If there were an award for “person who hates the German language the loudest,” Mark Twain would have won it. No one has satirized the German language quite as hilariously before or since. As he says:
“The trouble with quotes on the internet is that you can never know if they are genuine.” -Abraham Lincoln.
Sometimes you encounter very questionable sources on the internet. In every other lecture they feel the need to remind us not to quote Wikipedia in our essays (as if I’d be so dumb to admit to using Wiki – oh wait), and generally there is just something a lot more believable about having documents in print form. But no matter what anyone says, the internet is a great source of information, be it for essays or entertainment. I spend a significant proportion of “the commute” on sites scrolling through a mixture of cat pictures, memes, and inspirational quotes. I’m a sucker for all the deep and meaningful stuff, sometimes they’re what get me through the day. The other day I literally “stumbled upon” one of those superimposed texts over a blurry backdrop and because the word was German, or phoney German at least, it stuck with me.
Liv Hambrett is an Australian expat living in Germany. Visit her blog, follow her on twitter, or buy a copy of Sincere Forms of Flattery, an anthology that includes her work.
And I am back to not understanding a single word of what is going on around me. I feel like I have rewound back to 2010, when I landed in Münster with three words of German – danke, bitte and polizei – and existed in perpetual terror the bus driver was going to want to say something to me over the speaker and I wouldn’t understand it (which happened, often. I still have the irrational feeling bus drivers will call me out in front of the whole bus based on a few consecutive Münster experiences.)
German is such a brilliantly mis-represented language. How a language with words like Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän could be considered long-winded or aggressive is just beyond me.. sie ist doch so ‘ne schöne Sprache.
Here are my top ten favorites:
Association for subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services. (79 characters.. woah!)
Noun for weight gained from emotional over-eating. Literally: grief bacon. (Awesome)
The inexplicable urge to push people away. Literally; wall-builder-sadness.
Fridge. Literally: cold wardrbobe. (Makes sense.)
As you’ve probably heard by now, the rain Germany has been seeing in the past month has caused a lot of flooding. And it isn’t over yet.
“The clean-up has begun along the upper reaches of the Elbe River near Dresden. At the same time, further down river, beyond Wittenberge in Brandenburg, people are still waiting for the floods to reach their peak, hoping it will not be quite as bad as in 2002, and that the levees reinforced after that major flood will hold.” Read the rest of the article here.
Meanwhile in Berlin
The German government has ok-ed 8 billion Euros to help flood victims.
I once compared my experience learning German to dating a guy that I really want to like, but I just can’t seem to click with. We keep going out, because it seems like we should get along great, but he just doesn’t really do it for me. Everyone tells me he’s actually a really good guy, once you get to know him. I’ve never been a quitter. Ever. In fact, I once won a trophy for “Perseverance” in my 4-H Horse club back in my youth. I also won an award on my field hockey team for “most determined player.” Like I said, I’m not a quitter. But German, well, trying to learn this complex and challenging language has made me want to throw in this heavy, hyper-structured linguistic towel almost every other week, or sometimes every other day.
Language is funny, isn’t it? I remember when I was a teenager, fighting my way through puberty with the help of a whole host of wonderously creative expletives that (I thought) only my friends and I understood. I was reminded of one of them a few months ago on a trip back to my hometown when I heard a young person shout “That’s shan, that is!”
It could mean anything, couldn’t it, but I know for a fact that ‘shan’ means (or at least meant, in my time) something equating to the adult use of the term ‘bollocks’ or ‘bullshit’. The origin of the term fails me- who knows where youth pick up this crap from? Lush, mint, ace, minging (and variations thereof): You’ve got to love the vivid colours of the slang used by the youth of Britain (innit?)