grievous to Catholic ears

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Senior Member
Persian - Shiraz
What is the exact meaning of the following passage? It is from an itinerary written nearly 420 years ago in Spanish, and was translated into English, nearly 110 years ago. Of course it is from a foot note about the skirmish among the Portuguese and other European nations.
"Mauricio \Mauritius\ was the name or title of the admiral's ship : it appears as if by a fatality, with the first two syllables ever grievous to Catholic ears (let severe censors pardon what they may call frivolous considerations), to be second Mauritanians in those climes, like spoilers of the vineyard of Christ, which the efforts of the Portuguese had planted there."
Thanks very much
  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The first two syllables of Mauricio, or Mauritius, are pronounced almost exactly the same as mori: the Latin word for death. Latin was still used in Catholic religious services at the time, though it wasn't used in many other places, and death is mentioned several times in them.

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Spain, Italy, and France were solidly Roman Catholic countries at that time, about 1600. Spanish, Italian and French are derived from Latin and the word for death in each of those languages is similar, starting with the syllable 'mor'.

    Educated Catholics and non-Catholics in northern European countries would all have had some Latin or even been completely fluent, as it was the lingua franca of the time.
    (Latin was required for university entrance until well into the 20th century in England, maybe the 1970's.)
    The educated in 1600 would have been able to understand the mass and a whole lot else still written in Latin.

    The ordinary people, labourers, mostly illiterate, couldn't understand the mass or read the scriptures. One of the distinguishing crucial features of Protestantism was the use of the 'vernacula', the language of the people.
    In the 'germanic' languages', English, German, Dutch and the Scandinavian ones, the sound 'mor(t)' doesn't have that association. There's the English 'death', and there are the related words like Tod, dood, tot, død.
    Just to add that in English, because of Norman-French/Latin influences, we do have 'death' associated words starting with 'mor(t)':
    mortuary, mortal, mortality, mortify, moribund, and even mortgage.
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