Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why "quixote"? Because it's funny

Sometimes it's hard to translate humor without being pedantic. I won't let that stop me.

[Quixotes. Photo by Sue Burke]


From Chapter I of Don Quixote de La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes, as translated by John Ormsby in 1885:

"...Having got a name for his horse so much to his taste, he was anxious to get one for himself, and he was eight days more pondering over this point, till at last he made up his mind to call himself Don Quixote, whence, as has been already said, the authors of this veracious history have inferred that his name must have been beyond a doubt Quixada, and not Quesada as others would have it. Recollecting, however, that the valiant Amadis was not content to call himself curtly Amadis and nothing more, but added the name of his kingdom and country to make it famous, and called himself Amadis of Gaul, he, like a good knight, resolved to add on the name of his, and to style himself Don Quixote of La Mancha, whereby, he considered, he described accurately his origin and country, and did honour to it in taking his surname from it...."

Here's what these words really mean:

Quixote: the piece of armor that covers the thigh. Called "cuisse" in English.

Quixada: jaw.

Quesada: jaw. Or cheese-filled pastry.

Mancha: spot or stain, and thus metaphorically, dishonor or shame, a stain upon one's good name. La Mancha is the arid plateau of central Spain; the name comes from the Arabic la manxa, which means "parched earth" for its lack of water.

So you could translate Don Quixote de La Mancha, a name that Cervantes' hero spent eight days devising, as "Thigh Armor of Dishonor."

1 comment:

  1. Another discussion of the name: