Cross words for crossed letters
U 18.740-1: those long crossed letters Atty Dillon used to write
A look at the first translations of Ulysses by Georg Goyert (1927) and Auguste Morel (1929), and also at the celebrated second German translation by Hans Wollschläger (1976), shows that the meaning of this collocation was not clear to the translators: neither “langes Zeug”, nor “lettres écrites en large et en long”, nor “diese ellenlangen Briefe” captures its true meaning.
The OED defines this sense of “crossed” as: “(of a letter) written with lines crossing at right angles”.
Economising may have been an important reason to write crossed letters but presumably there was a certain aesthetic pleasure and teasing involved, too:
Crossed letter - early 19th century (Wikimedia Commons)
A Portrait of the Artist shows that Joyce was familiar with the popular Peter Parley tales (see Peter Parley’s Tales of the Ancients elsewhere in JJON).
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