This isn’t related to international literature per se, but Erin McKean’s Boston Globe column about what makes a word real is very interesting. And, maybe, tangentially related to issues translators face. (OK, it’s a stretch, although freeing themselves to come up with new words when necessary, could benefit some translations.)
Funner. Impactful. Blowiest. Territorialism. Multifunctionality. Dialoguey. Dancey. Thrifting. Chillaxing. Anonymized. Interestinger. Wackaloon. Updatelette. Noirish. Huger. Domainless. Delegator. Photocentric. Relationshippy. Bestest. Zoomable.
What do all these words have in common? Someone, somewhere, is using them with a disclaimer like “I know it’s not a real word . . .”
There’s no good reason for the “not a real word” stigma. They all look like English words: they’re written in the roman alphabet, without numbers or funny symbols. They’re all easily pronounced — not a qwrtlg or a gxrch in the group. From a purely functional point of view, they act like words: relationshippy in the sentence “Just come to the conclusion that boys don’t like talking about relationshippy things” behaves in exactly the same way that an adjective like girly would. [. . .]
As she points out, existing in a dictionary isn’t enough, nor is frequency, spellchecker recognition, frequency, or appearing in print. The real point of her piece though is to eliminate the “I know it’s not a real word” sentiment:
Furthermore, those same writers are giving up one of their inalienable rights as English speakers: the right to create new words as they see fit. Part of the joy and pleasure of English is its boundless creativity: I can describe a new machine as bicyclish, I can say that I’m vitamining myself to stave off a cold, I can complain that someone is the smilingest person I’ve ever seen, and I can decide, out of the blue, that fetch is now the word I want to use to mean “cool.”
So, last week I was talking with David from Idlewild books (an store whose kickassery nature I want to write about in more detail soon) about the need for a word to describe when a great idea gets all f’d up due to incompetence, poor execution, whatever. It happens all the time (I can think of five examples that I encountered over the past couple days) and it would be really useful to have a word to identify this . . . Any suggestions?
César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .
Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .