miðvikudagur, september 28, 2005


Creativity is a strange thing and sometimes quite difficult and uncomfortable. For this reason, when engaged, say, in the production of multiple drafts of a letter one is not even terribly excited about writing, it can be theraputic to consider the vocabulary of the draft itself.

The draft (or draught) has to do with dragging or drawing, pulling and hauling, as in draft horse and as in drayage. The cognates are clear: Icelandic draga (to drag) and its derivative drög (a draft). The rough draft can be rough going indeed, and we have perhaps all felt like the overloaded equine, straining between the shafts.

But sometimes the writing isn't going even that well, and that is when I derive some measure of glee from savoring how the Scandinavian word for draft, utkast (something just kind of thrown out there, I suppose), corresponds to the more amusing Icelandic uppkast, itself morphologically identical to, f.eks., Norwegian oppkast, from kaste (throw) and opp (up), and meaning just what you think it does.

That Icelandic word uppkast so well reflects, on a bad writing day, the sensation of having retched up something terrible, a sensation I think we all know well. On those days I sense Egill and Óðinn in the background, watching, probably laughing, in fact most probably snorting small beer out their nostrils as if in ironic recapitulation of the reigning metaphor. Of course, it all resonates, too, with the myth of poetry as the vomiting forth of the skaldic mead, the oral presentation, if you will, of the well-digested materials of inspiration. And, when one is really flying, creatively speaking, this is what makes uppkast appropriate even to those better writing days as well.

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