Non multum gratiam demerebatur

< Previous | Next >

Novanas

Senior Member
English AE/Ireland
Hello to all!

A little question concerning vocabulary from Book XVI, Chapter 2 from William of Tyre's history.

Fulk, King of Jerusalem, has just died, being succeeded by his thirteen-year-old son, Baldwin III. William begins Book XVI by describing Baldwin's physical appearance and character. In this particular passage, he tells us that Baldwin was a very courteous man, except for his tendency to say frankly whatever was on his mind.

Urbanitatis quoque praecipuae, eo minus quod dicendi nimia utebatur libertate, ita ut quae in amicis erant notabilia et reprehensioni obnoxia, sublata differentia utrum placeret an laederet, eis in faciem publice jacularetur; quae tamen, quoniam non nocendi animo, sed quadam mentis hilaritate, vel potius levitate dicebat, non multum inde, etiam eorum quos sermone liberiore lacessebat, gratiam demerebatur; eoque amplius veniale videbatur quod in se versa vice contorta, aequanimiter dicta supportabat mordacia.

Now it's this bit, "Non multum . . . gratiam demerebatur", that puzzles me. The English translation I use renders it as "did not greatly lessen his popularity", and that certainly seems to fit the context. However, every dictionary I've looked at defines "demereo" as "earn thoroughly, merit, deserve well (of sb); oblige, please, win the favor of", which is the exact opposite of what the word seems to mean in this context.

It seems to me that, whatever about any other author, William is using the word in the sense of "to lose, lessen". We do after all have the word "demerit" in English. Or maybe I'm simply missing something here, which is of course always possible?

Any comments are welcome.
 
  • Scholiast

    Senior Member
    salue Novanas, saluete collucubrantes!

    This is indeed puzzling. prima facie Novanas is quite right, demerebatur seems here to mean the opposite of its dictionary definition.

    Reluctant as I usually am to resort to textual emendation, I am wondering whether confusion has arisen, either in William's own mind or that of a copyist, between demereor and demo, demere: the latter (in the corresponding form demebatur) could be construed as 'lessen', 'diminish', with gratiam as an accusative of respect—as I think it has to be anyway.

    Next time I am in striking distance of my university Library (not now likely until Monday next) I shall check on this with du Cange and other Lexica of mediaeval Latin, because it is entirely possible, as in her final paragraph Novanas speculates, that the meaning (or understanding) of demereor had changed by William's time.

    So sorry not to be able to do more immediately—watch this space!

    Σ
     
    Last edited:

    Circunflejo

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Castilla
    Pedro Labernia y Esteller in his Diccionario manual de la lengua castellana con la correspondencia latina (published in 1850) quotes on page 414 demereor as one of the translations to Latin of Spanish desmerecer (to be unworthy of, to deteriorate). But there aren't many more examples.

    The same meaning is suggested by Francisco Solano Constancio in his Novo diccionario critico e etymologico da lingua portugueza (published in 1868) where quotes as etymology of demerito Latin demeritum which says that comes from Latin demereor which mean is desmerecer (see page 354).

    As I see it, demereor was to deserve well and demerit to deserve ill but the later came from the former so it's not too surprising to see the former used with the meaning of the later.
     

    Novanas

    Senior Member
    English AE/Ireland
    Reluctant as I usually am to resort to textual emendation, I am wondering whether confusion has arisen, either in William's own mind or that of a copyist, between demereor and demo, demere: the latter (in the corresponding form demebatur) could be construed as 'lessen', 'diminish' . . .
    I'd certainly agree with you about textual emendation, although I have done a fair bit of that with this text. I have come across quite a few obvious typos--one of the most common being "eum" instead of "cum". And "demebatur" isn't a million miles away from "demerebatur". That said, another edition of the text I looked at also had "demerebatur", so I don't know what to say on this point.
     

    Novanas

    Senior Member
    English AE/Ireland
    Pedro Labernia y Esteller in his Diccionario manual de la lengua castellana con la correspondencia latina . . . Francisco Solano Constancio in his Novo diccionario critico e etymologico da lingua portugueza . . .
    Interesting observations, and they could well be relevant here. Thanks for this info.
     

    Snodv

    Senior Member
    English - Mid-Southern US
    Hmm...I think the de prefix of demereo/demereor and the de prefix of demerit don't mean the same thing. My dictionary says demereo/r means "deserve well of; lay under obligation." I take it as "deserve well from," whereas the de of demerit seems to have more of a negative connotation. But yes, substituting demere certainly looks like it works.
     

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    saluete amici!

    EYPHKA! Got it! J. F. Niermeyer's Mediae Latinitatis Lexicon Minus (2nd. edn. reprint, Leiden/New York/Köln 1993) cites as follows:

    'demerere et depon. demereri: forfaire – to forfeit...'

    ...with no alternative gloss and two 12th- and 13th-century quotations by way of illustration,* neither of them from William of T.

    So it would appear that Circunflejo's view is justified, and the sense has indeed changed between classical Latin and the Middle Ages.

    Σ

    *Edit: one of these joins amittet et demerebitur in a sort of hendiadys, as if they are virtually synonyms.
     
    Last edited:

    Novanas

    Senior Member
    English AE/Ireland
    Thanks very much for your researches, Scholiast, and for this reply, which I'm only just now seeing. This solves this little mystery for me.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top