he always boards the pirate ship at last

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ciop

Senior Member
Italian
Hi,
I'm translating a new edition of Peter Pan.
Chaper fifteen
the pirates are superstitious and think there is a sort of ghost on board (actually, it's Peter hidden in the cabin)

"they do say the surest sign of a ships' accurst is when there's one on board more than can be accounted for".
"I've heard" muttered Mullins "he always boards the pirate craft at last. Had he a tail, captain?

At last here means:
1) as last
2) when the ship end has come (I think it is the latter but merely on the basis of logic not on a language basis)
Thank you very much in advance
 
  • Bevj

    Allegra Moderata (Sp/Eng, Cat)
    English (U.K.)
    I would suggest that it should be 'he always boards the pirate craft last', meaning that he is the last person to get on the ship.
    Is the English excerpt quoted above your version or is it from another source?
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    "He always boards the pirate craft at last" is simply wrong in my view: an error. The problem is "always", which indicates a habitual action, and a habitual action cannot logically be done "at last" ("as the end result of a succession or process"), as it is not a "result". In order to make any sense it must be "last" (he is always the last one to board the craft).

    There are errors and awkward phrasings in this text (e.g. "sign of a ships' accurst"), and I am wondering how reliable the transcription is. Does it really say "at last"?
     
    I believe this should be "he always boards the pirate craft last" which means he makes sure everybody else gets on the ship before he does, so if there is a problem, they will experience it before he has to, which indicates practical caution or cowardice, or both.

    "at last" in contemporary English has a very different meaning, having nothing to do with the order of action but an expression of exasperated relief that someone has finally done what they were expected to do:

    At last you've come to my party! (You have arrived just now, I didn't think you would actually come, you are not the last final guest, others may come letter, I'm focusing on the fact that you accomplished your own act of arriving), it could in many instances be replaced with "wow, I don't believe it, ...
     
    Last edited:

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    The version on Project Gutenberg has:
    All pirates are superstitious, and Cookson cried, "They do say the surest sign a ship's accurst is when there's one on board more than can be accounted for."

    "I've heard," muttered Mullins, "he always boards the pirate craft last. Had he a tail, captain?"
    The two errors mentioned above are not there.
     

    ciop

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hi everybody,
    In my version, I checked again, it reads as I quoted
    "of a"ship's accurst"
    and "at last"
    Strange, it is the official version I was given by the publisher.
    We must all take into consideration that we are dealing with BE in Barrie's time.
    However, do you all rule out that "at last" means "when the ship end is near".... the author is speaking of a demon....
    other ideas are welcome
    thanks a lot
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The version you were given is wrong. The book is out of copyright outside the UK, so there are versions on the Web - these will be old, i.e. original versions, not recent reissues. 'At last' is impossible. It is not English of any kind in this position; it has to be 'last'.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    However, do you all rule out that "at last" means "when the ship end is near".... the author is speaking of a demon....
    other ideas are welcome
    thanks a lot
    We absolutely rule it out, ciop. You must accept the fact that the version you have been given is wrong. There is no other possibility. In all editions the text is:
    All pirates are superstitious, and Cookson cried, "They do say the surest sign a ship's accurst is when there's one on board more than can be accounted for." "I've heard," muttered Mullins, "he always boards the pirate craft last. Had he a tail, captain?"
     

    ciop

    Senior Member
    Italian
    perfect, what I'm interested in is the language feeling of natives.
    Not in proving that the version I've got is correct :))
    I also have an old translation full of errors (among which this one, hence my doubt)
    a huge thanks as usual
     
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