Some of the bawdy details of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales continue to pose challenges to translators, who must find renderings that are both descriptively and stylistically adequate. The Miller’s Tale provides an illustrative case study, in which the drunken narrator describes Nicholas’s rather physical wooing of the carpenter’s wife Alisoun in graphic detail. Existing translations of the key term queynte range from the flowery euphemism to the straightforward vulgarism. An appropriate translation into present-day English needs to be based not only on sound philological analysis, but also on a careful evaluation of the register of the original Middle English expression. This article offers a corpus-based assessment of relevant candidate expressions in order to propose a translation that captures the appropriate level of (im)politeness, both of the narrator towards his fellow pilgrims and of Chaucer towards his readers.

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