Englischer Zug

"Der kleine, sorgfältig gezeichnete Wäscheschatz, den die englischen Züge seines Schrankes bargen, ward von Schalleen aufs beste betreut."

Hans Castorp is a cosseted youth. He goes away to study engineering, but continues to send his washing – for which he appears to have a travelling wardrobe – back to his uncles' housekeeper Schalleen in Hamburg.

The first thing that caused me problems here was exactly how his linen is "marked".

Unanimity at our Zurich translators' group and one member, Daniel Ammann, rifled through his literary references and discovered an example in "The Dream" by H.G. Wells (published in 1924!):

"If Mr. and Mrs. Milton like to have their linen marked a hundred different names, what’s that to us?", rendered in German as: «Und wenn das Ehepaar Milton seine Wäsche auch mit hundert verschiedenen Monogrammen gezeichnet hätte, was schert es uns?»

In the extract below from Swiss author Friedrich Glauser's 1933 short story "Das uneinige Liebespaar" ("The Discordant Couple"?), the linen is "marked" with a double E monogram.

Later in the novel, Hans Castorp reclines in bed in a monogrammed nightshirt.

So "monogrammed", "labelled" or "marked with his name". First problem more or less solved.

The second part is more complicated. What are these "English traits/features" contained in/concealed by HC's wardrobe? And can "Schrank" – "wardrobe/cupboard" – also be used to describe the contents? Is it therefore something like "the English cut of his clothes" or more like "his English-style wardrobe", as in the lines of the piece of furniture?

This second option turned out to be closer, but not in the way I or most of the members of my Zurich group thought! So hats off to Thomas Bodmer who, unlike me, was not taken in by the commonness of the two words and thought to look up the term "englische Züge", which are ... these: a type of drawer with a cutaway front, giving easy access to documents and sometimes clothes.

But what's an "englischer Zug" in English? I asked a friend, Ciarán Ó Braonáin, who is a high-quality woodworker and furniture designer. He texted back: "I've not come across anything like this before... It would have been late Victorian ... It may have been a bespoke piece."
Worth a cheeky advert? www.cheshirewoodworking.co.uk

My editor tells me that John Woods translated this as "English-style drawers" and, in response to my follow-up question of what the "style" was doing there, he wrote that "a little redundancy might be allowed in order to dispel from the reader’s mind any association with underwear".

So maybe "English drawers" with a footnote, or how about "low-fronted drawers"? Just as ambiguous, I guess.

Translation sure takes you down some strange rabbit-holes.

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