September 22, 2012

Translating building names

Filed under: Uncategorized — podtourz @ 9:41 pm

Talking about chateaux makes me think what’s the difference between a chateau and a castle? a chateau and a palais – or a castle and a palace?

A chateau can be a castle – that is, a fortress, with crenellations (with or without its licence to crenellate), turrets, parapets, battlements, meutrieres and a portcullis. (Of course the Tower of London is a castle – but we don’t call it that; another oddness in the way we name our buildings. And technically, it is a palace, as a royal residence, too.)

But a chateau can also be a completely unfortifiable building, a grand house of the baroque or rococo, like Versailles, or Vaux le Vicomte. You’d never call those castles in English; they would be either ‘houses’ (English understatement) or ‘palaces’. In German a chateau would be a Residenz; only a fortress is usually a Schloss, as far as I know (though my German is by no means as good as my French, so correct me if I’m wrong).

Church and chapel; now those are interesting words, as they have two different axes on which they work. There’s church, meaning a big one – a parish or collegiate church – and chapel meaning a little one – a mortuary chapel, a wayside chapel, a side-chapel; but there’s also Church (the C of E) and Chapel (nonconformists, except that of course when you get into it, some of them don’t even have chapels, they have meeting houses. Tricky stuff this nomenclature.) But outside Britain, church and chapel (or ‘hermitage’, sometimes) only work along that first axis; there’s no denomination of denominations, so to speak.

And a chapel built of corrugated iron is a tin tabernacle. Stands to reason.


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    In the present day universe that is tricky to carry out.

    With thanks, Danelle

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