Thursday, September 24, 2009

Terminology

I am writing a book on 14th- century men-at-arms based on Geoffroi de Charny's Questions on the joust, tournaments and war, especially the war section. As was the case in my 4th-year seminar last year, I am wrestling with terminology, especially the words "chivalry" and "knight." "Chivalry" as a word indicating an ideal or a standard of behavior is a tricky word, as David Crouch has shown in his Birth of Nobility recently, and Charny hardly ever uses that word, even in his Book of Chivalry. "Knight" is unique to English, and doesn't like other "chivalric" terms in other languages mean "horseman" or "warrior/soldier." I am going to have to be very careful in using "chivalry." I have an idea of how to proceed with the word "knight"-- use the words "chevalier" and avoid "knight," as much as possible. Avoiding an English term in a book almost entirely about Frenchmen should be reasonably practical.

Exception: for an English-speaking audience, you can't call the Knights of the Round Table anything but "the Knights of the Round Table," no matter what Edward III and his best Angl0-French buddies may have called them.

Another point of usage: Charny wrote a verse treatise on the life of arms called Livre Charny. I and other people I know usually have Englished this as The Book of Charny. But it occurred to me the other day that the real English title ought to be Charny's Book. A real "duh" moment, that may give us some real information on the chronology of Charny's writing career. Don't you think that this would be an appropriate title for your first rather than your second or third work, if your name was Charny?

Image: I am running out of good pictures that evoke Charny. This sticker is associated with the town of Charny in Quebec. See here.

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