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Μια και πιάσαμε κουβέντα (εδώ) για την παλιά υβριστική σημασία τού spook («αράπης»), όπως τη μάθαμε από το βιβλίο του Ροθ ή την ταινία The Human Stain, σκέφτηκα να φτιάξουμε ένα νηματάκι για να καταθέσω την απόδοση που μου αρέσει συχνά για το παθητικό he was spooked = αγριεύτηκε.

Να τα δούμε όλα (βασική πηγή: ODE):

spook informal
1 a ghost. φάντασμα | πνεύμα, αερικό.
2 chiefly North American a spy: a CIA spook. κατάσκοπος, πράκτορας.
3 offensive, dated, chiefly US a black person. αράπης.
verb [with object]
frighten; unnerve: they spooked a couple of grizzly bears. τρομάζω, κοψοχολιάζω, αλαφιάζω, σκιάζω.
[no object] (especially of an animal) take fright suddenly: he’ll spook if we make any noise | I was spooked by the shadows and the strange noises. τρομάζω, αγριεύομαι.

Για την υπόθεση Ροθ, αξίζει να αντιγράψω εδώ την περίληψη τού τι ακριβώς συνέβη σε φίλο του καθηγητή όπως το αφηγείται τώρα ο ίδιος. Προσέξτε τη διατύπωση: «Do they exist or are they spooks?» Πόσο κακόπιστος πρέπει να είσαι για να την παρεξηγήσεις; Αλλά και σκέτο «Are they spooks?» να είπε στη συγκεκριμένη περίσταση, είναι φανερό ότι έχουμε να κάνουμε με αμερικάνικες υστερίες.

“The Human Stain” was inspired, rather, by an unhappy event in the life of my late friend Melvin Tumin, professor of sociology at Princeton for some thirty years. One day in the fall of 1985, while Mel, who was meticulous in all things large and small, was meticulously taking the roll in a sociology class, he noted that two of his students had as yet not attended a single class session or attempted to meet with him to explain their failure to appear, though it was by then the middle of the semester.

Having finished taking the roll, Mel queried the class about these two students whom he had never met. “Does anyone know these people? Do they exist or are they spooks?”—unfortunately, the very words that Coleman Silk, the protagonist of “The Human Stain,” asks of his classics class at Athena College in Massachusetts.

Almost immediately Mel was summoned by university authorities to justify his use of the word “spooks,” since the two missing students, as it happened, were both African-American, and “spooks” at one time in America was a pejorative designation for blacks, spoken venom milder than “nigger” but intentionally degrading nonetheless. A witch hunt ensued during the following months from which Professor Tumin—rather like Professor Silk in “The Human Stain”—emerged blameless but only after he had to provide a number of lengthy depositions declaring himself innocent of the charge of hate speech.