alas

pingu85

Member
Italian
I'm here again!
How can I render "alas" in modern English? Do you think I'd better choose an onomatopoeic verb or select a modern interjection?
The sentence is: "The old hag wrings her hands, with alas and alas". It's 16th-century English.
Thank you.
 
  • Old Novice

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I agree with panj that alas is still in use, but it would be useful to know why you want to render it in modern English to say for sure whether a change might be useful. :)

    The usage in your quotation seems outmoded, since today we'd be more likely to say something like "The old hag wrings her hands, saying 'alas' over and over." Or we might say "... her hands, moaning and groaning." So if you needed to bring the language fully up to date, you could try those.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi pingu

    I think it would help if we knew your objective in translating Gammer Gurton's Needle into contemporary English.

    Is the play still to be set in the 16th century? Or is it to be completely modernised?

    The answer could well affect the sort of language choices you make.

    EDIT: I see Old Novice got there before me:D
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I'm only really familiar with alas as a declaration, I'd think it needs to be changed for a younger generation to understand it.

    Dictionary.com only gives one definition for it, the one I was referring to.
    –interjection (used as an exclamation to express sorrow, grief, pity, concern, or apprehension of evil.)
    Which sounds dated anyway, I've only ever heard it as a joke in spoken language, but, as the topic is about rendering something from Middle English, like Loob asked, we need to know if it's intended for modern audiences or if it's more important to keep an inherent old-fashioned tone to it.

    Alas I must depart, my ship for the land of nod sails in a few minutes...
     

    pingu85

    Member
    Italian
    Unfortunately, I do have to change "alas" (my teacher hates it...:D)
    The idea is that it should sound as if it were spoken by a modern English speaker in everyday life.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    If your teacher is just doing this for a lesson and not a real audience then chances are she's got her own idea (she's the one who hates the word, alas). You might as well ask her and let us know what she thinks!

    It's not a word used in daily conversation, but most of my students would recognise it in a play or other text without need for further glossary!
     

    pingu85

    Member
    Italian
    If your teacher is just doing this for a lesson and not a real audience then chances are she's got her own idea (she's the one who hates the word, alas). You might as well ask her and let us know what she thinks!

    It's not a word used in daily conversation, but most of my students would recognise it in a play or other text without need for further glossary!
    No, it's for an exam, this is why I'm so desperate!:eek: The idea is to imagine how people used to speak in the 16th century and then find an effective equivalent in modern English.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Reading the original, I have no idea what it means, it's not an obvious thing!
    Even the dictionaries only give the main meaning. (That doesn't fit here)

    As a native English speaker, I've searched and can't find a definition of what it means even in the old sense.. let alone in a modern sense.
    It doesn't make sense as an interjection of sorrow or grief, and it doesn't seem like it can be substituted with "regrettably / unfortunately"

    Suzi, how would you say it in Modern English?
     
    Last edited:

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Reading the original, I have no idea what it means, it's not an obvious thing!
    Even the dictionaries only give the main meaning. (That doesn't fit here)

    As a native English speaker, I've searched and can't find a definition of what it means even in the old sense.. let alone in a modern sense.
    It doesn't make sense as an interjection of sorrow or grief, and it doesn't seem like it can be substituted with "regrettably / unfortunately"

    Suzi, how would you say it in Modern English?
    Good question, since you've done the research and come up blank -- yet it is clear the examiner has an agenda with an answer in her own mind!

    "dear me" perhaps?
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Maybe modern speakers SWEAR more in times of stress, so we don't say "Alas" anymore, we say "F^c%ing h@%%" :)
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Maybe modern speakers SWEAR more in times of stress, so we don't say "Alas" anymore, we say "F^c%ing h@%%" :)
    Hahaha :)
    I think you're right!

    "With alas and alas"

    I suppose it could mean "with a sense of regret [she was sad about / didn't what to do it... for whatever reason]" (doubled for emphasis), but that's the only thing I can think of.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    The idea is that it should sound as if it were spoken by a modern English speaker in everyday life.
    Pingu, can you tell us exactly what you've been asked to do?

    If you really have to change everything so it sounds like everyday 21st century English, then you can't use "wrings her hands" either; it would be "is wringing her hands".

    "With alas and alas"

    I suppose it could mean "with a sense of regret [she was sad about / didn't what to do it... for whatever reason]" (doubled for emphasis), but that's the only thing I can think of.
    Alx, the old woman is saying "Alas" over and over again;)

    Context here.
     
    Last edited:

    pingu85

    Member
    Italian
    Yes, you're right, Loob!:eek: It's "Tib is wringing her hands"!
    I quote what my teacher asked me to do: "Modernise the vocabulary, syntax, spelling and punctuation". We've already modernised a text together and we replaced "Alas" with "Oh", but that was direct speech. Here, I cannot say:"Tib is wringing her hands, saying: "Oh!" and Oh!". I don't know, I think it would sound weird...
     
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