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Pliny on alexanders.

Pliny on alexanders (Naturalis Historia 27.109):

Odor murrae habet qualitatem, unde et nomen.

The smell has a myrrhy quality, whence also its name.

The name of the plant is smyrnionalexanders‘, which is a Greek diminutive from σμύρνα smyrna ‘myrrh’. The scientific name of the plant is the same (Smyrnium). The English name appears to correspond to a name petroselinum Alexandrinum ‘Alexandrine parsley’ now no longer in use.

The translation was difficult to retain close to the original. In my last post with qualitas I mentioned that there it could be replaced by ‘sort’ or ‘kind’ with little difficulty. In this passage that is no longer the case, though it could, in a looser style than I’d prefer, be rendered with ‘same kind’:

Its smell is of the same sort as myrrh…

For the purpose of translation for the dictionary I’ve been trying to keep the input corresponding to the output, so with the notion of ‘same’ not being in the original—or at least, not in my understanding of it—I decided not to go with it. It didn’t help that habet would have to be rendered with ‘is’—one thing I’ve been learning, and try to keep an eye on, is that Latin idioms usually have something corresponding in English. (Latin’s tendency to drop pronouns not being one of them.) If Pliny can say habet, I’d want to find a way to say ‘has’. Of course I can do this:

Its smell has a similarity to myrrh…

But that would be silly.

[For qualitas.]

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