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three times cursed Options
justina bandol
Posted: Tuesday, November 6, 2018 9:48:50 PM
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I'm having a really hard time translating Whitehead's Intuitionist. For example, in the passage below, I suspect the swearwords have some associations that escape me. What does „three times cursed” mean in the context? And is „itself” just an intensive „it” here? (The time frame is the inter-war period. Lila Mae is the first black elevator inspector in the Department of Elevator Inspectors.)

Lila Mae has one friend in the Department and his name is Chuck. Chuck’s red hair is chopped and coaxed into a prim Safety [a regulation cut], which helps him fit in with the younger inspectors in the Department. According to Chuck, the haircut is mandatory at the Midwestern Institute for Vertical Transport, his alma mater as of last spring. Item one (or close to it) in the Handbook for Students. Even the female students have to wear Safeties, making for so many confused, wrenching swivels that Midwestern’s physician christened the resulting campus-wide epidemic of bruised spinal muscles “Safety Neck.” Chuck’s theory is that the Safety’s reemergence is part of an oozing conservatism observable in every facet of the elevator industry, from this season’s minimalist cab designs to the return of the sturdy T-rail after the ill-fated flirtation with round, European guardrails. Says he. Been too many changes in the Guild over the last few years—just look at the messy rise of Intuitionism, or the growing numbers of women and colored people in the Guild, shoot, just look at Lila Mae, flux itself, three times cursed. Inevitably the cycle’s got to come back around to what the Old Dogs want. “Innovation and regression,” Chuck likes to tell Lila Mae over lunch.

Any opinion?
thar
Posted: Wednesday, November 7, 2018 5:48:55 AM

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Itself is an intensifier, as you say. The essence, the epitome of flux.

(edit - as Rom says, personification - that is the word I was looking for!)

The meaning would depend on the use of language throughout the piece.
It could mean change - she, being a black female is the most comprehensive example of that change.


The other association is pretty offensive to her and doesn't seem to fit the tone or the use of language - the association with discharge of an objectionable nature - (dysentery is the 'bloody flux' so you can see the negative association!) But this doesn't seem to be the sort of language they are referencing.

Three times or thrice cursed is also just an intensifier - a very bad thing.
Three times anything is a recurring theme in literature and superstition.
Whether it is then literal, three things....Think
Here I guess it may be being colored, female and flux itself, although that doesn't quite make sense because the third is actually the first two!

(edit2 I didn't explicitly address it, but I agree these curses are not swear words but the bad stuff life throws at you, as if you have been cursed.)
Romany
Posted: Wednesday, November 7, 2018 6:07:43 AM
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Justina - I see no swearwords anywhere in this piece, so am unsure what you mean? Unless it's a BE/AE problem.

In many parts of the USA "cussing" (cursing) means swearing."He was throwing curses at me as I left" would mean "He was throwing swearwords as me as I left."

Whereas in other forms of English "Cursing" refers only to sending an actual curse. "I hope your firstborn is born dead!" would be a horrible way to curse someone. The most famous one in Australia is "May your chooks(chickens) turn to emus and kick your dunny (outside toilet) down." Saying something like "May you be rewarded with everything you deserve." may not sound like a curse, but if the speaker is referring to a truly bad person and their deeds it would mean "I hope you are punished for every horrible thing you've ever done." so, while sounding polite, it's still a curse.

So, in this passage they are referring to three ways Lila Mae is cursed: - I guess something like: she was cursed by being born a woman, by being born black, by working in a "man's job". given the climate of the times.

The "itself" serves the function of forming a metaphor: - "She was patience itself." means she was the very epitome of patience. She personified patience.
"She was goodness itself." She personified goodness.
"She was perserverance itself." She personified perserverance.

Mae, then, personified "flux".

FounDit
Posted: Wednesday, November 7, 2018 10:04:49 PM

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justina bandol wrote:
I'm having a really hard time translating Whitehead's Intuitionist. For example, in the passage below, I suspect the swearwords have some associations that escape me. What does „three times cursed” mean in the context? And is „itself” just an intensive „it” here? (The time frame is the inter-war period. Lila Mae is the first black elevator inspector in the Department of Elevator Inspectors.)

Lila Mae has one friend in the Department and his name is Chuck. Chuck’s red hair is chopped and coaxed into a prim Safety [a regulation cut], which helps him fit in with the younger inspectors in the Department. According to Chuck, the haircut is mandatory at the Midwestern Institute for Vertical Transport, his alma mater as of last spring. Item one (or close to it) in the Handbook for Students. Even the female students have to wear Safeties, making for so many confused, wrenching swivels that Midwestern’s physician christened the resulting campus-wide epidemic of bruised spinal muscles “Safety Neck.” Chuck’s theory is that the Safety’s reemergence is part of an oozing conservatism observable in every facet of the elevator industry, from this season’s minimalist cab designs to the return of the sturdy T-rail after the ill-fated flirtation with round, European guardrails. Says he. Been too many changes in the Guild over the last few years—just look at the messy rise of Intuitionism, or the growing numbers of women and colored people in the Guild, shoot, just look at Lila Mae, flux itself, three times cursed. Inevitably the cycle’s got to come back around to what the Old Dogs want. “Innovation and regression,” Chuck likes to tell Lila Mae over lunch.

Any opinion?


The way I read it was that it was the Guild that was in flux and three times cursed. I say this because he mentions that there had "Been too many changes in the Guild over the last few years..."

He then goes on to name three of those changes: the rise of Intuitionism, the growing numbers of women, and of colored people. This represents flux itself (change), and the three times cursed.


We should look to the past to learn from it, not destroy our future because of it — FounDit
justina bandol
Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2018 9:46:33 AM
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Thanks for your answers, it seems I got it all wrong. I thought „shoot” is a milder form of „shit”, and „flux” of „fuck”. Even now, it seems to me forced to call the black girl (or whatever changes in the Guild) „flux itself”, although that would make some sense (which it didn't in my interpretation). Somehow the idea of flux is not the same, to me, with that of change or of a cycle (perhaps a bit with this last one). Anyway, an awkward formulation, I think, but it probably tries to reproduce the „flux” of thought and speech.
Romany
Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2018 8:15:03 PM
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Justina -
I don't like the flux bit at all either: but unfortunately it is a reflection of the attitudes which existed in that place at that time.

The whole of the 50's, 60's & 70's were times of great flux. (I'm referring to Flux with the principle meaning of "change"). Thus to men in unskilled/manual trades the changes brought about were 1.) Women entering the job market in sizable numbers, 2)Women going to universities in equitable numbers to the male students, 3)Women of colour doing either of these things.

(But I had to giggle at the salacious language you had conjured up! That's the opposite to many 2nd language speakers - they often fail to understand the salacious when it's laid out in front of them, jumping up and down for attention!)


justina bandol
Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2018 3:29:50 AM
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Dear Romany,

I didn't actually conjure it up! I tried to grasp the character's language! „Shoot” I knew, and I am pretty sure it is an alteration of „shit” anyway. „Flux” I didn't as a cussword (or just barely), but it has never crossed my mind it could be other than that (typical blindness of the translator!), and then I actually found it with that meaning in the urbandictionary.com.

I was probably subconsciously inspired by the fact that Whitehead does use this type of euphemisms in the language of other characters.
Romany
Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2018 6:46:03 AM
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Justina -

I so admire those that translate entire books - or poems - into other languages.

Anyone with a language dictionary to hand could substitute various words for words in another language. But getting inside the writer's head; taking into account differing social constructs, allowing for cultural variations, familiarity with up-to-date slang,......all of that takes remarkable language skills and I'm always so happy when one of us can help out!
thar
Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2018 7:25:18 AM

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'shoot' is a very mild euphemism for a stronger swear word.

The tendency when forming genteel versions of swear words is to keep the meat of the word - the consonants - and change the vowels.
Hence shoot, shite, 'the Sam Hill', "feck" (as said loudly and often by an Irish priest in Father Ted on mainstream TV).
Father Jack
and sci-fi alternatives such as 'frell' and 'frak'.

Sometimes you change the vowels to a more meaty sound - god damn it - gosh darn it (very dated). Bloody hell - blinkin heck.

Although you could put a bit of vemom into 'flux', if you felt like it. Whistle
justina bandol
Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2018 9:47:59 AM
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Dear Romany, talk about being happy! I am the one lucky enough to have you here helping me out. I often wonder how my predecessors (some of them wonderful professionals of translation) did their work without the Internet, without all those dictionaries, sources, native speakers we have access to nowadays (imagine they were also on this side of the Iron Curtain). And I do believe most of them were better writers.

As for euphemisms, thar, I hope you realize how flexible and easy to use English is in this respect - it usually has at least a few, if not a few dozens, little words that differ just by one or two letters and can play with them endlessly (or at least this is how it seems to us, the exasperated speakers of other languages not endowed with the Saxon three- or four-letters linguistic equipment). Anyway, you are right, and this mechanism of creating euphemisms is more or less the same in other languages as well (perhaps keeping just the first or first two letters/sounds and the total number of letters in the word).

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