serpillisation

johnlknight

Member
English
I’m trying understand what the word "serpillisation" means. Since it’s in quotations marks in the original speech (a plaidoirie) and is not in any dictionaries I assume the word was invented for the occasion. The quote is from here.

Que sont les mots d'avocat pour raconter la nuit des âmes, l'assassinat des enfants, la déchirure d'une mère, d'un père, les trains à bestiaux humains, les camps industriels de la destruction, la « serpillisation » des hommes, que sont les mots pour dire ce que les mots n'avaient jamais imaginé ?​

Google translates it as “mucking”; perhaps related to the word “serpillière”?
 
  • Michelvar

    Quasimodo
    French / France
    Hi,

    It's not a real word, it's made from "serpillère" indeed. It means the transformation of human beings into mops, into things you can use to clean mud the floor (thank you Itisi)
     

    johnlknight

    Member
    English
    How would you say it in English? Would "mopization" be a possibility?
    No, that sounds nonsensical. Right now nothing occurs to me. I think I'd just change the sentence to something like "the crushing of men," which given the context would appear apt.
     

    johnlknight

    Member
    English
    'the total degradation of human beings'?
    Yes, something like that; however, I assume this was a word used to refer something specific – some type of act or practice - earlier on in the trial, so, ideally, it would be helpful to have that context. Since this is referring to something that occurred during the Holocaust, it’s not clear whether this word is used to describe some sort of psychological degradation or actual physical annihilation (or both).
     

    Itisi

    Senior Member
    English UK/French

    it’s not clear whether this word is used to describe some sort of psychological degradation or actual physical annihilation (or both).
    I assume this was a word used to refer something specific – some type of act or practice
    No, it doesn't refer to anything specific, it's an image; so unless you can find an equivalent image, 'total degradation' covers all of that.
     

    Itisi

    Senior Member
    English UK/French
    ...to the state of mere floorcloths

    (Personally, I find that image very strange, rather incongruous, in the context of the Holocaust and would prefer to get rid of it...)

    PS - On reflection, it's an example of the speeh of a very famous barrister, and the word is in quotation marks, so I guess the floorcloth image ought to be kept, in quotation marks...
     

    wildan1

    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    people being reduced to a state of mere floorcloths
    The term "floorcloth" is an accurate translation describing une serpillère, but since those cloths are not used in English-speaking countries, the image is not conveyed.

    We use mops to clean floors.
    Google translates it as “mucking”
    "Mucking" refers specifically to cleaning out horse stalls, not the inside of houses.

    But perhaps that is the image to convey. You use a shovel to muck (not a mop).
     

    lentulax

    Senior Member
    UK English
    he term "floorcloth" is an accurate translation describing une serpillère, but since those cloths are not used in English-speaking countries
    Well, they are in the UK - 'A floorcloth, or floor-cloth, is a cloth, normally of flannel, used for cleaning floors' - though maybe in some Eng
    lish-speaking countries like the USA the word is only used to mean a floor-covering.
     

    wildan1

    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    Sorry, I should have been more specific about my opinion--but you won't see anyone use (or even know about) serpillères/floorcloths in North America.

    In Canada a mop is sometimes known in FR as une moppe (une vadrouille ; in France, un balai à franges). That is what we usually use to clean a floor or clean up spilled liquid.
     

    Itisi

    Senior Member
    English UK/French
    Sorry, but 'mop' sounds silly and 'sweeping away' is not the right image, so I suggest either 'using human beings like cloths to clean the floor with', or forget the image...
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    But what is mopped up? The dirty water, which is then disposed of. The writer is equating the people who are 'disposed of' to the liquid 'filth' that is removed to keep the floor (the country) 'clean'. Think of "mopping up'' military operations, in which the last elements of enemy resistance (humans) are 'removed', 'eliminated'.
     
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    Itisi

    Senior Member
    English UK/French
    aint't, no, it means that human beings are being compared to rags you wash the floor with and wring out. A bit like saying that a person is a doormat people wipe their feet on, but not quite, because 'doormat' is linked with the idea of someone who doesn't stand up for him/herself; but here it's alot worse. (I personally find the image ridiculous and trivial in the context of the Holocaust, but that's what the man said...)

    PS - 'Serpillère' is just the rag, whereas 'mop' is the whole thing with the stick.
     
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    lentulax

    Senior Member
    UK English
    that's what the man said
    Do you say this (given that the word's made up) because the form of 'serpillisation' can only mean 'the turning (of men) into mops' rather than 'the mopping-up (of men)' - perhaps because if the author meant the latter he'd have had more obvious alternatives ('serpillage' ??) ? I ask not only because the idea of describing the Nazi treatment of the Jews during the Holocaust as 'using them as cloths to clean the floor' seems in itself ludicrous (or 'strange' and 'ridiculous' as you say yourself), but also because the notion that a barrister renowned for his eloquence felt that this image was so precise and apposite that he had to make up a word to communicate it seems beyond ludicrous. Since , however carefully they prepare, barristers are essentially improvising when addressing the court, perhaps this one simply didn't get it quite right ? What exactly is the source of the quotation - I don't imagine that around 70 years ago recordings were made of court proceedings or verbatim records made available - might there be any possibility of error there?
    EDIT it occurs to me now that trials of war criminals for complicity in murdering Jews sometimes occurred decades later - e.g. the famous trial of Klaus Barbie (eighties).
     
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    Itisi

    Senior Member
    English UK/French
    Do you say this because the form of 'serpillisation' can only mean 'the turning (of men) into mops'
    No, that is not what I said.
    'Serpillère' is just the rag, whereas 'mop' is the whole thing with the stick.
    'serpillère' is what is known in be BE as a 'floorcloth', not a mop. 'Serpillisation' can only mean' the turning (of men) into floorcloths'. This I can guarantee.

    And 'the mopping-up of men' doesn't make sense in the context of the Holocaust. Using men as floorcloths does make sense, even if the image is not the best.

    PS - aint't says "Think of "mopping up'' military operations," This image doesn't exist in French.
     
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    lentulax

    Senior Member
    UK English
    'serpillère' is what is known in be BE as a 'floorcloth', not a mop. 'Serpillisation' can only mean' the turning (of men) into floorcloths'. This I can guarantee.
    1st point - sorry, just carelessness on my part; should have said 'floorcloth'; 2nd point - that's what I was asking - thanks.
    I accept what you say on this, though I still think that aint't's interpretation, reflecting the notion common to much extreme prejudice that the object of the prejudice is filth, a source of contamination, etc., is the natural one for an English speaker unsure about serpillisation , and perfectly intelligible in the context of the holocaust; however, if it can't mean that, that's the end of the matter.

    See the link to the google books pages I provided in my original post.
    I did click on the link ; but it didn't allow access to content, and being a collection of famous speeches from court proceedings, there was no clue as to the sources of the individual items (and I did start off by assuming the date of this one had to be just post-war).
     

    johnlknight

    Member
    English
    I did click on the link ; but it didn't allow access to content, and being a collection of famous speeches from court proceedings, there was no clue as to the sources of the individual items (and I did start off by assuming the date of this one had to be just post-war).
    I sometimes find google books allows access to content if I put the browser in incognito/private mode . Regardless, if for some reason you're interested, I'd be happy to scan and send you the relevant pages of the book.
     

    Itisi

    Senior Member
    English UK/French
    aint't's interpretation (...) that the object of the prejudice is filth, a source of contamination, etc., is perfectly intelligible in the context of the holocaust (...)
    That's true.

    I hadn't thought of mentioning that there is an expression 'Traiter quelqu'un comme une serpillère'. Byt it's usually used in less extreme situations than the Holocaust.

    Another thought, using an image: 'treating humans like vermin'; this corresponds better to the Holocaust situation, but is not a very accurate translation.
     

    Rominet

    Senior Member
    France
    In rough language, it could be "treating men like shit". But it looks to me out of the context of the initial text. But if it can help to find something else.
    Or something like "downgrading men to mopping" ?
    Cheers
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    You see, I thought "serpillisation" might be replaced by "balayage" or (whatever the noun that corresponds to the verb "éponger" is, if such a word exists).
     

    Reynald

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    You see, I thought "serpillisation" might be replaced by "balayage" or (whatever the noun that corresponds to the verb "éponger" is, if such a word exists).
    That's how I understand this image, except that I would use the word nettoyage. Serpillisation = nettoyage à la serpillère. To me, it echoes the expression nettoyage ethnique (ethnic cleansing). Metaphorically, serpillisation could describe the action of the nazis.
    (And nettoyage d'un lieu is also used in a military context in French, the same way as in English - cf. your #22).
     
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    Itisi

    Senior Member
    English UK/French
    What happened to the Jews during the Holocaust: "most of them were either shot, killed in gas chambers of worked to death."

    Mop up: to clear (an area) of remaining pockets of resistance in the wake of a military offensive

    Not the same thing.
     

    much_rice

    Senior Member
    English - American
    What a fascinating thread! I think it's going to be difficult to translate because there's no way you can sneak an -ization word in that doesn't sound ludicrous. So your best bet is to convey the barrister's intention, and as close as possible his metaphor, but without a neologism. I recommend:

    human beings turned into rag-mops

    Since we don't use floorcloths (at least not in the USA), this is the nearest equivalent, and also has an echo of the degradation inherent in the word "rag." A mop alone is too cheery sounding; but "rags" are the proverbial clothes of the extremely poor. As others have hinted, I think there's a suppressed reference to the Nazis' own cleaning and purity metaphors, but the main meaning is that the Jews were forced into contact with filth (squalid conditions in the camps) and were then "discarded" like any household item that had outworn its usefulness.

    If you want a little more pathos, then perhaps

    men degraded into rag-mops
     

    Itisi

    Senior Member
    English UK/French
    If I see the word 'mop' again', I will get my mop out! :mad: 'Serpillère' is not 'mop'.

    mop n(floor-cleaning tool)balai à franges nm
    (Belg, Can)mope nf
    Note: En France, plutôt qu'un balai à franges, on utilise souvent un balai-brosse avec une serpillière.
     
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