Arch English

passola92

Senior Member
italian-italia
Hi!
Could you help me find the meaning of the following sentence? My doubt is on the use of the word arch. Does it mean knowing, self-righteous or mischievous? Or all of the three?

"The little Russian girls spoke English, but of an impossibly arch and archaic kind, as if it had been translated from the French by a Victorian governess."

Thanks!






Source: The Windsor Faction
 
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  • PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Given that there is no context, even in the book, it is impossible to say. However, I would understand it as "self-righteous."
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It's often difficult to nail down the meaning of the word "arch".

    D.J. Taylor's The Windsor Faction seems to be set in the year 1939. In this context I would say it carries the idea of expressions that use a slightly caustic or sarcastic kind of humour. For example, the sort of thing a Jane Austen heroine might retort to a Mr. Darcy.

    It can also mean "knowing, self-righteous, mischievous, or all three". Do they give any examples of this kind of English that the little girls spoke? I imagine it was rather comic because it made them sound too old for their years. Little children don't speak "archly", and it's mostly rather intelligent young women who do.
     

    passola92

    Senior Member
    italian-italia
    No, unfortunately they don't. But he's talking about the Tzar's daughters, if this can help. I suppose these are highly educated teenagers, so it wouldn't be so odd if they spoke archly. Or not?
     
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    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    No, unfortunately they don't. But he's talking about the Tzar's daughters, if this can help. I suppose these are highly educated teenagers, so it wouldn't be so odd if they spoke archly. Or not?
    Members of the aristocracy are often accustomed to treat others with arrogance (q.v.). This might account for the girls' "archness."
     

    passola92

    Senior Member
    italian-italia
    Also, their English sounds like being translated from French... Now, I don't want to cause any diplomatic incident, but usually French is considered something posh or snobbish (at least in Italy). Do you guys feel the same thing?
     

    passola92

    Senior Member
    italian-italia
    Well, yeah, I study French and love the French culture. I didn't mean to generalize, but stereotypes do exist and are part of how two different societies look at one another. I guess that otherwise the comparison with the French language wouldn't make any sense. What do you think? :)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I think maybe the Victorian governess wouldn't have had a lot of skill in translating, so the English might have sounded stilted. The writer might just as well have said "from the German", or any other language that a governess of the time might have had a passing acquaintance with. French though is associated with finesse and elegance.
     
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