Carpe Diem: Pluck the Day

Other Chinese or Japanese calligraphy issues that does not seem to fit any of the categories above.
Locked
Them Bones
Posts: 1
Joined: Jul 15, 2011 2:01 pm

Carpe Diem: Pluck the Day

Post by Them Bones » Jul 15, 2011 2:49 pm

Heya, just found your site while searching for calligraphy scrolls. I was looking through your variations on the word "discipline," and I appreciated your explanations of the various nuanced meanings.

Since you appreciate attention to those kinds of details, I thought I'd drop you a note about your rendering of "Carpe Diem." Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't mean "seize the day" (that would be "Cape Diem." Same word root as "capture").

Carpe diem translates more directly as "pluck the day," "gather the day," or "harvest the day." It's a bit less violent metaphor, and it also connotes putting hard work into the day to get some productivity out of it, like a harvested field, as well as savoring and appreciating the day, like a plucked fruit or flower. Put those two meanings together, and I guess you're making the most of your day.

Anyway, maybe seize vs. harvest is a fine semantic point when rendered in English, but when choosing Chinese characters, I suspect there could potentially be a world of difference between the two.
Pluck the cranberry or blueberry of the day tenderly free without damaging it, is what Horace meant—pick the day, harvest the day, reap the day, mow the day, forage the day. Don’t freaking grab the day in your fist like a burger at a fairground and take a big chomping bite out of it. That’s not the kind of man that Horace was.

User avatar
Gary
The Boss
Posts: 6091
Joined: Oct 30, 2007 11:30 pm
Location: San Diego / Beijing
Contact:

Post by Gary » Jul 31, 2011 8:00 pm

The art of translating is just that, an art, not a science. This is why machine translation almost always falls short.

http://www.orientaloutpost.com/carpe-diem.php

Carpe Diem is better known than Cape Diem in the west. With so few Latin scholars around to correct anyone, it's kind of a moot argument. Westerners misuse a lot of words. For instance, the Japanese word "Zen" is used in phrases like "That's so Zen", or "I'm feeling very Zen right now". In Japanese (and the same character in Chinese) means "meditation". It is a verb most of the time. It's also an adjective when used as a title for a sect of Buddhism (Zen Buddhism) that emphasizes the practice of meditation. It's not used as a noun in any context that I can think of.

Westerners (especially Americans) use a lot of words incorrectly. It's not limited to Latin and Japanese. We also get rid of words that have no reasonable replacement. The word "Oriental" used as a title for a person has been dismissed (by those who title themselves as "Asian-Americans"). However, they have assigned "Asian" to mean people from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, Thailand, etc. This was done with complete disregard for the fact that Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and a good portion of Russia are also in the Asian continent. If you try to use the corrected term of "Southeast Asia", those from the USA only remember that as a title for the Vietnam conflict, and don't ever seem to think of China, Japan, and Korea as being encompassed by that title.

For the calligraphy title, the English description is correct, as the first two characters mean, grasp, seize, or hold. It's not quite the same as "plucking" fruit, but that would not work with "day" in Chinese. The phrase we're using is the most natural choice for this idea in Chinese. It's also used in several of my Chinese dictionaries as the equivalent to "Seize the Day" or "Carpe Diem". Thus I feel safe in leaving the title as is.

Thank you for your concern,
-Gary.

csimmons
Posts: 5
Joined: Dec 5, 2011 2:13 am

Post by csimmons » Dec 5, 2011 5:13 am

I guess that most basic translation for Carpe Diem is "that is so zen" which means something so peaceful or at peace.

That still actually translates to the dictionary definition of that phrase standing at seize the moment or hang loose.

I actually embody this phrase and take it as my mantra for my daily life, so I could do whatever I want without thinking of how tomorrow is going to be.

User avatar
Gary
The Boss
Posts: 6091
Joined: Oct 30, 2007 11:30 pm
Location: San Diego / Beijing
Contact:

Post by Gary » Dec 5, 2011 12:14 pm

Please don't misunderstand. I was using "That's so Zen" as an example of how Asian words such as "Zen" are misused or misinterpreted in western culture. Zen means meditation, and is the short title for "Meditation Buddhism" or "Zen Buddhism" in Japan. Zen does not relate by meaning to Carpe Diem (unless you plan to seize the day by meditating).

Seize the day or Carpe Diem is about taking hold of the day and using every moment or opportunity. I guess you could also say that it means to make the day yours. Grab it, take it, hold it, use it. Basically, anything by waste it.

-Gary.

Locked