have been enough, But not for the true pedant: Mr Leavor then went on to point out that had Wagner used grossere rather than grosste it would have changed the crotchet on A into two quavers – which is why, no doubt, the composer decided to risk the opprobrium of pedants some 150 years later. Wonderful.

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