Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A little rewriting...

In the image of the Ozarks
My process of estrangement...
(Image from Wikipedia)

Poetry may be -- as Wordsworth and Coleridge put it in their "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads (1800) -- "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings . . . from emotion recollected in tranquility" (though it ain't), but prose requires a lot of rewriting.

Consequently, I've already been rewriting my "Lost in Translation" paper. In my musings on archaic words used in the Ozarks, I draw upon my first encounter with the word "antigogglin," which I heard when I was working as a chainman with a surveying crew that took me into some pretty isolated mountainous areas:
One tough place was on an isolated part of the Spring River valley, where we were looking for a corner marker to set up the surveying instrument and where I learned a new old Ozark word. Trying to get our bearings, we asked an old hillbilly -- in his 70s, I reckon -- if he knew where the marker, a metal spike driven into the ground, was located.

"Yeah," he replied, his face wrinkling with concentration, "but you got to go antigogglin over that hill to get there."

Anti-what!? I thought. But it was pretty clear what the word meant -- the way wasn't straight, which was what we had figured all along.
Some readers may recognize this passage, for I've lifted it from a blog entry of about one year ago. As you've also probably noted, I've been cannibalizing my blog for this 'translation' paper, so the passage quoted above appears in my paper as well. I follow this passage with an explanation of "antigogglin" that segues into a reflection on how my 'misuse' of words in a university environment led me to some glimmers of insight into "Semantic Drift" (also the title of a slightly off-color poem that I've written):
According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, Volume 1, "antigoglin" -- which has various spellings (annigoglin, antegogglin' and antigogglin(g)) -- is used as either adjective or adverb, with the meaning "askew, out of plumb" and "Slantwise, diagonal(ly)," and comes from "anti-" (against, counter) and "goggling" (from goggle, to shake, tremble). That sounds about how the old hillbilly was using this extraordinary old word. We Ozarkers also used ordinary words in unusual, archaic ways, for example, "stout" in the older sense of "strong" rather than its contemporary American meaning of "fat," a difference that occasioned a number of embarrassing linguistic missteps for me when I left the Ozarks for university, for in the campus gym where I exercised and played basketball, I happened to call some rather powerfully built bodybuilders "stout," which they took to mean that I was calling them "obese." Some of the female athletes whom I occasionally played basketball with also took none too kindly to the term. Eventually, I learned from these inadvertently otstranennyye(n) exercises in estrangement (cf. Selden et al., 33f).
This passage above presents an example of the rewriting that my prose requires on its way toward clarity, for I've already posted it on this blog, albeit in less expanded form. The expansion that you see takes my anecdotal experiences and moves them toward scholarship (the etymological information from Frederic G. Cassidy's Dictionary of American Regional English, Volume 1 (Cambridge, Mass., and London, England: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1985)) and toward literary theory (the Russian Formalism allusion from Raman Selden, Peter Widdowson, and Peter Brooker, A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory (London: Prentice Hall, 1997)). Both moves are intended to make my paper conform more appropriately to the conference theme: translation.

But that might not be quite so evident from this blog entry...

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