Writer, Editer, Wordfinder
Lost In Translation

Lost In Translation

(Illustration:  Wordwoman by Jan Heath)

I recently reread the Steig Larsson book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Larsson, who died suddenly after finishing the trilogy, was a Swedish journalist, so the books have been translated into English.  They’re excellent translations, too, but as with many books originally written in a different language, they contain a few quaint exceptions to conventional usage.

For instance, “I have to be in Stockholm tonight, so I must hurry away,” one character says.

My favorite sentence in that book, though, goes like this: “She married someone, never even introduced him to the family, and anon they separated.”

Anon. I can just picture the person doing the translation, having had a long day, saying to him or herself, “…hmmmm, soon, need a word that means soon, but I’ve used that a lot already.”  And checking a thesaurus and seeing the elegant Shakespearean “anon.”

I associate this word with the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet, when the nurse is calling Juliet inside, and she answers “I come, anon!”  And that scene remains fresh in my memory not only because I have seen the 1968 Zeferelli movie more times than I can count, but because when I was in eighth grade we read the play aloud, and my English teacher Mrs. Moore chose me read the part of Juliet.

I was so excited to see who would read Romeo.  Might it be handsome Ivan, the quiet guy who sat in the back of the room?  He had a deep voice and was even tall, at a time when many of the prepubescent guys came up to the girls’ collarbones.

But guess who Mrs. Moore chose for Romeo?  My brother Walt.

I mean, really.  I like my brother, but what a missed opportunity.  I thought I would never get over the disappointment.

But anon, I did.



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