It is well-known that in translation we need to avoid the trap of sticking too closely to the original text (using three anagrams in Dutch we could phrase that like: 'relevant vertalen is de brontekst verlaten'). We need to get away from the source language words and grammar. This is a vast area of study. In this short topic we touch upon one element viz Verbing which is the ease with which English nouns make it to verbs, much more so than in Dutch. An example in Dutch would be Ik heb mijn naam gegoogeld. That was originally a proper name and is turned into a verb.

In English this is a very productive process! Here are some examples:

  • The player had elbowed the other one in the face.
  • He elbowed his way through the crowd.
  • The issues which concerned them tended to be elbowed aside by men.
  • She was carrying two suitcases and had to shoulder the door open.
  • He shouldered his way to the front of the crowd to get a better look.
  • You can shoulder a rifle but also shoulder a task, a reponsibility or the blame for something.
  • She friended me on Facebook yesterday.
  • I will pencil you in for next Friday!
  • Since we are running out of time, let’s table this discussion for next week’s meeting.
  • I butter my bread every morning.
  • They were muscling baggage into the hold of the plane.
  • She believes that to build status you need to bulldoze everyone else.

Clearly, when translating the above sentences to Dutch the meaning will have to fit another grammatical construction. To see how meaning can leave its home in one language and find a new home in another language - a home that on the surface may be built quite differently - can be rather beautiful. 

Below we list some examples found when studying the translation of Iris Murdoch's novel The Bell by Hella Haasse. We refrain from any technical comment on how she tackled the translation, but let it speak for itself.
Hopefully they can convey the beauty of language, and the privilege it is to use it, let alone study or work with it.

  • He smiled down on her / Glimlachend keek hij op haar neer
  • Her smile was warm yet somewhat secretive / Zij had een warme lach, die echter niets prijsgaf
  • She felt painfully guilty / Ze werd gekweld door schuldgevoelens
  • Dora stopped listening / Dora luisterde niet langer
  • A gentle grass slope / Een zacht glooiend grasveld