Psychoanalysis > Freudian Slips and Mistakes

An Extremely Simple Freudian Slip

By J Jones

This slip is more accurate a lapse (lapsus calami = error of writing). It is related by Mr. White who had once to answer a lady that had applied for employment as a translator of English. The answer was to be sent by e-mail and involved a test translation conveyed by the applicant. Here is part of his answer, with our emphasis of the paragraph making the object of these lines:

 - I shall outline all advertencies when your text allows me to get past the first two paragraphs.

What is that all about? On a first consideration, White thought the evaluation test had many shortcomings. The translation was not up to his requests. Nevertheless, White only checked the first two paragraphs and correctly notified the author the errors she had made, in order for her to try and make the necessary corrections. The rest of the text was to follow, only after errors observed had been corrected.

A simple calculus was involved - a small amount of (correction) work, therefore efficient. We may suspect though that White had already acquired a global outlook concerning the quality of the translation the applicant had provided, and that was a negative one: the translation did not meet his standards.

White did not inform the applicant about his opinion but somehow gave her a second chance. He thus repressed his impressions regarding the quality of the translation, but gave himself out with the expression "all advertencies". What he was supposed to do in fact was notify inadvertencies, not advertencies. However, as "advertencies" seemed fewer than "translation errors", an inversion of terms occurred, set as a slip.

Behind White's conscious intention of giving the applicant another chance, there lay in fact a remark one might translate as follows: "The text is so badly translated that I would have a lot of difficulty in finding anything but errors". This remark was repressed but insidiously pervaded White's reply, taking advantage of similarities between "advertency" and "inadvertency".

Such as carried out here, the analysis of the slip obviously leads to the unconscious mental content eschewed in White's reply. Unconscious is thus turned conscious and we can get an overall image of both the repression process and the nature of the repressed.

Translation by Mihaela Cristea

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