…is a word I’ve never really been able to define. It’s idleness, or inactivity, but more than that. Literally, it means dis-work-ed, as in ‘one’s work has been taken away’.
To me, it sort of signifies that feeling of enforced idleness, either because somebody else has taken your occupation away, or even more because you yourself have. It’s like disenfranchised, but with a sense of personal responsibility. An oeuvre in French is a ‘work’, it’s more than a book or a film, it’s a piece of art, a meaningful occupation, and for it to be ripped away leaves a vague sense of hollowness.
It’s that feeling when something you were enthusiastic about yesterday is suddenly difficult, or when you don’t have time for something because you’re stuck doing menial tasks.
It’s a word that comes to me looking at the blank screen where a piece of writing ought to be, or finishing a book when it’ll be a few days before I can get to the library.
And yet…at the same time, it’s a word that holds some hope. A Pandora’s box of creative sentiment. Because I can’t define it, but because it’s the first word that comes to me when I feel that way. It’s a thought I hadn’t been able to express in English, and when I found it, it slotted straight into my thought-process, an idea that was always meant to be there.
Even as I feel désoeuvré, the word reminds me why I shouldn’t be – and that’s its own particular magic, the magic of any word that defies translation. It’s an experience unique to the language-learner, the ability to pick a word out of the air and spin it 90 degrees, give it a whole new sense and importance.
What’s that word for you?
Thanks for reading!