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…

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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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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?!

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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.”

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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?!

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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“
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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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?!”

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