Wegen des Wetters

Wer hat »der Regen« in »aufregend« versteckt? Ja, stürmisches Wetter mit Blitzen und Donner kann aufregend sein. Aber wenn ich an regnerisches Wetter denke, höre ich immer in meinem Kopf, »Bleib Zuhause mit einer Kanne Tee und lies mal etwas.« Das ist bestimmt gemütlich und angenehm, aber eigentlich nicht »aufregend.«

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Single-d out

As I was reading another book in the Nellie Rapp Monsteragentin series, I cam across the word der Einwegrasierer – “the disposable (or more literally single use) razor.” However, I somehow added an extra “g” and didn’t make it to the end of the word as I was puzzled as to what der Einweggras… or single use / disposable GRASS might be! Since the context was a campground, it seemed possible for a moment that there was such a thing.

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Compounded, nay confounded

While compound words are a very familiar part of the German language learner’s life, I only heard the word die Bandwurmwörter – literally “tape worm words” – for the first time last Tuesday in Dialog in Deutsch. I was surprised that I’d not come across it on dict.cc, but when I did a search, I discovered that it does not come up when you enter the singular form “compound word.”

The words that we were discussing all had to do with kinds of insurance, for example:

die Krankenhaustagegeldversicherung – a benefit paid out for every day one is in the hospital

die Berufsunfähigkeitsversicherung – a benefit paid out when one is unable, due to disability or illness, to work in a specific occupation or do a part of a job

The segments making up the first “worm” are die Versicherung, das Geld, die Tage and das Krankenhaus or “the money-days-hospital-insurance.” (Compound nouns are typically considered modifications of the final item in the compound, here die Versicherung, and take their gender from this final segment.) In this case, the relationship between the parts and the meaning of the entire compound is reasonably transparent. Let’s consider another more common compound word, das Frühstück – literally “early-piece (bit/chunk/slice)” but actually “breakfast.” This is quite a bit more opaque, especially when compared to the names for the other meals das Mittagessen and das Abendessen – “lunch” and “dinner” and literally “mid-day-food” and “evening-food.” Finally, consider the word die Klobrille – “toilet seat” – which I discussed in a previous post. It falls somewhere in between as the Klo part is transparent but the Brille part is not (or rather is it, but not in the linguistic sense!).

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All’s well that ends well?!

I was working on the vocabulary for the next section of my new favorite exercise book Wörter und Sätze and I came across the word einschenken. Since the main meaning of schenken for me is “to give a gift,” I completely misinterpreted the example sentence Der Gastgeber schenkte uns Rotwein ein. This means “The host poured [some] red wine for us.” That little ein changes everything! This reminded of a prefixed word that one would much prefer to hear relative to its unprefixed base form, ankündigen – “to announce.” Without the little an at the front, kündigen, you’d be “be giving your notice to quit” or “getting notice that a something (e.g., a contract) has been terminated.” At least, unlike with einschenken, the surprise of the an appearing at the end is a good one!

I also learned a new idiomatic expression, perhaps useful in the situation where someone needs to terminate something with someone else: Ich möchte Ihnen reinen Wein einschenken – “I want to come clean with you” or “I want to be straight with you” or literally “I would like to pour [some] pure/unadulterated wine for you.” After this you can begin again by “making a pure table” – reinen Tisch machen – or “wiping the slate clean.”

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Say a little prayer for the language learner

I recently noticed the similarity between the German words beten – “to pray” –  and bitten – “to ask or beg someone [for something]” – a similarity that was highlighted when one looks at their past participle forms, the regular gebetet and the irregular gebeten. As I have learned however, these resemblances, however helpful they may feel to me as a learner, may not always signal a relationship between the two words. On checking the etymology via Duden online, I discovered that the two verbs do not appear to share an origin. Beten is said to arise from betōn in Old High German, while bitten appears to have been a Old High German word in its own right. Duden goes on to suggest that bitten originally had connections to “the promise” and “the contract.” Interestingly, the noun die Bitte –”the request” or “the plea” – is listed along with beten rather than with bitten. This brought to mind the English expressions “pray, continue” and “pray tell!” which are not entreaties to a higher power, but rather a friendly or ironic request for the speaker to say more.


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Verknüpfen gern miteinander?

Purzelbäume – “somersault”

Pferdeapfel – “horse dung”

Knoblauchzehe – “clove of garlic”

Kein Baum, Apfel oder Zeh in Sicht. Man muss zugeben, dass diese Wörter ziemlich seltsam sind.

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Something wickedly clever this way slinks

Shouldn’t Schlauch and schlau be related? And indeed it turns out that, as unlikely as it first seems, according to Duden online, both der Schlauch – “the hose” – and schlau – “smart” or “shrewd” – are related to schlüpfen – “to slip” or “to hatch” or “to emerge.” The specific forms appear have different origins, however. Der Schlauch comes from Middle High German and is related to die Hülle – which seems to make the most sense translated as “the hull” or “the shell” – and schlau comes from Low German and is related to schleichend –  the past participle of “to prowl” or “to slink” or “to crawl” and also, as an adjective, “insidious.” Who knows, this latter relationship might have a role to play in the phrase auf leisen Sohlen schleichend – “sure-footed?!”

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Are you on or are you in?

auf dem Dachboden – “in the attic”

im ersten Stock – “on the first floor”

I’d never have thought about this difference if I hadn’t been asked whether you say “on” or “in” the attic. In English it would appear that “the attic” is thought of as something other than a floor of the house. For example, in English one says, “I’ll leave the box in the kitchen” and “I’ll leave the box on the second floor” with the preposition perhaps signaling that “the attic” is seen as more like a room in the house than a separate floor. In German, although there is a distinction between the expression involving der Dachboden and the expression involving der erste Stock in terms of the prepositions used, there is also the option of a parallel construction with aufˆ using the word die Etage. It’s enough to leave you bats with in your belfry (einen Vogel oder Dachschaden haben)!

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Bog standard?

I can tell that something has changed in how German is represented in my head as when I looked at the e-zine from the Chief Learning Officer – aka the CLO – all I could think of was the German word das Klo, “the toilet,” which, while spelled differently, has what I expect would be same the pronunciation as this acronym! And their website – www.clomedia.com – brings to mind not the fascinating videos, etc. that they share, but rather bad joke books, newspapers, The Farmer’s Almanac and other reading material that you’d check out while on the loo…

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Sachgemäßer Umgang?

Diese Schlagzeile fiel mir heute Morgen auf: «Neue Türklinken sollen Infektionen verhindern.»

Ich dachte zuerst, dass die Grenze die erste und die zweite Silben zwischen k und l war: Türk + linken. Ich habe mich vorgestellt, Leute, wer aus der Türkei stammen und nehmen die linke Partei teil. Sie kommen nach Deutschland und kämpfen gegen Infektionen oder vielleicht kümmern sie sich um die Infizierter. Dann sah ich das Bild, eine Frau steht an einer Tür und «entnimmt eine Keimprobe vom Kupfergriff». Die Türklinken ist natürlich the door handle!

Als ich weiter suchen hat, fand ich die Wörter «türken» und «das Türke» («der Türke» kannte ich schon). Die passen diese Situation sehr gut:

türken – to fabricate or make up something

das Türke – a cock-and-bull story

Was für ein Zufall!

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