most welcome

Masha*

Senior Member
Russia: Russian
Hi!

Reading "Alice I Have Been" by M. Benjamin (a novel about Alice Liddell, the prototype of Alice in Wonderland) I have come across this:

"...You would probably prefer to bring a companion: but I must leave the choice to you, only remarking that if your husband is here, he would be most very welcome. (I crossed out most because it’s ambiguous; most words are, I fear.)"

This is supposed to be a letter of Charles Dodgson, the author of Alice in Wonderland, to Alice Hargreaves (Liddell). I said "supposed to be" because the letter did not exist, it's a creation of M. Benjamin, the author of the book about Alice.

I would me most obliged if you could tell me why "most" sounds ambiguous to the author of the letter. :) Is it because "most" is not only "very" but also the superlative of "welcome" and therefore it may look like he is more happy to see her husband than herself? I'm a bit confused...

Thank you in advance for your help!
 
  • suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I really wouldn't worry about this, I think it is meant to be humorous since VERY is not really an improvement on MOST in the way we use these words. What you suggest as a point about the superlative could also be implied.

    Who is the imagined author of this letter in the book?
     

    Masha*

    Senior Member
    Russia: Russian
    Thanks suzi br, the imagined author of the letter is Charles Dodgson. But could you please explain how is he being humorouse about it? I'm afraid I miss the point. I need to translate it into Russian, that's why I'm rather fussy about it :)
    Thanks once more
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Gawd!
    I am not sure how to advise you, really.

    Dodgson (in real life) was notoriously playful with words, a lot of Alice in Wonderland's humour stems from that fascination. Readers of this book you are working on might spot a resonance there ... Crossing out a word and replacing it with one almost the same and then making a point about the general ambiguity of ALL words would be very in character for the real man!

    (A couple of famous quotations from Alice in Wonderland to show this:
    "Then you should say what you mean," the March Hare went on.
    "I do, " Alice hastily replied; "at least I mean what I say, that's the same thing, you know."
    "Not the same thing a bit!" said the Hatter. "Why, you might just as well say that "I see what I eat" is the same thing as "I eat what I see!"

    -----------

    "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
    "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
    "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."

    ------------------------------------------------


    Back to your actual question, I guess that in translation you need to find two intensifiers which are almost synonyms.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I wonder whether the double meaning of 'most' is:
    most: of all possible companions she might bring, her husband would be most welcome ~ more welcome than any other.
    most: = very.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Though ... I would suggest that if it was going to mean that (more welcome than any other) one would need to write THE most welcome?
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    "The most" would make it clearer, but I believe that the other is possible. The price of a pun is often a slight strain of the language.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Indeed! And I imagine very tough to translate ..

    @ masha: since this author is alive can't you talk directly to him about his intentions?
     

    Masha*

    Senior Member
    Russia: Russian
    A brilliant idea, suzi! I'll try to find her contacts on the web. Otherwise I'll have to invent something...
     
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