Well...

LenCabral

Member
Hi everyone,

In English the word "well" shows up a lot, as some kind of particle.

Well, make yourself at home.
Well, I guess we have to leave early.

Any ideas for how to translate it, if it's even necessary to translate at all? The meaning in English seems to be a bit of a hedge, like the speaker is committing to the illocutionary force less. So, the command seems less "commandy" Not really sure though. If anyone has any thoughts, I would greatly appreciate it.

Best
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
These little words, which I might go so far as to call idiomatic verbal tics, that add some kind of "feeling" (for lack of a better word) to a sentence rather than a concrete meaning are typically hard to translate. Every language has its own, and they rarely match exactly those in another language (well, at least in my experience with the very few languages I know!).

In Latin, I might put in that category quidem, equidem, enim, verum, enimvero... None of those is exactly equivalent to "well", but I think they, or at least some of them, can sometimes be used in similar situations.
 

LenCabral

Member
Those are all good suggestions. Can bene also do this job? Sort of similar in meaning to "fine, let's do X..." "bene, faciamus X"
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Some modern Latinists use it that way, and it makes sense on a theoretical level, but I haven't actually seen it done in any Roman text.
 

syntaxianus

Civis Illustris
Perhaps hem is not far from "well" in certain usages. From L&S:
  1. hem (also em, and often confounded in MSS. and edd. with em and en, q. v.), interj., an expression of surprise, in a good or bad sense; of admiration, joy, of grief, indignation, etc. .... I. oho! indeed! well! well to be sure! hah! alas! alack!
Even that English word well can be used with so many nuances and tones. "Well come on in!" "Well here you are!" "Well what do you want now???" "Well...I never!!!" "Well????" "Well, no..." "Well, well, well!"
 

LCF

a.k.a. Lucifer
Some modern Latinists use it that way, and it makes sense on a theoretical level, but I haven't actually seen it done in any Roman text.
Because we don't really have enough Roman texts to draw any conclusion is really limiting. :(

But I think this particular interjection bene might be universal and maybe is correct and very very old.

Interjection:

bene in Italian. (lit: well)
horosho in slavic langs (lit: well)
trukish in arabic (lit: ~well)
...

Even that English word well can be used with so many nuances and tones. "Well come on in!" "Well here you are!" "Well what do you want now???" "Well...I never!!!" "Well????" "Well, no..." "Well, well, well!"
Yes. Polysemy is different in different languages (even over time & place). Which makes all the beauty of a language.
 

syntaxianus

Civis Illustris
But I think this particular interjection bene might be universal and maybe is correct and very very old.

Interjection:

bene in Italian. (lit: well)
horosho in slavic langs (lit: well)
trukish in arabic (lit: ~well)
In Spanish there is also the filler word pues (etymologically connected with Italian poi and French puis, all deriving from Latin post). And in English, the filler word okay has swept through the world.
 

LenCabral

Member
I have noticed the use of okay in other languages, that's very interesting!

I think the heart of the matter is this, in English, well is neutral when used in this context, and seems completely separate from it's canonical meaning in I did well.

Can the same be said for bene? As in is the following discourse acceptable?

A lion just ate my hand. Well, go to the doctor!
Leo modo manum meam edit. Bene, i ad medicum!

In English, the use of "well" does not implicate that the speaker endorses the context (there are other things, like "great!", which do this). In Latin, would this discourse implicate that the speaker thinks it's good that this happened?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Bene doesn't always have to be taken literally, so no, it wouldn't necessarily imply that the speaker thought it good your hand had been eaten by a lion.

As I said earlier, such a use of bene kind of makes sense at least theoretically, but I've never seen it used that way in ancient Latin, so it may not be idiomatic or "natural" Latin. Even if it's attested somewhere that I haven't seen, it wouldn't have been anything as common as the corresponding use of "well" in English, otherwise, with all the Latin I've read, I would have seen it.

LCF has a point that we don't have all that much material to go on when it comes to colloquial Latin, so I guess there's still a slight chance that that may have been common in everyday parlance and it just isn't attested in the literature, but I tend to think that if it had been a really usual thing we'd have some instances of it, if not in Cicero's relatively colloquial letters, then at least in Plautus and Terence.
 

Issacus Divus

ᛏᚱᛁᚾᚴᚱ•ᚼᛁᛘᛘᛁᚾᛋ
trukish in arabic (lit: ~well)
?
Do you mean Turkish? I was sure that in Arabic, “well” is حَسَنًا, ḥasanan.
 

Issacus Divus

ᛏᚱᛁᚾᚴᚱ•ᚼᛁᛘᛘᛁᚾᛋ
LCF has a point that we don't have all that much material to go on when it comes to colloquial Latin, so I guess there's still a slight chance that that may have been common in everyday parlance and it just isn't attested in the literature, but I tend to think that if it had been a really usual thing we'd have some instances of it, if not in Cicero's relatively colloquial letters, then at least in Plautus and Terence.
True. Hard to determine whether or not the descendants in Romance languages are productions of Classical times or later times.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Yes, I think that can work in some contexts. When followed by an imperative.
 
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