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Jeremiah Swanger




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Apr, 2008 11:08 pm    Post subject: Standardized terminology?         Reply with quote

I was reading Bill Grandy's response to a post about sideswords and it got me thinking about the differences between the modern term "sidesword" and the period term "rapier", which changed with the respective period.

Should modern collectors create a system of terminology?

The reason I think so, is because modern sword collectors often do not limit themselves to one particular time period, whereas the knights and men-at-arms of history only needed to concern themselves with the era they lived in.

Victorian collectors, for example, had already done a bit of this when they invented terms like "broadsword."

If nothing else, such a system may help dispel much of the confusion created by RPG and Fantasy Novel writers...

If you think about it, Gary Gygax basically did precisely this when he created the sword terminology for D&D. Most RPG and Fantasy Novel authors have picked up on that particular terminology. Unfortunately, nobody revised that terminology, so now anyone who isn't intimately-familiar with the world of medieval arms and armor believes that a "longsword" is a single-handed weapon.

I believe that if the sword collecting and sword making communities unite behind a simpler terminology, because, let's face it, describing a hero swinging a sword of "Oakeshott Type XVIII" doesn't exactly make for good reading, then the public at large may become just a little less ignorant about what a certain type of sword was called, and, more importantly, how it was used.

"Rhaegar fought nobly.
Rhaegar fought valiantly.
Rhaegar fought honorably.
And Rhaegar died."

- G.R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire
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Jean Le-Palud




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PostPosted: Thu 24 Apr, 2008 12:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, and it gets more complicated when it comes to international vocabulary...
And then a dictionary is usually of no help. For example the Harrap's english french dictionary gives for "hilt" : "poignée" or "garde".
"Poignée" is right, "garde" is not. "Garde" is guard or lower guard. Harrap's translates "broadsword" by "sabre" which obviously is wrong . Sabre in french is sabre in english !
In fact I am so used to reading and learning about swords on english speaking forums or books that usually I don't even know the french words for most of the terms.

As a comparison I found very useful a canadian book about birds of northern America because it gave the names in both langages.
Anyway it would be fine to have a common international vocabulary as is latin for living species, which is the only valid reference.
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Thu 24 Apr, 2008 1:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Le-Palud wrote:
For example the Harrap's english french dictionary gives for "hilt" : "poignée" or "garde".
"Poignée" is right, "garde" is not. "Garde" is guard or lower guard.


Even this example is not so clear-cut. Technically "poignée" is actually handle, and not hilt. Hilt is "garde" + "poignée" + "pommeau" (pommel), and in fact we don't even have a French word for that, I'm afraid... In fact "garde" might be the most accurate, because of some figure of speech I don't remember the name of, when you call the whole by the name of a part.

To further complexify the matter there is the expression "to the hilt" in English, which translates as "jusqu'à la garde" in French Happy

Concerning the wider problem of a standard terminology... I think it would mainly be interesting for those who are already paying a detailed attention to the objects or their use. So I'm not sure it would be adopted by writers. After all, for centuries an accurate terminology has never existed and many writers did perfectly well without it because the details of the weapons were relatively easy to deduce from the context.

The terminology currently used in the WMA context would be sufficient for the general public, in my opinion. Aside from some minor issues such as what should be called a rapier, of course Happy

For collectors the terminology need not be so simple, but in this case "good reading" is a non-issue. I personally believe that basing a terminology on dynamic properties more than on pure geometric details would be interesting but I don't know for sure if one can find separate types with this approach.

Then there is the issue of inertia. Converting people to the new terminology is only possible if the benefits are very significant...

--
Vincent
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Jean Le-Palud




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PostPosted: Thu 24 Apr, 2008 8:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vincent Le Chevalier wrote:
Jean Le-Palud wrote:
For example the Harrap's english french dictionary gives for "hilt" : "poignée" or "garde".
"Poignée" is right, "garde" is not. "Garde" is guard or lower guard.


Even this example is not so clear-cut. Technically "poignée" is actually handle, and not hilt. Hilt is "garde" + "poignée" + "pommeau" (pommel), and in fact we don't even have a French word for that, I'm afraid... In fact "garde" might be the most accurate, because of some figure of speech I don't remember the name of, when you call the whole by the name of a part.

To further complexify the matter there is the expression "to the hilt" in English, which translates as "jusqu'à la garde" in French Happy



Vincent,
The pictures is from the "Petit Larousse" french dictionary and shows that "poignée" is actually the hilt.
Nevertheless I agree that in usual french langage "poignée" is rather what is called "fusée" on the picture (handle or grip in english).

Of course it is sensible that "to the hilt" translates as "jusqu'à la garde" since the guard is the first encountered part of the hilt when the blade is entirely thrust.

Cordialement,
Jean



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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Thu 24 Apr, 2008 8:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think a standardized terminology could be very useful as long as it stayed away from historical or psuedo historical terms. The shining example is the Oakeshott typology. It is a typology that is designed to give a common language amongst modern scholars, but there is little confusion over what people may or may not have said in period, since they didn't use the typology. This helps to avoid certain types of generalizations, such as saying, "Longswords are designed for cutting more than thrusting." We know that previous sentence isn't necessarily true, as it depends on the sword. Now if we say, "Swords with a Type XIIIa blade are designed for cutting more than thrusting," we can then have a meaningful discussion.

I have been hoping that a qualified scholar would do a similar typology for Renaissance swords for quite some time. (I personally would love Craig Johnson to do it, but I don't think he'd appreciate me volunteering him. Wink ) I actually fear that someone will attempt this with good intentions, but will not be as qualified as they think they are, and create more myths than facts... that's the hard part of doing this type of thing.

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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Thu 24 Apr, 2008 9:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jean!

Jean Le-Palud wrote:
Vincent,
The pictures is from the "Petit Larousse" french dictionary and shows that "poignée" is actually the hilt.
Nevertheless I agree that in usual french langage "poignée" is rather what is called "fusée" on the picture (handle or grip in english).


I stand corrected... I don't know why, I could not remember seeing "poignée" in my French books about swords, even though I knew the term "fusée". I'll have to check where I got this confusion...

Anyhow what you explain further highlights the terminology issue, as the common use of a term is not always the technically correct one. That might explain the confusion in the dictionary as well.

--
Vincent
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Eric Myers




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PostPosted: Thu 24 Apr, 2008 9:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One problem with standardizing is that people start thinking that the terms are more exact or widespread than they really are. That said, I do tend to use some terms more specifically than they really warrant, I just try not to shoehorn everyone else into the same terminology use. For example, I use the term longsword for the weapon shown in Fiore and the term two-handed sword for the spadone, yet if you ask a serious researcher like Matt Galas about this he will give you a very long and informed discussion about how these different terms (plus great sword) were applied to each of the weapons in question at some point in their history. Similarly, I use the term sidesword to mean a complex hilted sword from the 16th or 17th century that has a balance and blade length and breadth that allows for a lot of cutting in it's use. Lot's of contemporary swords had longer blades and were more optimized for the thrust - sure they can cut, but not as well, they are just designed for a different style of sword play. I find the distinctions useful, but I tend to use them in modern reference to reproductions, not for actual historical pieces.

On another note, broadsword is correctly translated as sabre, as that is a term used in English for military sabres during the 19th century. (Possibly before or after too, I don't remember.)

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Anders Backlund




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PostPosted: Thu 24 Apr, 2008 11:08 am    Post subject: Re: Standardized terminology?         Reply with quote

Jeremiah Swanger wrote:
I was reading Bill Grandy's response to a post about sideswords and it got me thinking about the differences between the modern term "sidesword" and the period term "rapier", which changed with the respective period.

Should modern collectors create a system of terminology?

The reason I think so, is because modern sword collectors often do not limit themselves to one particular time period, whereas the knights and men-at-arms of history only needed to concern themselves with the era they lived in.

Victorian collectors, for example, had already done a bit of this when they invented terms like "broadsword."

If nothing else, such a system may help dispel much of the confusion created by RPG and Fantasy Novel writers...

If you think about it, Gary Gygax basically did precisely this when he created the sword terminology for D&D. Most RPG and Fantasy Novel authors have picked up on that particular terminology. Unfortunately, nobody revised that terminology, so now anyone who isn't intimately-familiar with the world of medieval arms and armor believes that a "longsword" is a single-handed weapon.

I believe that if the sword collecting and sword making communities unite behind a simpler terminology, because, let's face it, describing a hero swinging a sword of "Oakeshott Type XVIII" doesn't exactly make for good reading, then the public at large may become just a little less ignorant about what a certain type of sword was called, and, more importantly, how it was used.


I'm not sure I see how coming together and agreeing on a set terminology is going to stop people in general from having misconceptions about what to call a certain weapon. It may simplify thing for us but unless we sent a copy of our conclusions to every single writer in the world, fantasy books and RPGs will just keep using words like "longsword" about the wrong kind of weapon. Basically, it's still only going to appeal to those with enough interest to study the subject. Everyone can't be a scholar.

Also, speaking as a sword nut who is also a writer of sorts, I generally become wary whenever there is talk about "educating the public" about swords. It's the same feeling I get when people start judging Hollywood movies after the degree of historical correctness: the feeling that someone has missed one of the most basic points about fiction.

This may come as a shock, but many writers may not consider this level of accuracy to be important. Simply put, writers are in general not primarily concerned with educating their readers. Rather, their goal it foremost to entertain them. Conversely, most readers of fiction are more interested in being entertained then they are of being educated. In this sense, being too accurate can actually be counter-productive. Worst case scenario, the writer risk confusing the readers who actually expect a sword to have an incorrect label. And that's a bad thing, since confusing the readers is the third worst thing you can do as a writer. (The second and first being annoying and boring them.)

Now, me, I find that having a deeper understanding for this kind of thing does ad a new dimension to my writing. But that doesn't mean i find it necessary -or even desirable- to tell my readers that the sword used by my hero is in fact not a longsword but a Type XVI, a sword developed in the 1300:s to have a good balance of cutting an thrusting in order to cope with the advancement of armor technology.

Rather, it helps me to avoid confusing my readers by simply calling it a "sword" and leave it at that.

The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

"This doesn't look easy... but I bet it is!"
-Homer Simpson.
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Randall Pleasant




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PostPosted: Thu 24 Apr, 2008 2:25 pm    Post subject: Re: Standardized terminology?         Reply with quote

Jeremiah Swanger wrote:
Should modern collectors create a system of terminology?

Jeremiah

Yes, it is much needed. We should be able to discuss all swords of the Renaissance period with the same clarity that biologist discuss different species and the same clarity that we are currently able to discuss swords of the Medieval and earlier periods using the Oakeshott typology.


Bill Grandy wrote:
I think a standardized terminology could be very useful as long as it stayed away from historical or psuedo historical terms. The shining example is the Oakeshott typology. It is a typology that is designed to give a common language amongst modern scholars, but there is little confusion over what people may or may not have said in period, since they didn't use the typology. This helps to avoid certain types of generalizations, such as saying, "Longswords are designed for cutting more than thrusting." We know that previous sentence isn't necessarily true, as it depends on the sword. Now if we say, "Swords with a Type XIIIa blade are designed for cutting more than thrusting," we can then have a meaningful discussion.

I have been hoping that a qualified scholar would do a similar typology for Renaissance swords for quite some time. (I personally would love Craig Johnson to do it, but I don't think he'd appreciate me volunteering him. Wink ) I actually fear that someone will attempt this with good intentions, but will not be as qualified as they think they are, and create more myths than facts... that's the hard part of doing this type of thing.

Bill

I fully agree with all that you said. As you noted, shining example for such a typology is the Oakeshott typology. The use of numbers rather than words for the title of each classification produced a brilliant, unambiguous, and unbias typology that is flexible and extendable. Therefore, I would suggest that a typology of Renaissance period swords should developed as an extension to the Oakeshott typology. As with the Oakeshott typology, a new typology of Renaissance period swords should be based upon the physical attributes of the blade, not the hilt attributes. I also like that you noted that such a typology should be developed by a "qualified scholar".

Ran Pleasant
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Thu 24 Apr, 2008 3:28 pm    Post subject: Re: Standardized terminology?         Reply with quote

Randall Pleasant wrote:
As with the Oakeshott typology, a new typology of Renaissance period swords should be based upon the physical attributes of the blade, not the hilt attributes.


Randall,
It seems you've missed a good 2/3 of Oakeshott's sword typology system. Happy People often get overly focused on the blade typology and forget that the blade typology is just one component of a multi-part system of classifying the sword. There are typologies for pommels and guards and grip shape/construction (sandwich vs. bored through) factor in also.

The point of the system is to identify all the main components of a sword so that the sword as a whole can better be identified/placed in context.

Often, we call swords by their blade typology: Type XII sword, Type XVIIIa, etc. But the system can go farther and I feel it's meant to go farther. By identifying all the parts we can go further into the sword's relation to other swords and their origin. For example, The Black Prince's sword has a Type XV blade and many people just call it a "Type XV sword". But with its thick wheel pommel (closest to a J1) and Style 8 cross, it is part of a family of swords spread across Europe that seem to have been pretty popular. Likewise, the two different styles of Dordogne swords are easily identifiable by their combination of parts, even though the blades can be Type XV or XVIII in some cases. The Sempach family of swords is another example of that trend.

There is more to Oakeshott's opus than just the blade typology. Happy

Happy

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 24 Apr, 2008 4:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I suspect that we could preserve, but also expand (add more numbers for earlier and later period swords) upon the Oakeshott typology. This is already a fairly workable and widely referenced system. If I understand it right, he did the same thing himself (considered the Peterson and Wheeler typologies and developed a simpler system suited to his period of interests?)

Many of the above, polite posts illustrate how easily we get sidetracked using terms like "longsword", "broadsword", etc. If a historical term has uncontested strong association to an obvious numerical typology, then say so. If it period terms morphed over time or are "kind of" controversial ("bastard sword" term possibly), then avoid period terms and go with something numerically based that is suited for collectors of all periods of swords.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Randall Pleasant




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PostPosted: Thu 24 Apr, 2008 4:47 pm    Post subject: Re: Standardized terminology?         Reply with quote

Chad

You are completely right. It was indeed my focus rather than a miss. Happy I was not meaning to dismiss classification of hilt attributes, rather I was just wishing to point out that the basic classification must be on the blade. As you well know, changing the pomel on a Type XII will not turn it into a Type XV. For those of us who are currently involved in the reconstruction of HEMA I think a clear classification of blade attributes is much more needed than a classification of hilt attributes.

Ran Pleasant
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Steven Reich




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PostPosted: Thu 24 Apr, 2008 5:34 pm    Post subject: Re: Standardized terminology?         Reply with quote

Randall Pleasant wrote:
For those of us who are currently involved in the reconstruction of HEMA I think a clear classification of blade attributes is much more needed than a classification of hilt attributes.

Actually, I think a clear classification of both hilts and blades is necessary. Fortunately, the classification of hilts (i.e. the various complex forms) has already been done by AVB Norman--actually he classifies the inner and outer guards (and the pommels)--all with numbers. However, the various types of blades mounted on these sideswords/rapiers/smallswords/dueling swords/etc. remains to be classified (to my knowledge).

Steve

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Jean Le-Palud




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PostPosted: Thu 24 Apr, 2008 11:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric Myers wrote:
On another note, broadsword is correctly translated as sabre, as that is a term used in English for military sabres during the 19th century. (Possibly before or after too, I don't remember.)


This is a perfect example of misunderstanding....and of the difficulty of the task.
Translation is never an easy job.

I don't want to be controversial but I found this definition of a broadsword on an online american dictionary:
A sword with a wide, usually two-edged blade that is designed for slashing rather than thrusting
I agree that some sabres of 19th century are called broadswords but the definition of the french "sabre" is:
Arme blanche,droite ou recourbée, qui ne tranche que d'un côté ( Edged, straight or curved weapon, with a single-edged blade) ). And so, IMO, "broadsword" is not correctly translated in french as "sabre". Said in another way, sabres are broadswords but all broadswords are not sabres.
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Eric Myers




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 8:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Le-Palud wrote:
[Said in another way, sabres are broadswords but all broadswords are not sabres.


I agree with this, but since some broadswords *are* sabres, it is a correct translation, if not the complete story. Many words have multiple meanings, and if dictionaries only listed one we would all be very confused. Also, as I'm sure you would agree, not all dictionaries agree with each other, or are even complete, so there is another problem.

Eric Myers
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 8:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric,
What is your source for the British referring to their military swords a broadswords? I collect 18th and 19th century British swords and have not come across this catch-all term for military swords and sabers. I have seen "broadsword" used in reference to double edged military swords, but not as a generic term to describe any military sword.

Thank you,
Jonathan
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Eric Myers




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 9:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jonathan,

I was actually referring to the English language, not the British specifically. Also, I didn't mean to imply that the term was used as a "generic term to describe any military sword". My understanding is that it was applied to Scottish basket hilt swords and to sabres, though not necessarily by the same people or at the same time. I wonder if the term was simply transferred to sabres as they gained in popularity among European militaries.

A.J. Corbesier's "Principles of Squad Instruction for the Broadsword" is for sabres, IIRC, though I think he was American?

Also, didn't Burton use the term broadsword as well in his "New System of Sword Exercise for Infantry"?

Francis Vere Wright uses the term Broadsword when he writes about the Italian sabre.

Allanson-Winn and Phillipps-Wolley use the term broadsword in reference to the sabre in "Broad-Sword and Single-Stick" and they were English.

There are plenty of others as well, those are just the ones I recall off the top of my head.

(Edited for spelling)

Eric Myers
Sacramento Sword School
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Last edited by Eric Myers on Fri 25 Apr, 2008 10:19 am; edited 1 time in total
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 10:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric,
I will have a look at the source you have provided. Happy

Thank you,
Jonathan
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Eric Myers




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 10:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jonathan,

Several of these are on-line at google books....

Eric Myers
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 11:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric,
Thank you. That is where I found some of them! Google Books is an amazing resource.

Jonathan
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