Foreign words in Dialogue/health

Someone asked me on twitter about an antiquated French word and there was a short discussion (after all it is Twitter) about whether people liked foreign words inserted into a book to “give a flavour” and remind people that the people are actually speaking a foreign language, even though the book is written in English.

What do you think about that?

Personally it irritates the hell out of me. The only way I think it works is when the object described is alien to western eyes, and there’s no translation for it. Like “obi” for example (traditional sash) or other Japanese words. As long as the explanation is given gently in context, then that word becomes the staple word for that thing.

However, what I CAN’T STAND to the extent I want to stabbity stabbity is when a person’s speech is peppered with the words of the language he’s speaking. E.g (not from anything) “Ah, bien, Louis, you are here, we must hurry to save La Reine, vite!”

I mean, the book is set in France. We are reading them in English because it’s a novel. They are speaking French. So why are they speaking double-French? Or double Spanish, or double whatever language they are “really” speaking…

The only exception to this, to my mind would be if all the characters were speaking another language apart from their own and they interspersed their sentences with words from their language. Poirot is a good example of this: “Tiens, Hastings! I have been stupid! Je suis un imbecile! Nom de Nom!”

But what do you think? Do tell!

In other news – I’m pretty anaemic, despite scarfing down iron pills—prescription strength—for a couple of days. I wish there was some way to tell in advance when this was going to happen so I could get ironed up in advance. I do take normal iron pills every day, but the super-strength ones help me get back to normal. I’m tired, gasping for air—even talking—and want to go to bed. I think that I’ll do dad’s lunch and then go home. It just makes me completely “meh” about everything. I open a word file and I just get tired looking at it. Can’t concentrate on a tv programme, can’t concentrate to read a book. I hate it.

I’ve just discovered that there’s a fucking TREATMENT for Menorrhagia: It’s called Endometrial Oblation (which sounds like something out of Philip Pulman) and it involves burning away the lining of the womb, permanently. Can’t be done at childbearing age, for obvious reasons, but why the fuck hasn’t my doctor suggested it? It can be done in outpatients for Christ’s sake. Oh, I know why. Because he’s a MAN and he can’t BELIEVE that my periods are anywhere near as ghastly as I make them out to be. Yeah, that’s right. We treat our periods in the same way that men treat fishing stories.

I’ll be having a word with my doctor next week…

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4 Responses to Foreign words in Dialogue/health

  1. Char Newcomb says:

    Double-French. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I have 2 knights in my WIP crusader fic saying Mon Dieu and Merde – not usually in the same sentence, mind you. Merde sounds so much more civilized that s#@!

  2. I confess, I do it a lot. My story that takes place in Viking Age Iceland was peppered with Old Icelandic words and my fantasy trilogy is likewise sprinkled with words that — even worse — I have completely made up. But I agree, it should be done sparingly and usually only in two instances: 1. when it describes something common to the culture you’re describing, but not common in English-speaking cultures (such as your “obi” example), and 2. exclamations. Exclamations can certainly be overdone, however. I just gave up reading a story in which a character exclaims Bon Tonnerre! every other line. It was incredibly annoying.

  3. I’m sorry to hear you aren’t feeling well, by the way.

  4. Erastes says:

    thanks dear – it’s difficult to say i feel more male than female when this crap happens…. :D

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