Haunted by the blank page

Here are a few interesting French expressions I discovered this week:

le tapis roulant à bagages = luggage/baggage carousel, or literally a “rolling carpet for baggage” – shame it isn’t a tapis volant (flying carpet)!

What do you call the conveyer belt thing that where you (hope to) retrieve your bags after a flight?

le/la bagagiste = baggage handler – sounds like someone who really doesn’t like baggage. Maybe the reason why the French bagagistes seem to be on strike so frequently is that they can only bring themselves to handle baggage for limited periods.

la hantise de la page blanche = writer’s block, or literally “obsessive fear of the white/blank page” – a good way to describe the condition. L’hantise comes from hanter (to haunt), from the Old Norse heimta (to bring home). The haunted meaning possibly came from English during the 19th century period of Anglomania. or from the Norman words hanté (visited by ghosts, haunted) and hant (ghost) [source].

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block / fear of the blank page? If you do, how do you overcome it?

3 thoughts on “Haunted by the blank page

  1. I like the third! A suggestion: always attach the article to French nouns when listing them. It provides vital info regarding gender and ‘h’ quality (h aspiré vs. h muet), both of which are integral parts of the noun which English speakers have a tendency to overlook and then screw up.

  2. Precisely, in the case of hantise, the letter h (formerly aspirate because the word comes from a Germanic language) doesn’t make the liaison with the preceding word : la hantise and not l’hantise. Other examples : la herse, la hutte, la haie, le haricot … A good way to fight la hantise de la page blanche could be to throw ideas on the page after a little glass of whisky ?!

  3. re: “la hantise de la page blanche”

    I love these foreign-language “phobic” expressions that get away from the boring old Greek-derived (and manufactured-by-journalists-sounding) formulations like “triskaidekaphobia”.

    The pictures are so much more concrete in examples like this pair from German:

    – Torschlusspanik (“gate-closing panic”) — the fear that time is running out: for writers this must enormously increase “la hantise de la page blanche”!

    and (my particular favourite; how many times have I gone alone to a social occasion only to chicken out on the doorstep?)

    – Schwellenangst (“threshold anxiety”)

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