Psychic distress

Anything to do with the psyche – the human mind or soul, after the Greek goddess of the same name – has to be referred to as psychological or mental nowadays.

This is because the adjective psychic has evolved in English to refer only to unexplained, paranormal phenomena and extra-sensory perception, ESP. (The noun refers to a person allegedy capable of such feats). Dutch has retained “psychisch”, particularly in a number of stock phrases:

  • so don’t write about psychic disorders, evaluations, distress, help, symptoms, problems, issues, maltreatment, etc.
  • mental is mostly used for more emotion-free terms such as mental arithmetic
  • psychological is about how the mind works; a psychologist is a scientist or non-medical doctor
  • psychiatric is about treating sick minds; a psychiatrist is medical doctor who can prescribe medication

I had a week off, as the subscribers and regular readers may have noticed. But don’t worry, I haven’t run out of things to say, not by a long way!

Prevalence: low. Mostly just in a few stock phrases, as listed above.
Frequency: high. Dutch authors for whom it’s related to their specialist material are well aware of this error, fortunately. But when the term turns up elsewhere, it’s mistranslated with great regularity.
Native: no. This particular error is quite humorous, in fact.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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