Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Would I Were a Good Grammarian

Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540–1609), in Prima Scaligeriana, Nusquam antehac Edita (Utrecht: Peter Elzevir, 1670), p. 59:
Utinam essem bonus Grammaticus; sufficit enim ei qui auctores omnes probe vult intelligere esse bonum Grammaticum. Porro quicumque Doctos Viros, grammaticos pour tout potage vocant, sunt ipsi indoctissimi, idque semper observabis. Non aliunde dissidia in Religione pendent, quam ab ignoratione Grammaticae.
Translated by Eva M. Sanford, Classical Journal 26.4 (January 1931) 280:
Would I were a good grammarian: that is the one essential for a sound understanding of all the authors. Whoever call men of any learning grammarians, pour tout potage, are themselves invariably utter dunces. Ignorance of grammar is the one source of dissent in religion.
Pour tout potage = pour toute chose (Littré). Update from Pierre Wechter:
Littré, yes, of course; but "grammaticos pour tout potage" = 'mere grammarians', 'grammarians and nothing more'. Scarron, Virgile travesti: "(Tu) n'es pour tout potage / Qu'un bourguemestre de Carthage".
Another translation, from The French Anas, Vol. II (London: Richard Phillips, 1805), p. 115:
I wish I were a skilful grammarian. No one can understand any author, without a thorough knowledge of grammar. Those who pretend to undervalue learned grammarians, are arrant blockheads without any exception. From whence proceed so many dissensions in religious matters, but from ignorance of grammar?

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