Negative growth?

Since fostering growth is a key part of what I do professionally, I learned the words die Entwicklung and entwickeln – “development” and “to develop” soon after I moved to Germany. What I didn’t notice until this morning is that in both languages the words for “development” are prefixed with something that is typically indicates a negation of the meaning of the stem. For instance, this is the definition of “de-” from the Cambridge dictionary: “used to add the meaning ‘opposite’, ‘remove’, or ‘reduce’ to a noun or verb.” Duden offers a number of meaning for ent- : “something is undone or returned to its original state, the removal or displacement of something, or taking something away.” The German Language page of about.com relates it to the English prefixes “de-” and “dis-” and gives its meaning as “away from.”

Now “*velop” appears in both “develop” and “envelop” but it is not currently a standalone word with a meaning that can be negated (Google gives the etymology as arising from Latin “dis- ‘un-’ + a second element of unknown origin found also in envelop,” which became the French word développer – “to unfold, unfurl). Wickeln, on the other hand, is a standalone word with the meaning, according to Pons, “to wrap something around something” and colloquially “to change a baby’s diaper.” This is a rather productive stem with one word from the family, einwickeln, being one possible translation for “to envelop.”

When I think about development or die Entwicklung now, I will pay even more attention to how it must involve paring away and replacement rather than simply accretion of the new.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Messer, Gabel, Schere, Licht sind für deutsche Anfänger nicht!*

Heute morgen habe ich diesen Satz gelesen: »Aber warum weiter Versteck zu spielen?« Aber ich dachte, dass ich »Aber warum weiter Besteck zu spielen?« gelesen hat. Ja, die Umgebung dieser Geschichte ist ein Cafe und ich wusste noch nicht, die Redewendung »Versteck spielen,« aber trotzdem ist das komisch. Seltsam, weil »Be« und »Ver« nicht so ähnlich sind, und spaßhaft, weil spielen mit Besteck ein sonderbar Bild im Kopf bringt!

Nach Duden online »Versteck spielen« hat zwei Bedeutungen. Die erste ist ein Spiel für Kinder – hide and seek. Die zweite ist »Versteck [mit, vor jemandem] spielen (seine wahren Gedanken, Gefühle, Absichten [vor jemandem] verbergen)« –  to hide or disguise one’s true thoughts, feelings or intentions. Vielleicht, wenn man mit Besteck spielen, verbergt man seine wahren Appetite und Geschmäcke?!

 


*Der Löffel ist nicht dabei, aber er kann auch tödlich sein wie »den Löffel abgeben« – to kick the bucket.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Full up

»Sara hat mir erzählt, dass sie das Gezeter ihrer Mutter leid ist…« – “Sara told me that she is tired of her mother’s nagging.” This sentence comes from the children’s book Das Cafe-geheimnis (it was originally written in Swedish and stars Lasse and Maja) and introduced me to both the word das Gezeter, which will be treated in a subsequent post, and the verb-adjective combination leid sein.

On Duden I found this entry for leid sein. It offers the definition “someone is/has grown tired of something” – » jemandes, einer Sache überdrüssig sein« – and this sample sentence »ich bin sein dummes Gequatsche leid.« – “I’m sick of your blathering.”  Clearly this is an important concept as there are a fair few synonyms given in this entry, and they range from the colloquial to the idiomatic to the rather formal:

genug haben –” to have enough”
müde sein
– “to be tired (of)”
satthaben – “”to have had a bellyful”
satt sein; (gehoben)  – “to be fed up” (satt sein is used to mean that you have had enough to eat)
überdrüssig sein; (umgangssprachlich)
– “to be tired of/weary of”
bis obenhin haben
– “to have had it up to here”
dick haben/kriegen 
– “to be fed up” (literally something like “to have or get [it] thickly)
die Nase voll haben
– “to be sick of something” (literally “to have a nose full”)
langen – “to be enough” (it can also mean “to reach” and in its transitive form “to pass, to hand”) 
reichen – “to be sufficient” (like langen, it can also mean “to reach” and “to hand”)
überhaben; (salopp) –”to be fed up with something” ( literally “to over-have”)
stinken  Mir stinkt es! – “to be fed up” (it can also mean “to stink”)
den Kanal/die Schnauze voll haben – “to have had enough” (literally “to have a canal or snout full “), with Kanal, it can also mean “to be sloshed” something that happens when one has “had enough” to drink and puts one in mind of the literal meaning of a canal overrunning its banks.

Many of these can be made even stronger by adding gründlich – “thoroughly” – as in etwas gründlich satthaben – “to be sick to death of something or someone” or “to be fed up to to the back teeth with something .” (One can also add the word die Faxen – “nonsense” or “shenanigans” – as in Ich habe die Faxen satt.) I don’t think I’d ever given much thought to the expression “to be fed up” before. On seeing the various translations, though, I was startled to see how many of them are related to the consumption of food: “a bellyful,” ” to be fed [up],” “back teeth” and even “to be sick of,” as something one is “sick of” can be something that one doesn’t want to eat again. Perhaps that might be that one is “fed up” with something then that thing is what one can no longer “stomach?!”

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Zer-, sehr stark

»Wir sind unzertrennlich, irgendwie unsterblich« singt Helene Fischer in Atemlos durch die Nacht. Ich hatte dieses Wort »unzertrennlich« nie gehört, aber ich habe das sofort verstanden, weil ich das Wort »trennen« kenne und das Präfix »zer-« geläufig ist (z.B., »zerstören« was sieht man oft am Häuser hier in Hamburg). Mit dict.cc habe ich ein Paar andere Wörter gefunden. Alle sind ziemlich stark.

zerreißen – to tear, to shred, to rip to pieces und Zerrissenheit – disunity, strife, inner conflict

zerrütten – to subvert to ruinto wreck und Zerrüttung – breakdown (of a marriage), destructiondisintegration

zerschlagen – to smashto annihilateto shatter

Bei canoo.net http://www.canoo.net/services/WordformationRules/Derivation/To-V/Praefixe/zer.html?lang=de habe ich entdeckt, als ich habe gedacht, dass das Präfix »zer-« »auseinander oder kaputt« bedeutet. Daher die Überschrift, die mit dem Wort »sehr« und dem Präfix »zer-« spielt.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Ready, fire, aim

At today’s Barmbek Dialog in Deutsch I was introduced to the idiom Schieß los! Dict.cc offers “Get cracking,” “Fire away” (a bit more literal even as it is still being used metaphorically), “Go for it,” and “Hit me.” Pons gives the phrase Na, schieß schon/mal los! with the translations “Come on, out with it!” and “Come on tell me/us!” as well as natürlich, schieß los! – “of course, go ahead!” Duden gives three meanings for the full verb losschießen:

  1. to open fire/to start shooting
  2. to set something in motion quickly or suddenly; to pounce on someone or something
  3. to begin to speak; to feel the urge or compulsion or need – aus einem innereren Bedürfnis heraus – to say something

Canoo.net offer mitteilen – “to inform” or “to let somebody know something” – as the hypernym for the meaning concerned with speaking. I hope you didn’t find this post missed the target, as it sometimes happens when one is trying to speak up in German!

Tagged , , , , ,

In a holding pattern

At the end of Friday’s Dialog in Deutsch session, one of the group leaders asked me if I knew the words vergeuden or die Vergeudung. I had to say “no” and it was a challenge even to repeat them! She smiled and said that they meant “to waste” or “to squander” something or “a waste.” Canoo.net gave this definition: etwas planlos/sinnlos/unrationell* aufwenden – “to use/spend something in an aimless, pointless or inefficient way.” Eager to know more,  I discovered some of the common accompaniments to these words using DWDS.de:

  • von RessourcenSteuergeldernSteuermittel, ArbeitskraftRohstoffen, Energie, Geld
  • Kraft, Talente, Jahre, Menge, Milliarden, Viertel, LebenszeitGut 
  • unverantwortliche, sinnlose, gigantische, volkswirtschaftliche, nutzlos, unnötig
  • Behörden, Staat, Einführung, Regierung, Politik
  • in Warteschleifen, im Kampf, von Arbeitsstunden, an Stellen, mit Dingen, mit Diskussionen, mit Streit, auf Weise, zu Energie, zu Zeit, für Projekte

Dict.cc offered a couple of idiomatic phrases in English that can be translated using vergeuden: “to flog a dead horse” – Kraft vergeuden – and “to spend money like water” – Geld vergeuden.

While some might disagree, discovering more about about how one talks about wasting time, etc., in German was not aimless or pointless or inefficient exercise for me!

 


 

*Unrationell is a member of the -ell family of false friends (e.g., punktuell – “selective,” eventuell – “possibly,” aktuell – “topical”).  Confusingly, there is another form of suffixation with -ell and -uell that are cognates (e.g., bakteriell and manuell), you can learn about them here: http://www.canoo.net/services/WordformationRules/Derivation/To-A/Suffixe-F/ell.html?lang=en)

Tagged , , , , ,

It goes without saying

Speak, spake, spoken. Spricht, sprach, gesprochen. These are examples of ablaut, a type of vowel variation or apophony. Umlaut (e.g., “goose” and “geese”) and vowel length changes due to stress patterns (e.g., “photography” and “photograph”) are also examples of apophony.  The family of words formed from the root sprechen – “to speak” – is larger and more varied in German than in English:

die Sprache – “language” and “speech”

sprachlos – “speechless”

der Lautsprecher – “the loud speaker”

die Absprache – “agreement”

das Gespräch, im Gespräch mit – “conversation, in conversation with”

die Besprechung – “meeting”

die Sprechstunde – “consultation” or “office hours”

das Sprichwort – “proverb, adage, saying”

der Anspruch – “claim”

der Einspruch – “objection” in the legal sense

der Widerspruch – “contradiction”

Although many of the English translations incorporate aspects from semantically related word families, for example, “to converse” and “to say” (you may also have noticed the “diction” inside the word “contradiction”), I find myself wondering if native speakers of German find the words on the list above to be more similar in meaning that do English speakers given the sound overlap. It is a feature of human, as opposed to other animal languages, that the connections between words and sounds are for the most part arbitrary (otherwise we couldn’t have “meeting” and Besprechung). However, it is also the case that there are some interesting sound-meaning relationships. See, for example, this Wikipedia article on how people consistently associate nonsense words with shapes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouba/kiki_effect and check out this piece on the SN connection: http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2007/03/a-nosy-question.html

 

Tagged , , , ,

Lange nicht geschrieben

Sprechen, ja gut, Lesen, immer and ewig gut. Anhören, natürlich Aber es war, als ob ich allergisch gegen Schreiben wäre. Hoffentlich ist dieses Gefühl vorbei.

Ich freue mich darauf, mit Euch wieder zu plaudern. Bis zum nächsten Mal!

Tagged ,

Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Wo Gone?

As I was out running today, it occurred to me that when you ask where someone is from in German – Woher kommen Sie? – the form of “where” you are using sounds much more like English than the shorter Wo form. Both English and German have a number of compounds formed with “where/wo,” however the German ones appear to be more frequently used and therefore warrant treatment in most German grammar books. (Note that the translations of the English where-compounds are mainly wo-compounds, however they tend not to be the included in such lists further supporting the notion that the English forms are of lower frequency of use.)

Woher kommen Sie? Where do you come from?
Wohin gehen Sie? Where are you going to?
Wofür ist das? What’s that for?
Worüber spricht er? What’s he talking about?
Womit kann man das reparieren? What can one repair that with?
Woraus ist das gemacht? What’s that made out of?
Wohin soll ich das stellen? Where should I put that?
Wonach suchst du? What are you looking for?

These examples come from http://www.lsa.umich.edu/german/hmr/Grammatik/Da/Da.html

The English where-compounds do not appear to be treated as being of special grammatical interest, however the formations seem quite similar, “where” + preposition to create an adverb:

Whereabouts – wohin
Whereby – dict.cc offers wodurch, womit and wobei
Wherefore – wozu
Wherein – worin
Whereupon – woraufhin

Several where-compounds in English do not follow this pattern and form other parts of speech:

Whereabouts – noun der Aufenthaltsort (“His whereabouts were unknown”)
Whereas – conjunction, dict.cc offers wohingehen, während, hingehen
Wherewithal – noun das Nötiges (“He lacked the wherewithal to pay”)

This search also introduced me to the idiomatic expressions Woher wissen Sie das? - “Where did you get that from?” (or perhaps simply “Huh?!”) and Woher soll ich das wissen? - “How am I supposed to know?” – which seem like they might come in handy!

Ge(e)-Whiz!

I’ve been reading a lot of Krimis written for those learning German and came across the word gestehen in one of them (http://www.klett.de/produkt/isbn/3-12-675496-1). It means “to confess” and it joins the small family of verbs I know that happen look like past participles: gefallen and gehören – “to be pleasing [to someone]” and “to belong [to someone].”  In the case of gefallen,it is both an infinitive and a past participle (for fallen); the past participle of both gehören and hören is gehört and the past participle of both stehen  and gestehen is gestanden. One factor that has helped me keep clear on gefallen and gehören is that they require use of the dative: das gefällt mir and das gehört mir – “that pleases me” and “that belongs to me.” Using cannoo.net, I discovered that there are 25 verbs which are formed by the addition of the prefix ge- (http://www.canoo.net/services/WordformationRules/Controller?wordFormationClass=Verb-zu-Verb-Ableitungen+mit+dem+Pr%E4fix+ge&entryClass=Cat+V&resultId=99dc65). Given there are 18202 verbs in the cannoo database, this makes it a rather rare prefix. (One verb I might have expected to see on this list is genießen (“to enjoy”), however while there is niesen – “to sneeze” – there is no nießen.)

Offen gestanden, or “to tell you the truth,” I usually still have a moment of confusion when I hear gehört and need to pause to discern whether we are talking about a case of “hearing” or a case of “belonging” (which just now brought to mind die Belohnung – “the reward” – of which getting the meaning surely is it’s own!).

Tagged , , , , , ,
Susan Thurston Writes...

...one 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

PAUL'S EFL REVIEW

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,644 other followers