Wednesday 5 October 2011

The Power of Names

As I continue with my “Hani” strand, more and more German words are creeping in. Today I’ve used Vati, Mutti, Frau Gödde, Herr Gödde, Spätzle (gosh that’s not just German – it’s Swabian) Frau Lehrs, Doctor Kühn and Hausfrau, as well as, of course, a host of first names. Some of the words, like Hausfrau and Spätzle don’t quite translate. I hope I’ve shown the meaning by the way I’ve included them in the text. I may have to provide a glossary, or that could be put on the web site. I’ll probably revisit the work of Caroline Lawrence to get some ideas about this. I love the way she has done that for the Roman Mysteries. I think in the 1940s, and certainly in Germany, there was greater formality about how you addressed people. Hani would never have addressed Frau Lehrs as Clara, though in the scene I’ve written today, now that Hani is sixteen and already working as a housekeeper, she thinks of her as Clara Lehrs. She thinks about her parents mainly as Mutti and Vati but occasionally as her father or her mother. I’m also using Frau and Herr Gödde. I was discussing a similar example with a colleague yesterday, where a point of view character thinking of her parents as Mr and Mrs X would have been wrong. Here, though, it seems to work. It’s possibly because the text is a little exotic and these two expressions remind the reader that the people involved are German. This may all change in the editing, of course.

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