"what talk ye"

bet2173

Senior Member
Turkish
Greetings,

What is exactly meant by "what talk ye"? Does it mean what do you say about Richard's right of birth? And also what is meant by "who objected scruples on that head"?

"And what talk ye of Richard's right of birth?" he proceeded, in answer to those who objected scruples on that head. Is Richard's (richard III) title of primogeniture more decidedly certain than that of Duke Robert of Normandy, the Conqueror's eldest son? " (Ivanhoe)

Many thanks
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Yes; in Present-day English we might say 'What are you talking about?' (= what's the problem? why are you objecting?), but then we need another 'about' for 'about Richard's right of birth', so to avoid this we'd more likely say 'What are you saying about Richard's right of birth?' (It's Richard I, the crusader king who reigned 1089-1099, by the way. Richard III was much later.)

    In Present-day English we can't use 'object' that way either: we'd say 'objected with scruples'. And 'on that head' means "on that subject".
     

    bet2173

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Thank you entangledbank,

    (It's Richard I, the crusader king who reigned 1089-1099, by the way. Richard III was much later.)
    Oops, sorry on that one.

    In Present-day English we can't use 'object' that way either: we'd say 'objected with scruples'. And 'on that head' means "on that subject".
    What is "scruples" there? I know what scruples mean but I can't make sense when it's combined with objection there.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I don't think that Scott meant "what" but rather "why"; this is again an archaic usage. "Why are you talking about Richard's right of birth?"

    To object literally means to throw in the way. (Latin: ob + jacere.) So that means "...those who threw down moral arguments on that subject."

    Not an easy style for native speakers, let alone foreign learners!
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I used a 'why' question in my glosses in my first answer, but this is more an implication than a meaning. Don't get the idea that in Scott's archaism 'what' can explicitly mean 'why'.* The speaker isn't actually asking what they were saying about Richard's rights, but the question is rhetorical. In Present-day English, 'What's that you say?' can be used to mean something like "What you just said is nonsense" - we rhetorically ask what, but without waiting for an answer we dismiss it.

    * Contrast the common misunderstanding of the line in Romeo and Juliet: 'Wherefore art thou Romeo?' In fact the archaic 'wherefore' really did mean 'why' but it's often treated today as if it's 'Where are you, Romeo?'
     

    bet2173

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    The speaker isn't actually asking what they were saying about Richard's rights, but the question is rhetorical. In Present-day English, 'What's that you say?' can be used to mean something like "What you just said is nonsense" - we rhetorically ask what, but without waiting for an answer we dismiss it.
    So can it be translated as "what on earth is this nonsense talk among yourselves on Richard's right of birth" ?
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    That's perhaps too strong. (My earlier use of 'nonsense' was too strong.) I've looked through Google Books for 'what talk ye'; the same few texts keep on appearing, but if I look at all the different uses, virtually all of them are rhetorical. There are a small number where it's a genuine question "What are you saying?", but none where it's a genuine question "Why are you saying that?" It's almost always followed by the same speaker going on to dismiss the topic: "Why are you saying that? You should be saying/thinking/doing something else."

    So at least we know Scott wasn't making up this particular archaism. (He did sometimes.)
     

    bet2173

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    It's almost always followed by the same speaker going on to dismiss the topic: "Why are you saying that? You should be saying/thinking/doing something else."
    Hmmm, ok now I get it more clearly.

    So at least we know Scott wasn't making up this particular archaism. (He did sometimes.)
    Yes I'm quite aware of that and that makes my job much more difficult.

    Thank you very much for all the effort.
     
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