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The old-fashioned and poetic sounding expression “driving off the spleen” means to ward off or reduce feelings of melancholy, dysphoria, depression, dysthymia, or general malaise.

How might you translate this into German?

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    Is “driving off the spleen” still in use or will people at least understand it?
    – Paul Frost
    Mar 4 at 11:15

1 Answer 1

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Since the phrase is prominently used in Moby Dick, I've looked at translations of that text and found the sentence: Das ist so meine Art, mir die Milzsucht zu vertreiben und den Kreislauf in Schwung zu bringen.

Milzsucht is an old German term for hypochondriasis, which matches your definition of the phrase. Especially since Milzsucht does not have the pathological connotations of Hypochondrie.

Also Milz is German for spleen, so the connection to humoral medicine is preserved.

So the translation would be: Die Milzsucht vertreiben.

I agree with planetmaker's comment that this translation is very old-fashioned and will probably not be understood by a lot of people. A more common alternative would be Die Trübsal vertreiben. It's still old-fashioned and somewhat poetic, but doesn't have the same connection to the humors.

You could also change vertreiben to austreiben. It's a stronger term, that's also used in an exorcism. So if you consider the bad feelings to be an evil from within, you can show that by using austreiben.

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    Indeed accurate, if you want to capture old-fashioned style. Yet I wonder how many people would understand that wording nowadays. Mar 4 at 11:47
  • I agree! I've edited my answer to offer an alternative.
    – xyldke
    Mar 4 at 12:15
  • Trübsal is feminine.
    – xehpuk
    Mar 5 at 1:08
  • Auch wenn Duden und Wiktionary dir auch zustimmen, Trübsal ist bei mir auch sächlich. Scheint regional unterschiedlich zu sein? Mar 5 at 5:06
  • @xehpuk Man lernt nie aus! Ich habe es korrigiert.
    – xyldke
    Mar 7 at 8:19

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