December 4, 2007 9:19 PM   Subscribe

In Anscombe's translation of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, why does he use "shew" instead of "show"?

I understand that "shew" is an archaic version of "show", but this book was published in 1968. What's the desired effect? Sure is annoying.
posted by ITheCosmos to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Whoops, that should be "she", in the question, of course.
posted by ITheCosmos at 9:20 PM on December 4, 2007

Pretension, pure and simple.
posted by unSane at 9:25 PM on December 4, 2007

It could be Anscombe's pretension rather than Wittgenstein's.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:33 PM on December 4, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah, aeschenkarnos, I was wondering if there was something in the German text that prompted the decision, but I don't speak German.
posted by ITheCosmos at 9:41 PM on December 4, 2007

It's nothing but an older, alternate spelling of "show." Both were accepted until at least the nineteenth century. It's not uncommon in pre-nineteenth century documents.

Wikipedia says: "original strong present tense (shew, show, shown) from Old English sceawian; replaced by related weak verb show meaning "to make a show of""
posted by Miko at 10:13 PM on December 4, 2007

Anscombe spelled it this way in her own pieces as well, at least as late as 1975. Shaw also liked to spell it this way, well into the '40s. I believe Shaw, who was attracted to simplified spelling, felt that "ew" should be pronounced as in "sew", and that "ow" should be pronounced as in "shower". Perhaps Anscombe also felt this way?
posted by ubiquity at 10:15 PM on December 4, 2007

You see "shew" a lot in Hume...maybe philosophers steeped in the English tradition were used to seeing it?

I doubt that there's a motivation for it in the German text -- I can't imagine how -- but if you name one passage I can look it up in German.
posted by creasy boy at 12:33 AM on December 5, 2007

Response by poster: For example, §270 - "...a manometer shews that my blood pressure rises..."
posted by ITheCosmos at 7:13 AM on December 5, 2007

Wenn immer ich eine bestimmte Empfindung habe, zeigt mir den Manometer, daß mein Blutdruck steigt.

There's nothing in the German that needs a special application of 'show'.

Zeigen = to show, nothing more, nothing less.
posted by ijsbrand at 8:18 AM on December 5, 2007

Maybe Wittgenstein himself used "shew" when speaking English, and she was trying to be true to the wording she had heard him use.


posted by wittgenstein at 8:58 AM on December 5, 2007

Maybe Wittgenstein himself used "shew" when speaking English

That makes no sense, because the two spellings represent the same pronunciation. Presumably Anscombe simply prefers a fairly archaic spelling; that doesn't seem so odd to me. But then, I like to write &c for etc.
posted by languagehat at 11:20 AM on December 5, 2007

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