Vol. 70 No. 4 (2022): Names: A Journal of Onomastics

The Psammead or It: The Re-naming/Re-gendering of E. Nesbit's Mythical Creature in French Translation

Mary Bardet
independent researcher

Published 2022-12-06


  • children's literature,
  • French translation,
  • gendered grammar,
  • translation studies,
  • naming,
  • zoonym,
  • E. Nesbit
  • ...More


Translating a name in children’s literature can be a delicate process, one that may be further complicated when the protagonist involved is a “Psammead”, a truly magical beast that is grammatically referred to with the pronoun “it”. This paper looks at the naming solutions utilized in three different French translations of E. Nesbit’s work. It examines the difficulties of translating names from English, a language with natural gender, into French, a language with grammatical gender. Using close text analysis and reader-response surveys, this article investigates readers’ cognitive responses, and determines whether readers of the English and French texts construct the same mental representation of the Psammead. As will be shown in this study, naming decisions made for translations can modify more than just the grammatical gender seen on the page. When an “it” becomes an “elle” or “she”, a mythical creature can become completely re-gendered.


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