I’m halfway through On Writing Well by William Zinsser. On page 76, Zinsser gives a perfect explanation of why I dislike the word dispositif; this is French for device, plan, machine, mechanism, or even worse, system.
Zinsser provides us with three sentences which contain concept nouns as eerie as dispositif. These examples sound like some of my source texts:
a) The common reaction is incredulous laughter.
b) Bemused cynicism isn’t the only response to the old system.
c) The current campus hostility is a symptom of the change.
Zinsser rewrites them as:
a) Most people just laugh with disbelief.
b) Some people respond to the old system by turning cynical; others say…
c) It’s easy to notice the change—you can see how angry all the students are.
He inserted human beings in there. I believe a good translator would have done the same. The reader now has something to hang on to, to visualize. Zinsser says, “Get people doing things.”
I try. I attempt to ground the reader instead of dishing out the English equivalent of the abstract concept.
Whenever I come across dispositif I ask for its actual meaning. Last time, dispositif was an Excel spreadsheet…