A Translator’s List

I remember being impressed by a couple of lists of English words that Joanne Turnbull had compiled while working on her translations of Krzhizhanovsky’s The Letter Killers Club and Autobiography of a Corpse. In going through some of the books left by Michael Henry Heim (see my earlier posts on this here and here), I came across the very handy Penguin Dictionary of Confusibles, compiled by Adrian Room, and published in a paperback edition in 1980. Inside was one of Mike’s many lists, this one a collection of words not in the book that he obviously thought would be helpful to include.

You can get the idea of the book by the examples on the front cover: abuse and misuse; affect and effect; denote and connote; lie and lay. Here are some of MHH’s, in his flowing hand, written out, as usual, on both sides of a re-used half sheet of paper (I’ve included a pic to convey what this looks like):




avenge/revenge, which he notes is “included but needs more exx”



weigh down/weight down










In the margin is a note: “Also suggest consult the American Heritage usage notes.”

And then, at the bottom, the name and UK mailing address of the compiler, Adrian Room. There’s no record in the book of whether he ever received a response.

1 comment

  1. This is great! I had not fully recognized, till reading this, what a constant irritant to these slight mis-usages have been to me for decades…

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