(urth) The Katharine maid

Roy C. Lackey rclackey at stic.net
Fri Oct 27 19:53:30 PDT 2006


The dictionary citations both of you have given support my reading. This is
the sentence:

"Perhaps I was too distant from myself, from the Severian of bone and flesh
borne by Catherine in a cell of the oubliette under the Matachin Tower."

The part before the comma can be ignored here, leaving the subordinate
clause "from the Severian of bone and flesh borne by Catherine in a cell of
the oubliette under the Matachin Tower." There is only *one* verb in the
clause, "borne". There is no form of the verb "to have" before borne (or
another verb after it) to qualify it, as would be required for borne to
refer to the mere fact that Catherine gave birth in a cell.

The subject in the clause is "Severian", the predicate is "borne". The rest
of the clause, beginning with the word "by", is a prepositional phrase
serving as an adverb modifying the verb "borne".

Either the sentence is grammatically incorrect or "borne by" means something
other than "to bring forth". As written, "borne by" means "carried by". The
more usual meaning in this context would be that Catherine carried a child
in her womb.

But Severian also had a memory of being in a brown basket when he was still
too young to crawl, and one most often uses a basket to carry something. It
is possible that he was carried *to* the cell in the basket. It is also
possible that he was kept in the basket while she was in a cell, but I doubt
that she would have had much occasion to carry it around there. (Unless
maybe he had the colic and she was trying to get him to stop crying. <g>)
The prepositional phrase, however, weighs against that.

So, in the end, the URTH quote still seems to undermine my theory that
Severian was not born in the Matachin Tower. At least I think it does. The
quote still doesn't quite square with all the criteria laid out in the
tetralogy, particularly the criterion that none of the apprentices were born
among the torturers. I could probably come up with some theory that allows
for both, but that would lead to more speculation than either the text or I
can support.


-----Original Message-----
From: Nathan Spears <spearofsolomon at yahoo.com>
To: The Urth Mailing List <urth at lists.urth.net>
Date: Friday, October 27, 2006 9:34 AM
Subject: Re: (urth) The Katharine maid

>From dictionary.com

"—Usage note Since the latter part of the 18th century, a distinction has
been made between born and borne as past participles of the verb bear1.
Borne is the past participle in all senses that do not refer to physical
birth: The wheatfields have borne abundantly this year. Judges have always
borne a burden of responsibility. Borne
is also the participle when the sense is “to bring forth (young)” and
the focus is on the mother rather than on the child. In such cases, borne is
preceded by a form of have or followed by by: Anna had borne a son the
previous year. Two children borne by her earlier were already grown."

In looking around the web for this, I have noticed a lot of uses of the
phrase "borne by Mary" in reference to Jesus.  I was wondering if the
Catholic members of the list, or those familar with Catholicism, might
comment as to whether this phrase is familiar to them - that is, if the
phrase comes up a lot in doctrine or teaching or gossip around the
cathedral.  Perhaps Wolfe chose this phrase with those connotations in
mind - this list has already (heh) borne discussion of the possibility of
Catherine as a Mary substitute, and that would fit perfectly with the
sentence in question.

----- Original Message ----
From: Tim Walters <walters at doubtfulpalace.com>
To: The Urth Mailing List <urth at lists.urth.net>
Sent: Friday, October 27, 2006 3:51:34 AM
Subject: Re: (urth) The Katharine maid

On Oct 27, 2006, at 12:27 AM, Roy C. Lackey wrote:
>> born, a. [pp. of bear (to give birth): now used only in passive
>> constructions not followed by _by_.]
> Precisely. My _Webster's_ says the same thing. That's why Wolfe
> didn't write
> "born by"; he wrote "borne by". "Born" has nothing to do with the
> sentence
> in question. The word isn't in the sentence.

The point is that "borne by" is what Wolfe would write if he meant
that Catherine gave birth to Severian in the cell, because "born by"
is wrong. "Borne" is, in fact, a valid past participle of "bear (to
give birth)," as specified in the "bear" entry:

"_Bear_, signifying _to bring forth_, has the past participle, when
used passively, spelled born, but when used after the verb _to have_,
it is spelled _borne_. Thus, a child was _born_, but she has _borne_
a child."

Although "have" is not in the sentence, the "born" entry makes it
clear that in this particular passive use, "borne" is to be
preferred, which is why I cited said entry.

In any case:

     --"borne by" to mean "given birth by" is a common usage, whether
sanctioned by Webster or not;
     --mentioning one's birth is a common way to emphasize one's mere
humanity, as in "man, born of woman." Mentioning being carried seems
random (although I don't have the "brown basket" reference to hand;
maybe there's enough context there to make it less so).

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