Tuesday, October 12, 2021

if you don't mind please i must leave i smell bad

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Wind Instrument. Digital montage (©2021).


Abel Warshawsky, The memories of an American Impressionist. Kent OH: Kent State University Press, 1980, p. 60—

What the pitfalls of literal translation from one language to another can be, I also learned to my cost. Spending the evening with some French people I had met, I was attacked by a splitting headache and felt I must get back to my studo. Desiring to make explanation to my hosts for leaving so abruptly, I made the literal translation of “I must leave, I feel bad,” which I phrased “Il faut que je pars, je sens mauvas,” not realizing that I should have said, “Je me sens mal,” for “sentir mauvais” means “to smell bad.” This astounding avowal was too much for even French politeness, and the laughter that greeted it still rings in my ears. Such verbal faux pas were a speciality of mine in those days, and caused me often great embarrassment, for I never knew to what I might commit myself.