Many years ago I was advised to always look it up.
“When you’re reading,” my father told me, “you must never pass over a word you don’t understand. Always stop, go to the dictionary, and look it up”
It was good advice and I took it. Over the years it’s gotten easier to look things up; when I’m reading an ebook (yeah, that’s a legitimate word, without the hyphen) there’s seamless access to the dictionary. So I indulge and I continue to be amazed by the language, and its oddities. Like the word anodyne, for example.
At home we’re currently reading Rosie Carpe by Marie NDiaye, in translation by Tamsin Black; NDiaye is a great writer, and I wish I could read the book in the original French. Anyway, Ms Black offers the word ‘anodyne’ in her translation and it puzzled me at first. Here’s the passage from the book.
Rosie, serious and anodyne in her blue clothes, watched all this without a word and this time did not show that she still got as much pleasure from opposing the Carpes.
I was familiar with the word as a noun; an anodyne, in my vocabulary, was a pain-killer but this was anodyne the adjective and I was frankly stumped.
So I did what I always do and went to the dictionary. Where I learned that as an adjective, the word indicates something, according to the online Oxford, that is
Not likely to cause offence or disagreement and somewhat dull – ‘anodyne music’
There was something learned and much to wonder about.
First there’s the matter of the original usage, in French, by Ms Ndiaye. I’m going to need some help on this one. All Google gives is the word calmante which seems to be a noun. Any native French speakers out there? This looks like an example of brilliant translation, in which the line between translator and author, while not erased, yields to a very close collaboration. Kudos to Ms. Tamsin Black.
Beyond that, the encounter with the adjective provoked some misgivings about myself.
It’s about the self-promotion thing that’s an essential part of self-publishing. Perhaps my personality is too anodyne to engage the public, with the necessary enthusiasm, in talking up and about myself. Of course I think that I can write well but whether I have written well is an open question, one that I can’t trust myself to answer objectively.
“So fake it till you make it,” my cliché ridden friends tell me and that may be the best advice on the subject.
But there’s another, better solution, and it involves you, esteemed Reader. You can tell me what you think of The Obeahman’s Dagger. If you’ve read the book, please leave a comment here, or better, leave a review anywhere – Goodreads maybe?
If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a link on Barnes and Noble. If you need a free copy I’ll be happy to provide one.