Proust on Scrivener

Apologies if this has been shared before.

I came across this excerpt in ‘The Guermantes Way’, or Volume 3 of Marcel Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’. (I was reading the 2000 Vintage paperback version.)

I thought you might enjoy it.

“What does ‘scrivener’ mean?” asked Mme de Villeparisis. “I haven’t the slightest idea!” cried the Duchess in mock indignation. “I don’t want to know. I don’t speak that sort of language.” And seeing that her aunt really did not know what a scrivener was, to give herself the satisfaction of showing that she was a scholar as well as a purist, and to make fun of her aunt after having made fun of Mme de Cambremer: “Why, of course,” she said, with a half-laugh which the last traces of her feigned ill-humour kept in check, "everybody knows what it means; a scrivener is a writer, a person who scribbles. But it’s a horror of a word. It’s enough to make your wisdom teeth drop out. Nothing will ever make me use words like that…


But they’re speaking French, so I wonder what was the actual French “horror of a word” to which she’s referring? :smiley:

The word is a “plumitif” translated in OP by the word “scrivener” but meaning roughly a pen-pusher, a hack writer.

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Though I do think Scrivener’s marketing could make use of some of this:

Scrivener. Writing software for writers by writers. With enough features to make your wisdom teeth drop out.


Or perhaps L&L could target writers of the horror genre, such as myself:

Scrivener. It’s a…horror…of a word.

Or better yet, all the Joseph Conrad fans:

Scrivener. The horror! The horror!

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Just in case anyone wants to know, Scrivener in Spanish (consulted with my wife, an Argentine poet) is: escribiente