Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What a Gallimaufry.

I have a pretty good, some would say above average, vocabulary. My reading comprehension has always tested high. Unless I pick up a medical or major scientific journal in a field which which I am not familiar, I usually know the words in books I read. If I hit one that's unfamiliar, I can figure it out by the context.

In a novel, it's rare for me to run across a word I've never seen and can't figure out. That happened today in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. The word for the day is Gallimaufry. The sentence was something like, "Vanger's were in a real gallimaufry."

The sentence stopped me cold. As a reader, I don't mind the occasional strange word as long as not knowing it doesn't interrupt my reading entertainment. Seriously, do you know what that word means? (No fair if you've already read the book and looked it up for yourself.) Could you get its meaning from such a generic sentence?

I really hated needing to put the book down and look up gallimaufry in the dictionary. Even the speed and ease of using my iPhone didn't reduce the annoyance. By the way, gallimaufry means hodgepodge and is from the Middle French for stew.

I ask you -- couldn't Larsson have just used hodgepodge or, even better, stew? Did Larsson write his manuscripts in English or Swedish? If the latter, can you imagine the translator's reasoning? "Gallimaufry! There's a word that, surely, everyone will know!"

On what planet?

Told you I'm annoyed. Know what really scorches my stew? When I posted the word to Facebook, my freakin' iPhone recognized the word before I finished typing and offered to fill it in for me. Smartass smart phone.

Do you ever watch the Scripps National Spelling Bee? The contestants are allowed to ask the judges to use the word in a sentence. Here's what I would use if this was the word in question:

I think it's pretentious for authors to use a word like gallimaufry when hodgepodge will do.

9 comments:

Sarahv2000 said...

I agree with you completely!

This book was translated so the responsibility could be on anyone's shoulders - author or translator.

Stormy said...

Oh goodness! *gasps*

That book's in my reading pile, so I'm glad you ran across the word before I did. I would have stumbled across it myself.

Beth Ciotta said...

That book and series are all the rage at my library. I figured I should read it since it's so 'great'. I downloaded sample chapters on my Kindle. Midway through the 1st chapter I decided it wasn't for me. I couldn't get into it at all. When I confessed this to people who'd read and loved it they said things like, "The first three chapters are the hardest to get through" and "The first half of the book is slow but then it really takes off" and "It's too detailed and bogged down in Swedish politics, but if you ignore all that..." and lastly, "It's translated poorly which makes for a clumsy read, but..."

Um. None of these things enticed me to give it another go. On another note, someone who read the book and saw the Swedish movie, told me the movie cut to the heart of the story and was great. I'm thinking maybe that's more my cup of tea...

Mary Stella said...

B, I'm slogging through and finding it a very difficult, not all that entertaining read. It's overly heavy with narrative and passages completely in the characters' heads. I don't see how all of the government information and historical data relates to the current story. The main character is so even that I'm not compelled by him yet.

For me the most interesting parts are the sections with Lisbeth Salander.

I hope it picks up! I'll give it more effort before I abandon the read.

Chris said...

I have been pondering that book for months. I see it everywhere and just can't decide. The mix of reviews from my friends is 50/50.

As long as you are talking about how authors write, I have a question. I bought Crusie's new book "Maybe this Time" and LOVED it. And didn't even expect the ending.... So here goes my question. I bought another new book on Tuesday (I will leave the author off so I don't offend anyone) It is hard cover, same size and price of Crusie's and same coloring..... When reading the book I realize that the font is bigger, makes me think I am reading a kids book and there is a blank page after every chapter. So is this normal or is it a way for the author to fill pages to make it a hard cover or to be able to write a new book every 6months? The last book this person wrote was also the same way. It drives me nuts. Now I will admit that I usually try to stay away from hard cover. I can be hard on books, they travel to all the softball and hockey games so a paperback book is just easier to carry around. But of course I couldn't wait for Crusie's to get to a paperback..... So is this normal or in in my imagination?

Mary Stella said...

Chris, I can't say that it's normal, but I can take an educated guess that the author had nothing to do with it. Font size, layout, etc., are all designed by the publishing house.

It sounds odd to me, since I'm sure you didn't buy a large print edition. Large print editions have a big size diference and are intended for seniors, others with "older" eyes, and anyone else with vision problems.

Barbara E Brink said...

I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one so "illiterate" not to enjoy this novel. I have gotten to page 136 and still can't get into it. I'm a writer as well and wonder how this author got past the agent or editor that throws anything out that bores him within the first 5 pages. Oh well, I guess the rules only apply to us little people:)
Thanks for the laugh about the strange word. I don't know if I noticed it or not. I may have passed right by it without it really registering as I was trying not to fall asleep.

Jusy said...

LOL... I totally enjoyed this blog. I didn't start with the book but with the book. When I told my FB friends that I liked the movie, they told me to read the books. I've read all the books and watched the last two movies. The second book was the one that was kind of slow for me.

As for the word that got you into a funk, I don't even recall it. I think I just moved on. It would be funny if you asked the translator if she knew what hodgepodge was.

The Merry said...

That word threw me out of the book too. But that wasn't hard to do. If I hadn't been sick and out of books, I wouldn't have kept reading it. Took about 2/3 of the book before I got hooked. But when I got hooked, I was /really/ hooked.
Be warned: if you watch the original Swedish movie without reading the book, there are very graphic scenes of sexual violence.