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.

Tagged , , ,

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?!”

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

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)!

Tagged , , , , , ,

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 – – 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…

Tagged , , , ,

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!

Tagged , , , , , ,

All the glisters is not gold

Here in Australia one of my favorite vegetables – chard, Beta vulgaris cicla – is called silverbeet. The leaves do have a bit of a shine to them. Perhaps that is why in German they are called der Mangold?!

Tagged , , ,

Treading lightly

I recently learned the word der Vertreter with the meaning of a person who is substituting or replacing someone who’s absent or unavailable. Vertreter sounds to me very much like the English word “traitor,” which of course meant I had to learn what the German word for “traitor” is. Turns out it also sounds quite a bit like “traitor” – Verräter. I turned next to to understand a bit about the morphology of these two German words. What jumped out before I even got that far, though, was that both were instances of words indicating something about a person’s character:

  • der Vertreter – guter Charakter (the synonym given here is der Verfechter – “the advocate”)
  • der Verräter – schlechter Charakter

This intriguing piece of information recorded, I discovered that Vertreter comes from treten and Verräter comes from raten, both with ver-, a buddy of our old friend ent-, tacked on at the front. Interestingly, given I learned the word der Vertreter in the context of someone subbing for someone else, one meaning of treten is “to step” (“to tread” is betreten) and substitutes are often said to be “stepping in” for someone else. Traitor’s parents raten – “to advise” or “to guess” – and verraten – “to betray” or “to reveal” – to my ears both sound a bit “rotten.”

Tagged , , , , ,

Angling for Ghoti

In English we have some pretty odd spelling-to-sound correspondences, one of which is “GH” (see more here: Just how far the sound can stray from spelling is illustrated with the neologism “ghoti” – pronounced like “fish” because GH can represent /f/ as in “tough,” O can represent /ɪ/ as in “women” and TI is frequently pronounced /ʃ/ as in “action” (more on ghoti and its friend ghoughpteighbteau – pronounced “potato” – here:

Intriguingly, many of these GH-words are cognates with German where the GH corresponds to CH:

das Recht – “right”
das Lachen – “laugh”
durch – “through”
tochter – “daughter”
acht – “eight”

As German has much more regular spelling-to-sound correspondences, there are two main options for the pronunciation of CH, namely /ç/ as in durch /dʊrç/ and /x/ as in acht [axt] (this latter spelling-sound pattern appears for some speakers of English in the Scots Gaelic word “loch”). The third possibility is to pronounce CH as /ks/ as in Achse /aksə/ which corresponds generally to the spelling X in English – die Achse is “axel” or “axis.” (Note that when there is a morphological boundary between S and CH, for example in am reichstenreich-sten “richest,” the /ks/ pronunciation is not used.)

There are some loan words in German where the pronunciation of CH does not follow one of these three patterns. For example, there are numerous streets in Hamburg that are called Etwas+Chausee /ʃɔˈse:/. Following the “ghoti” example, perhaps this could be spelled *Tiausee?!

Tagged , , , , ,

Versteckt im Klar – Hiding in plain sight

Ich habe gerade bemerkt, dass „der Weg“ in der Mitte „die Bewegung“ versteckt ist. Zu bewegen ist jemand oder etwas auf dem Weg zu sein, nicht wahr?

Ich habe ein Paar Möglichkeiten “hiding in plain sight” zu übersetzen entdeckt:

  • „Tarnung durch Auffälligkeit“
  • „vor aller Augen zu verstecken“
  • „verstecke mich im grellen Licht“
Tagged , , , ,

It don’t mean a thing (if it ain’t got that swing)

Ein Bekannter von mir fragte die Gruppenleiterin »Was bedeutet das Wort „vergewaltigen“?« Sie sahen ihn fassungslos an, und sagten »In welchem Zusammenhang haben Sie das Wort gehört?« Er kannte nicht erinnern. Eine sagte, dass das Wort „Sex zwingen“ bedeutet. Jetzt sah ich sie verwundert an, weil ich dachte, dass sie „Sex swingen“ sagte! Bald sagte sie weiter »unfreiwillig, gegen jemandes Wille« und es fiel mir wie Schuppen von den Augen.

Tagged , , ,

Susan Thurston Writes... word at a time

Akademie für geile Texte

Literaturnobelp-Reis, Basmati, 3min

Idol Musings

Ray's ruminations, rants and reflections on his American Idol addiction


Taking a Fresh Look at the English Language

Marathon Sprachen

Unravelling the complexities of German in English

The Elementalist Epoch

Stories and Poems from the mind of Tristan Nagler

Reality Swipe

Welcome to the Reality Swipe experience... Brace yourself


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,681 other followers