Wednesday, June 29, 2005

back-formaisher

"Dreaming is a back-formaisher" was the coda that I half-dreamed and half-reflected as I was struggling to wake up. It was true. My dreamwork had been full of invented words that were significant and concise but in total defiance of the real state of English, just like when someone intuits a word from a back-formation ("I could see that, while not exactly disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled..."). Some of those words I could almost recall.

The dream's previous-day occasion (every dream has one, Freud said and I believe him) was trying to translate a poem by Bertil Gripenberg. The poem is in Swedish, I can read it and I understand it, it makes sense, but I can't say it in English because English doesn't have the right words.

My attempt at translating proceeds like this:

"I need a word that means solitary but does not mean single."

"I need a word that means steeps but sounds like stepths. (Like deeps and depths - that's not so unreasonable, is it?)"

"I need a word that means away but is more occluded, i.e. it lets down more of a curtain between us and it, like the Swedish word bort. Away keeps hinting at line-of-sight, like it might suit wi-fi.)"

"I need a word that means narrows into the distance but does not imply any movement. What I am talking about is .... "

Yes, what am I talking about? I drop into Swedish to say it to myself. But does it even exist in Swedish, or do I just seem to see it there? After all my command of Swedish is not so great. Perhaps I prefer it that way. It makes the poems better when I release in them what I think the words might say. As if they were poems back-formaited in dream-language, and I'm fluent in the bort.

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