English translation: "idle dreamer"; c.f., "songe-creux"
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French to English translations [PRO] Art/Literary - Poetry & Literature / French in Russian literature
French term or phrase:"pense-creux"
In Fyodor Dostoesvsky's novel _Demons_ (1872), one character describes another: "C'est un pense-creux d'ici. C'est le meilleur et le plus irascible homme du monde." Every translation I've found translates this first sentence as, "He's a local dreamer."
The phrase seems to be quite rare. A Google search yields only a little over 200 hits, and many of them refer to Dostoevsky's use in the novel. There also are an inordinately large number of nineteenth-century texts in the results. So the phrase must be archaic, though it is used by a few modern writers and bloggers in what seems to be the same sense.
My question is this: the second part of the phrase, the word "creux," means "hollow" as an adjective or "trough" as a noun. Is the phrase derisive? Does it imply that a person so labeled is a shallow thinker, a second-rate intellect, or is it really as innocuous as "dreamer"? Second, is "pense-creux" a phrase that had currency in France, or might its use have been peculiar to the French-speaking Russian aristocracy?
Euqinimod, your explanation has been very helpful. And I am grateful for your confirmation and reference, giltal.
One last query: given the difference in connotation of the verbs "penser" and "songer", might "pense-creux" have a meaning subtly different from "songe-creux"? Perhaps something like the difference between "idle schemer" and "idle dreamer" -- both referring to someone who sits around coming up with half-cocked plans, but the former referring to more definite inanities. "Songer", afer all, can mean "to dream" ("rêver"), while "penser", as far as I know, does not (at least in today's French).
Or would you guess that they are entirely synonymous?
I could put it in the Russian section, but then everyone would wonder why I'm asking about French words in the Russian section. ;)
I found Proz after looking in every online French-English dictionary and doing a lot of other Googlling to try to find the answer. I am not a professional -- just someone who reads a lot of Russian literature and doesn't speak a lot of French.
Thanks for the thoughts. Am still hoping for some insight. ...