Alber, the tree!

Liechtenauer lineage and related sources (eg. Sigmund Ringeck, Peter von Danzig, Paulus Kal, Hans Talhoffer), interpretation and practice. Open to public view.

Alber, the tree!

Postby Martin Wallgren » 19 Mar 2010 23:51

On facebook Bart Walczak just wrote:

Alber - Middle High German. Lexer's dictionary gives it the meaning of "pappelbaum". Pappel - Poplar. This is also what you can find in Paulus Hector Mair. Which means that we should reevaluate the current translation of Alber as "a fool".

Very, very interesting.
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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Roger N » 21 Mar 2010 08:25

Very interesting indeed! :)

Letting my mind wander a bit here... It appears that it is derived from latin and also means "white". Perhaps it could also mean something along the lines of "blank", meaning that you appear to be distracted and not really "there", defending yourself properly. Thus a bit of a fool...

Perhaps we should make a list of possible connotations, just as we have already discussed "hut", "leger" and "waage", and of course "drei wunder"? Not as loosely done as above though... I have a little project coming up very soon at Hroarr that could be useful for such work. I know Robert of GHFS also has some ideas about double meanings.
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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Andreas Engström » 21 Mar 2010 11:56

Interesting, though I'm not familiar enough with the various Mair manuscripts to get what he means by it appearing there. Does he mean that Mair says "pappel" instead of "alber" somewhere? Or does he mean that the latin term for poplar turns up in the latin text?
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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Martin Wallgren » 21 Mar 2010 20:02

He means that Alber in old german is more likley to be correctly translated as Poplar intead of Fool, and that Meyer is the only one of the manualwriters we actually says it means fool, but that other masters has other interoretations. And Bart said that Mair writes that it means poplar...
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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Andreas Engström » 22 Mar 2010 07:46

Hm, so we have two (both rather late) manual writers who have differing opinions (I knew about Meyer's, though not Mair's). And the rest, as far as I know, don't say anything at all on the subject. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

I know that Hans Medel (1539) talks about cutting from Vom Tag into Alber (though his Alber is a left Ochs, so this is a type of sturzhau) "alberlich", which surely must be interpreted as "in a manner as to fool the opponent" or possibly "foolishly" (though I don't think so). It can hardly mean "poplar-like" in that context. So this is a sort of indirect support for the "fool" interpretation.

So.. 1.5 versus 1. All from late (and in the case of Medel, weird) authors.

Not very conclusive. But I admit it's interesting.

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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Dierk Hagedorn » 22 Mar 2010 09:51

Well, since we know our Lexer quite well, this is neither new or unusual. Actually, I have wondered about that for some time when I translated the codex 44 A 8, but I came to no valid result.
Mair after all is quite late. Indeed alber means poplar. At least in the year of 1540. But did it mean exactly the same in 1389? We shall never know, I guess. And then again, one word might have two different meanings (or more.)

About the etymology of the word, have a look here in Grimm's dictionary.

Here, just for the record, the first source mentioning alber (with a slightly different approach than in the common mid-15th century sources):
Cod. ms. 3227a on 32r wrote:Alber io bricht / was man hewt ader sticht / Mit hengen streiche / nochreizen setze gleiche
Dy dritte hute / alber / ist das vnderhenge~ / mit der mã alle hewe~ vnd stiche / bricht / wer dy recht füret /

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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby admin » 25 Mar 2010 16:56

It is all very interesting, but as Dierk says, it is dangerous assuming that because something means X that it meant the same 200 years before - There is a parallel in the Italian treatises where Manciolino gives an explanation for why Coda Longa is called that, though he probably didn't realise that Coda Longa had been a fencing guard for at least 120 years before his time. Equally, one of the Iberian sources gives an explanation for Posta di Donna (Guardia di Dama or suchlike), though this explanation may have nothing to do with the meaning of the guard's name 200 years before.
All we are left with is speculation. Though speculation is interesting, fun and sometimes quite illuminating. :)
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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Harry » 16 Jun 2014 12:48

reanimate this old thread, but I guess or at least I hope you will be happy with it....

alber means: TRUSTWORTHY!

Adj std. (9. Jh., Bedeutung 12. Jh.), mhd. alwære, ahd. alawāri ‛freundlich, gütig’

Aus g. *al(l)a-wǣr-ja- Adj. ‛freundlich’, auch in gt. (Abstraktum) allawerei ‛volles Vertrauen, Vorbehaltlosigkeit’, anord. o̧lværr ‛(gast)freundlich’, ae. ealwerlīce Adv. ‛freundlich’. Das Adjektiv ist ein Bahuvrīhi-Kompositum ‛dessen Vertrauen ganz ist, der volles Vertrauen hat’ zu einem Wurzelnomen ig. (eur.) *wēr- ‛Vertrauen’, das auch dem Adjektiv wahr zugrunde liegt. Im Frühneuhochdeutschen wird das Wort als Einheit empfunden (deshalb die Inlautentwicklung von lw zu lb und Abschwächung der zweiten Silbe) und nach dem Vorbild des Niederdeutschen mit einem aus den obliquen Kasus stammenden n versehen, wodurch es sich den Materialadjektiven auf -ern angleicht. Die Bedeutung wandelt sich in der gleichen Zeit von ‛freundlich’ zu ‛harmlos, naiv, dumm’ (ähnlich in frz. bonhomme). Verb: (herum-) albern; Abstraktum: Albernheit.


sum up translation:
word 9th century, meaning 12th century: middle high german: alwaere; old high german: alawari equals: friendly, gracious

from the word "al(l)a waer which means friendly comes the abstract "allawerei" which means "full of trust" or "without any reservations - wholehearted"
later the word was summed up and the meaning changed from "friendly" to "harmless" to "naiv" to "dumb"


So I hope this information will help to name the Alber correct and to be honest... The "trustworthy" guard makes much more sense for the "Alber" than "fools guard" :)

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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby KeithFarrell » 16 Jun 2014 14:16

Interesting find, thank you. I quite like that translation.
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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Harry » 17 Jun 2014 20:42

also the "Hut vom Tag"

it was mostly translated as "guard of the roof" which would means "Hut vom DACH (Dach = roof)". So this is also utterly wrong.

the roof was never written "tag" and it was never ever masculine with an "DER" article before. Meyer named this guard only "DER TAG" (the day) and Tag meant only the period between sunrise and sunset.

so the "Hut vom Tag" could be tranlated "guard of the sunrise" (which would describe the movement) or simply "guard of the day" (which would describe the position of the sun in daylight (just right above your head) :) ).


so I hope this will help too

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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Michael Chidester » 17 Jun 2014 22:55

Harry wrote:the roof was never written "tag" and it was never ever masculine with an "DER" article before.

Not entirely true. "Von Dach" is well attested in a number of Liechtenauer texts, though it's far less common that Tag, obviously.

For example, the Dresden Ms. Dresd.C.487 begins its second commentary on the Zornhaw "Das Verstand Also Wann aine~ von dach vff dich schlöcht ". It shows up several times in the anonymous messer treatise in the Glasgow Ms. E.1939.65.341. Paurnfeyndt uses the two interchangeably (excluding Liechtenauer's verse, he has 8 von Dach and 4 vom Tag). And there are others.
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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Harry » 18 Jun 2014 13:08

hehehehe... nice answer mike, BUT... dach or tach is or better could be also dialect form of TAG.

"tach" btw. is still used as greeting form in germany when you want to say "good day"


don't get me wrong... I don't want to say "it IS a dialect of TAG, but it COULD be"
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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Thearos » 27 Jun 2014 16:26

I just note that the Grimm dictionary has BOTH poplar AND "simple".

The meaning of the word seems to be "simple, simple minded, well-meaning". When used for the guard, I don't think it means "trustworthy", it means something like "trusting"-- which suits a guard where the sword is lowered, as if you were good-naturedly trusting your opponent not to hit you.
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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Thearos » 27 Jun 2014 17:12

Harry's quotation says that (alongside morphological changes) the shift from "simple" in the sense of "nobly trusting" to "simple-minded" occured in Frühneuhochdeutsch-- early new high German, which starts in 1350.
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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Ian Mac Pharlaine » 03 Jul 2014 20:46

Ya know, the tree idea got me thinking if it has anything to do with "roots" since Alber in the old traditions seems to be a catch-all term for low guards in general, and if you take the lot of them as positions of the sword pointed to the ground in various angles around the body, they look like the roots of a tree surrounding your body which would be representative of the "trunk".

I could be wrong as usual, but hey figured it would be worth a thought eh? :)
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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Magnus Hagelberg » 10 Jul 2014 09:09

It's also a rather defensive guard. Something you can trust to protect you - hence trustworthy.
If you use a box deffense, it ties in well with Alber @ pflug.
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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Thearos » 10 Jul 2014 21:28

But does it mean trustworthy, or trusting ?
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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Harry » 12 Jul 2014 13:35

to be honest... as english is not my mother tongue, for me is no difference between trusty or trustworthy...

for this is finickiness (I have to google the word also :D :D)


the german meaning is, that you can rely on this guard, and if I look for the german translation of trustworthy and trusty both equals = VERTRAUENSVOLL and that's what it is :)
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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby KeithFarrell » 12 Jul 2014 14:33

Harry wrote:to be honest... as english is not my mother tongue, for me is no difference between trusty or trustworthy...

for this is finickiness (I have to google the word also :D :D)


the german meaning is, that you can rely on this guard, and if I look for the german translation of trustworthy and trusty both equals = VERTRAUENSVOLL and that's what it is :)


If you are a trustworthy person, then other people are able to trust you, because you are reliable. You are worth their trust.

If you are a trusting person, then it means you are likely to trust other people, even if they are not necessarily trustworthy, or worthy of your trust.

So it sounds like in this case, the guard is trustworthy, because it is worth trusting. I don't see how a guard itself could be said to be trusting, because then the guard would be extending its trust to you ... and I like to think that I'm in control of the sword, not the other way round!
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Re: Alber, the tree!

Postby Thearos » 12 Jul 2014 21:36

I fear this is a wrong path. Grimm and the etymological dictionary really do favour the "simple-minded" translation, hence the old translation, "the fool", "simplex", should hold. Not "reliable", or only in the sense of "there's a good chap". It's the guard of the man who lets down his guard.
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