Please be upstanding and raise your glasses to language

I can’t stand him.

Ich stehe auf ihn.

These two idioms using the word “stand” or stehen communicate very different feelings about another person. In the English case, if you can “stand” someone, then you can bear to be with her/him, although you probably aren’t particularly keen on this person. If you “can’t stand” someone, you really don’t like her/him and/or cannot bear to be with him/her. In the case of the German colloquial expression auf jemanden stehen, you are “keen on” someone or you “have a crush on” him/her, “a thing for” her/him, you are “into” him/her or you “fancy” her/him. In addition to sharing your likes or dislikes of other people, both expressions can also be used to describe feelings about the things you don’t much like (English) or like very much (German).

Both stehen and “stand” seem to be pretty productive. In German this productivity is found in the compound words made from stehen or its relatives. Standhalten — stand is a relative of stehen —  means that you can “bear up under the pressure” (den Druck standhalten), “hold your own” (wacker standhalten) or that your ideas can ”withstand” scrutiny (einer genauen Untersuchung standhalten). Stehen also appears in the prefixed verbs ausstehendurchstehen and überstehen, all of which have to do with “bearing, enduring, withstanding, weathering or surviving” something.

In the case of English, the productivity flows from collocations between “stand” and prepositions and the idiomatic uses of the verb. Thus, you are not likely to “stand up for” someone (einstehenentreten, verteidigen) you can’t stand, nor would you be willing to “stand” this person a drink (spendieren), you probably don’t like what they “stand for” (für etwas stehen) and there is quite possibly something that “stands between you” (≈dazwischenstehen), making it difficult for you to get along. And I must confess (gestehen) that I giggled at the possible confusion that might ensue from the sample usage given in the Cambridge dictionary’s definition of the idiom “to stand on ceremony” (to behave in a formal way) because the literal and figurative meanings of “stand” both appear to be relevant  — “Please sit down and make yourself comfortable, we don’t stand on ceremony here.” I guess they don’t want to leave their learners “upstanding.”

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Why it helps to know the local language – IV

While out for a jog a few weeks ago, I spotted a table and four chairs with a sign saying zu Verschenken (the expression used to indicate that someone is giving something away). Since I was not far from home, I picked up one chair and proceeded to run home with it. I then rushed back to stake claim to the rest of the set and found a woman and her daughter considering the remaining chairs and the table and discussing how they might get them home. This is where it helped to be able to speak German. I told them that I had already taken one chair and began to ask if they might at least allow me to take another one to make a pair when the woman completed my sentence by commenting on my being unable to manage to carry much at one time (she was quite tall, I am not). She said that they already had a similar set at home and didn’t really need this one. and then she and her daughter smiled and went on their way.

I took away two messages. First, don’t be afraid to ask, all someone can do is say “no.” And second, if you see a set of things left on the curb for anyone to take, first remove the item with the sign welcoming you to help yourself.

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Close encounters of the etymological kind

I talk a lot here about encountering new words and expressions in the course of learning German, but I hadn’t thought much about the English word “encounter” itself until starting to use the German word begegnen to describe my encounters with new words. According to Duden Online, the word begegnen has its origins in Old High German and is related to the word gegen – “against.” According to Google, the word “encounter” has its origins in the Latin word “contra.”  Both Gegen and “counter” can be used as prefixes with the meaning “against” as in words like “counterattack” – Gegenschlag – or “counterbalance” – Gegengewicht.

Imagining my encounters with German in terms of coming up “against” something has a certain amount of resonance for me. A German word, even when it has a nearly one-to-one correspondence to a word in English, can make me feel like I am swimming against the tide as I try to learn it. Happily, the satisfaction I get from learning something new nearly always “counteracts” this and gives me renewed energy for a “counteroffensive.”

 

 

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Henkersmahl mit einem Laster geliefert?

Vor ein paar Jahren schrieb ich etwas über das Teekesselchen „der/das Laster“ und letzte Woche kam es gelegen. Ich ging ins Theater. Das Stück war eine Kriminal-Komödie, deswegen erwartete ich Wortspiele. Ich war nicht enttäuscht.

Eine Leiche eines Mannes lag auf dem Boden. Zwei Polizisten musterten die. Einer sage der andere »Vielleicht ist er an seinem Laster gestorben.« Der zweite Polizist runzelte die Stirn. Ein Lkw in einem Bürozimmer?!

Aber das war nicht nur ein Vergnügen, sonder auch eine Deutschstunde. Die Präposition an in Verbindung mit sterben verlangt den Dativ. Entgegen dem Nominativ und dem Akkusativ gibt es im Dativ keinen Unterschied zwischen den Wörtern der und das Laster. Die beiden sind von dem begleitet. Der Laster passt nicht dazu, aber dieses Wort ist viel häufiger als das Laster und deshalb fiel es dem Zuhörer zuerst ein. Tatsächlich hat der Mordopfer ein Laster, Weinbrand Bohnen, die jemand vergiftete. Also, er stirbt an seinem Laster!

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A is for a-larm clock

Was macht die Alarm Clock? Die macht “a” Lärm, natürlich! What does the «Wecker» do? It makes noise, of course!

Das war der Gedanke, als ich heute morgen aus einem unruhigen Schlaf erwachte. Die Herkunft stimmt nicht, dennoch ist es eine gute Eselsbrücke.

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Dement oder dementsprechend?

Ich kann kaum glauben, wie viel Mühe und Mut man braucht, damit die deutsche Sprache zu beherrschen. Ein großer Stolperstein ist, wie immer, die Silbentrennungen zu erkennen. Um ein einziges Beispiel zu nennen, das Wort «dementsprechend» . Dieses Wort findet man nicht im Taschenwörterbuch Deutsch als Fremdsprache von Langenscheidt. Aber wenn man die Zeitschrift liest, begegnet man dieses Wort ziemlich oft. Zigtausende mal (oder so) schlug ich dieses Wort nach, und Zigtausende mal vergaß ich die Bedeutung.

Aber dann fiel mir die Idee ein, das Wort nicht nur nachzuschlagen, sondern auch die Wortbildung herauszufinden. Simsalabim! Die Tür sprang auf. Die falsche Silbentrennung hatte mich auf den Irrweg geführt: Es war nicht dement + sprechend. 

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-11-43-44-am

Anders gesagt hatte meine Muttersprache als Scheuklappen gewirkt, weil dementia (die Demenz) und demented (dement) englische Wörter sind. Sobald die Scheuklappen wegfielen, konnte ich die richtige Silbentrennung sehen, nämlich dem + entsprechend, die richtige Betonung begriff [ˈde:mʔɛntˈʃprɛçt], und endlich die Idee, es «verrückt sprechend» bedeutet, loslassen.

Gibt es sprachliche Aufstiege?

Gestern war und das Kennenlerngespräch und heute hospitiere ich bei Dialog in Deutsch. Hospitieren ist der erste Schritt zur Moderatorin.  Wünsche mir viel Glück – wie man so sagt „Aller Anfang ist schwer“. Erfreulicherweise sind die Mitglieder des Barmbek-Mittwochs-Teams sehr nett und ermutigend. Bessere Kumpel und Begleiter gibt es nicht!

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What’s so “Bad” about that idea?

Today I had to laugh as I saw a truck with the image of a family in bathtub at sea. The tub had a motor attached at the back and the mother, father and two kids seemed to be enjoying their journey. The image was an advertisement for a company that offers products from a firm called BadIdeen — “bath ideas” — but between the image of the bath at sea and the fact that the English word “bad” should be translated as schlecht rather than das Bad, I couldn’t help thinking that this was a company selling “bad ideas” rather than, as described below, tolle Ideen für das Badezimmer

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 4.38.30 AM

 

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‘Til death do us partitive

I took French in high school. I refreshed this high school French in 2011-2012 and yet I can’t remember ever hearing of the need to use a partitive article (or for that matter that there is something called a partitive article or Teilungartikel of Deutsch). However in lesson four of Französisch in 30 Tagen, there it is with the following examples.

• In speaking about a menu:

Ils ont de la salade, des sandwichs, de l’omelette, des croques-monsieur, des croissants…
“They have salad, sandwiches, an omelette, croque-monsieur, croissants…”

• In describing the croque-monsieur:

C’est un sandwich avec des toasts, du jambon et du fromage.
“It is a sandwich with toast, ham and cheese.”

The Grammarist explains it thus:

When referring to a noun whose quantity or amount is not specified, French speakers use the partitive article de, which conveys essentially the same meaning as some or any in English.

For example, rather than saying the equivalent of I bought cheese, French speakers always say, I bought some cheese. Rather than saying, Do you have pets? they always say, Do you have some pets? This rule cannot be ignored. If you ask for the cheese or just cheese without the partitive article, French speakers may think you’re talking about a specific amount of cheese or all the cheese in the world—either of which would cause confusion.

Okay, I’m off to make une omelette avec des pommes de terre, du bacon et de l’oignon (ein Bauernomelett).

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Extra, extra, read all about it

Walking by a local branch of Heymann, I noticed this book about Adele:

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While I am an Adele fan, it was the subtitle that caught my eye — Eine außergewöhnliche Karriere — for the word außergewöhnlich, which I would translate as “extraordinary” in this context (although dict.cc offers “strange” as the top translation by a substantial margin). “Extraordinary” as in “out of the ordinary” just as an “extraterrestrial” — Außerirdischer is “out of this world.” As a prefix “extra-” comes from the Latin extra meaning “outside” and has taken on the additional meaning of “beyond” over time.

The pronunciation of “extraordinary” is in itself somewhat remarkable. Pons.eu gives these two options: /ɪkˈstrɔ:dənəri, Am -ˈstrɔ:rdəneri/. What you should note is that, in contrast with extraterrestrial /ekstrətəˈrestriəl/, there is glottal stop or pause before the /s/ sound, separating the prefix into two parts.

“Extra” and extra can also be stand-alone words. According to Google, there are 10 meanings for the noun form, 2 for the adjective form and 2 for the adverb form of the word “extra” in English. According to Pons.eu, in German extra has 5 meanings as an adverb and 1 as a noun. The way I first learned one of the German meanings for this word was from Extr@ the soap opera “especially for” (extra) language learners that tells the story of Sascha and Anna, their neighbor Nic and Sascha’s pen pal from the US, Sam. The other word from this series that stuck with me is der Tierpräparator — “the taxidermist” — a job that is rather out of the ordinary and thus a word that is relatively useless in everyday conversation, except perhaps to show off that you have been watching Extr@.

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