Monthly Archives: May 2013

Error, error on the wall, which the fairest of them all?

I came across two interesting errors today, one in English by a German speaker and one in German by a Spanish speaker. The first error was an error in word choice in spoken speech and the second was a spelling error in jotting down a word that was heard.

Error 1   “If it stops, will you please turn it off?”
The intended sentence was “When it stops, will you please turn it off?”

It wasn’t difficult to figure out the intended meaning, given the “it” being discussed was a dishwasher and in the unlikely event that it never stopped there would be more to worry about than turning it off. So, what was interesting for me was not that I could understand this sentence after only a brief re-parsing, but rather that I had a very good idea of the source of this error, an intuition that I would not have had before learning some German and making a similar error in the reverse direction. Here are the relevant word pairs:

wenn – if
wann – when

Wenn and “when” sound very much alike (/ɛ/ and /e/) but they have different meanings (our old enemy the “false friend”) and this sound similarity gets in the way for the language learner. The German-speaking English learner thinks /wɛn/, this activates both the German word, wenn, meaning “if” and the English word “when” as this is the intended meaning. However, the connection between the sound /wɛn/ and the word wenn is more firmly established and pushes the speaker in the wrong direction. In a bit of reverse action, the English-speaking German learner, namely me, sees or hears the word wenn and this also activates two things, the English word “when,” which has the wrong meaning in this context, and, more weakly, the meaning “if” which is associated with the actual form heard or seen, wenn. The latter association is weaker and I may misunderstand what I read or hear (the effect is stronger when I am reading as there is the additional spelling similarity to push me toward the “when” rendering of wenn because at least in speech you get the /v/ vs. /w/ cue to help you).

Error 2 im Unterbewurstsein
The intended phrase was im Unterbewusstsein

The intended phrase means “subconsciously” and was introduced by a native German speaker in the context of discussing how people “talk” with their hands and the fact that we are often using gestures automatically and without being much aware of the extent to which the movements we are making are intrinsic to speaking. The Spanish-speaking German learner was pleased to learn this new word and attempted to write it down in order to research it further at some later point. While what she wrote down is not a real word in German, adding the “r” does make some sense for a Spanish speaker. First, you really don’t have to learn to spell as a Spanish speaker because the connection between spelling and sound is almost totally reliable – because  in almost all cases there is just one possible spelling, if you know how a word sounds then you know how it is spelled. German, while being much, much more rule-governed than English, still has a number of options for how particular sounds can be spelled.

Secondly, there are a number of words that end in with “vowel+r” that to the non-native speaker sound pretty much identical to words that end with the same vowel on its own (i.e., with no “r”). For example, the final sounds of Die Liebe and lieber are very similar, the first ends in /ə/and the second in a /ɐ/, and neither ends in /r/. In addition, when the “r” appears before a consonant, as it does in die Wurst, the articulation is much softer, with none of the rolling of the tongue that you hear before vowels or when the “r” is in the syllable initial position (to get a feel for this reduced “r” sound, compare die Wurst and die Wüste). These sorts of reduced /r/ situations could lead to the overgeneralization that “vowel+r” is an alternative spelling for “vowel.”

Of course, I must admit that this second error stood out not because of what it showed about changes in pronunciation of the letter “r” across contexts (this video does nice job of delineating them). Instead it was commingling “sausage” and “consciousness” that caught my attention!

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Eine Schlange am Busen nähren

Heute habe ich viele interessante Information über wie man isst Schlangen gelernt. Da ich gerade “isst” geschrieben ist mir aufgefallen, dass das Wort “isst” sehr ähnlich wie die Stimme der Schlange auf Englisch klingt. Nämlich, hissssss. Natürlich will ich wissen, wie klingt eine Schlange auf Deutsch? Wie eine englischsprachige Schlange oder nicht? Und auch hat die deutschsprachige Schlange aus der Schweiz einen Akzent?

Also, suche ich im Internet. Mit den Schlüsselwörter “welche Stimme hat die Schlange.”

Erstmal ist eine biblische Geschichte, ich denke “nein.” Die zweite hat den Titel “Schlange stehen für warmes ein Essen.” Perfekt! habe ich gedacht, Stimme und Essen zusammen! Knapp daneben ist auch vorbei! Hier sind die Deutsche lauthals lachen. Warum? Das Wort “die Schlange” bedeutet beides snake und queue (oder line). “Schlange stehen” ist nicht Snake is, sondern stand in line. Der ganze Satz meint Stand in line for a hot meal.

Endlich habe ich die Stimme der Schlange gefunden: “sss.” Und in Schweizerdeutsch? Ich weiss nicht, aber vielleicht kann ich in Basel überprüfen, weil diese Stadt den Basilisk wie Symbol hat. Ich muss offensichtlich viele warmes ein Essen zu essen bevor ich kann sagen: “I’ve translated more German than you’ve had hot (snake) dinners!”

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Week 8 Anniversary or You Can Have It Both Ways

This example from allows me to connect to the earthquake theme and to discuss a concept that can make the German learner feel as though the very foundations of her or his knowledge base are shaking. The example is

nach dem Erdbeben waren nur ein paar Häuser stehen geblieben – “after the earthquake, only a few houses were left standing”

and it uses one of the verbs, stehen (well actually a verb with stehen as its base, stehen bleiben) from a family with some interesting features. Here are eight (or seven depending on how you want to count) of its members.

stehenstellen – “to stand, to be situated” – “to put (in a standing position)”
liegenlegen – “to lie, be situated” – “to put (in a lying position)”
hängen – hängen – ” to be hanging” – “to hang something/someone”
sitzen – (sich) setzen – “to be sitting” – “to sit down”

The first verb in each pair is a “strong” verb, which means that the stem changes with the tense (and in some cases, although not for the four here, it changes with the person and number). The second verb in each pair is a “weak” or regular verb (there are also mixed verbs, perhaps I’ll cover them at some point.) that can be conjugated without a stem change.

The first verb in each pair is also one that is used to describe where something is located. The second describes movement of something somewhere. I’ve seen this described many times as the first set answering the questions Wo? and the second the question Wohin? but my sense is that this would only make sense to someone who already knows German as the distinction between Wo? and Wohin? feels more subtle than the distinction between something being in a place or being moved to a place. Thus I find it more helpful to call the second set the Exercise or E-words. In two of three that have different forms (hängen is conjugated two ways in the past tense but the infinite is the same), the movement-describing (or exercise-describing!) words have “e” as their initial vowel. I also find this helpful because the verbs in the second group require an agent that can “exercise” its right to move things. The remaining pair, stehenstellen feels the simplest to me as an English speaker since “staying” contraindicates movement (or exercise).

If one knows a bit of grammar, one can also differentiate between the first and second members of each pair in terms of transitivity. The first member of each pair is intransitive and the second member is transitive. The best English example that I know comes from “The Language Instinct” by Steven Pinker (A WONDERFUL BOOK, the year it came out in paperback I gave it to almost everyone close to me for Christmas):

“Melvin dined” – “dined” is an intransitive verb, it cannot take an object
“Melvin ate the pizza” – “ate” is a transitive verb, it can take an object or it can stand along “Melvin ate”
“*Melvin dined the pizza” is therefore ill-formed (although you native speakers did not need me to tell you this!)

The final layer of complexity is that these verbs take the so-called “two-way prepositions” whose objects can be in the dative case – the first member of the pair – or in the accusative case – the second member of each pair. One often hears the dative compared to the indirect objective in English and the accusative to the direct object but as you will see below, these word pairs made me rethink the value of this analogy!

Okay, let’s look at some examples, courtesy of a page at the University of Michigan:

stehen, stand, gestanden – stellen, stellte, gestellt
(infinitive, 3rd pers. sing. preterite (simple past), past participle)

First look at the stem change: steh becomes stand when you conjugate stehen in the past tense. Then look at how stell keeps its form. Next look at the table below and notice the meaning difference between the two columns, the location verb is on the left (cyan/turquoise) and the movement or exercise verb is on the right (green).

Eine Mumie stand mitten in ihrem Wohnzimmer (dative: location). Sie stellte die Mumie (accusative: direct object) in die Ecke (accusative: motion).
A mummy stood in the middle of her living room. She put (stood) the mummy in the corner.

These examples also show the different cases that are triggered by the preposition in for the two members of the pair. You use in+dative for the location verb stehen and this is where the indirect object comparison breaks down. No one is receiving a living room as they would be if this were a traditional indirect object, as in for example, “She received a mummy from the British Museum.” You use in+accusative for the exercise verb stellen . Using the accusative for the object being moved fits the direct object (or patient role, to use the linguistic term) but one also uses the accusative for the place to which it is being moved, which is where the analogy with the direct object breaks down unless you want to say that the corner changes from a state of being empty to one of being full.

So, I hear you saying, while stehenstellen seems rather complex, at least you have the clue of two different verb stems. But what about the two forms of hängen? Let’s take a look!

hängen, hing, gehangen – hängen, hängte, gehängt
(infinitive, 3rd pers. sing. preterite (simple past), past participle)

This makes it look pretty easy, one must simply remember that for the location version of this verb, you make a stem change when you conjugate it in the past tense and for the exercise version, you don’t.

Der Kronleuchter hat im Keller (dative: location) gehangen. Wir haben den Kronleuchter (accusative: direct object) ins Wohnzimmer (accusative: motion) gehängt.
The chandelier was hanging in the basement. We hung the chandelier in the living room.

However, creating an example in the past tense conveniently hides the fact that in the present tense BOTH versions are conjugated in exactly the same way, for example in the 3rd pers, sing. both would be er/sie/es hängt. Thus you need to look at the other clues such as the case taken by any prepositional objects and how the verb fares on the “dined” test to make sure you have understood which meaning/verb is intended. Are those chandeliers swaying pretty violently or what?!

One last tidbit that I loved from this page was this explanation of the use of sitzen and sich setzen: “unlike the English “to set,” [sitzen and sich setzen] can only be used with things that have knees and can thus actually sit: people, dolls and puppets, and certain animals, but not, for example, worms, fish, or inanimate objects other than dolls and puppets.” [bold in original] I haven’t found any other sites that confirm this and thus I’d love to hear from native speakers: does this rule fit with your intuitive grasp of Deutsch/German? Meanwhile, I’ll be pondering which leg joints in the animal kingdom might safely be counted as knees!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

That’s just super

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

This famous first line begins with the comparison “best and worst” and goes on to weigh up “wisdom and foolishness,” “belief and incredulity,” “Light and Darkness,” “the spring of hope and the winter of despair,” “everything and nothing,” “Heaven and the other way,” and “good and evil.” What struck me on reading this anew is the fact that the nearly all of polarities Dickens presents are the not the traditional adjectives and adverbs one sees in textbook lists of opposites – although those are represented through “best” and “worst” – but instead are abstract nouns. Yet, he ends the sentence by mentioning the notion of “superlative,” a notion, along with “comparative,” that applies only to adjectives and adverbs and in most cases, at least for one-syllable words, involves morphological changes, for example “early, earlier, earliest” or the irregular “good-better-best.”

We are fascinated by superlatives, the Wikipedia has 251 lists of the biggest, the longest, etc., particularly in the US where it is quite easy to find a diner advertising “The World’s Best Coffee,” a roadside attraction that is the largest you-name-it and where we watch two teams play in the “Superbowl.”

While the people in German speaking countries might not make as many superlative claims, German does offer you a prefix, aller-, to express that something is “the X-est of all” or “the single most X.” One might call it the “superlative of superlatives!” Thus the Allergrößte is “the mother of all…” or “the biggest/greatest/largest of all.” The Allerschönste is “the most beautiful of all.” The Allererster is “the very first [ever]” (typically describing the first person to do something). With allermeisten you can say “the vast majority” in just one word. In addition, aller– is the only prefix that can be used to form adverbs from adverbs; lists six such words, three of which are allerbesten “the best of all,” allerfrühestens “at the very earliest” and allerwenigstens “at the very least.”

I also like this trio of words which give you a way to modify verbs: gernlieberam liebsten.

Ich höre gern Klassik – “I listen to classical music with pleasure”
Ich höre lieber Folk – “I prefer to listen to folk music” or “I get more pleasure when I listen to folk music”
Ich höre am liebsten Blues – “I get the most pleasure when I listen to Blues”

or, in other words, meine Lieblingsmusik ist Blues – “My favorite music is Blues!” I hope that one of your favorite things is reading about learning German on Earthquake Words.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Colorful Expressions

Outside there is a bit of blue sky, it is the first in about a week and it suggested the idea of doing a post on idiomatic expressions that use color words. And in honor of that bit of sky, I’ll start with expressions involving blue or blau.

The expression “blue sky” can refer to something creative but perhaps a touch impractical. translate the impractical version rather literally as nicht ausführbar – “not feasible/workable” – but the creative version, when combined with the word “thinking,” is translated as Schönwetterdenken – “nice weather thinking.”

The expression “once in a blue moon” refers to a rare event. offers several translations from the very literal ganz selten to the more poetic alle Jubeljahr (einmal)  – “(once) every Jubilee Year.” The English phrase “blue moon” has another meaning, the second full moon in a calendar month, which is indeed something quite rare, occurring only once every two or three years.

The expression “out of the blue” indicates something that takes you by surprise, something unexpected and thus is literally translated by as völlig unerwartet. The figurative option given is aus heiterem Himmel – literally “out of a bright sky” which I expect comes from the idea that seeing rain, or snow or lightning when the sky is blue is unexpected. And then there is a lovely phrase that literally means “the snow is coming in” – herein|schneien – which can be used to say that someone has “turned up out of the blue.”

Let’s turn now to German expression using blau that I discovered in this collection. The first is das Blaue vom Himmel [herunter]lügen – “to charm the birds out of the trees” or “to lie one’s head off” – and the second is related expression das Blaue vom Himmel versprechen – “to promise someone the earth/moon/everything under the sun.”

I found myself a little challenged by these phrases. Google translate puts das Blaue vom Himmel together to get “the moon” but the separate pieces mean “the blue” and “”from the sky/heavens.” I then went to to see if I could find sample sentences using these phrases as sometimes the context clarifies the dictionary entry. Although it didn’t help me to parse das Blaue vom Himmel, I did get a better idea of how these phrases are used.

• Here is a pair featuring “to lie one’s head off” or das Blaue vom Himmel runterlügen:
Die verarschen die Leute und halten keine ihrer Wahlversprechungen. Die lügen doch das Blaue vom Himmel runter.
“They are taking the piss out of the people and keeping none of their campaign promises. They are lying their heads off.” (Or perhaps “They are a bunch of lying bastards” if you want to take it up a notch in vulgarity.)

• Here is one that features “to promise someone the moon” or das Blaue vom Himmel versprechen:
Den bedrängten Auto-Arbeitern in Michigan hatte Mitt Romney das Blaue vom Himmel, zumal Protektionismus, versprochen.
” Mitt Romney has promised the beleaguered Michigan auto workers the moon in the form of protectionist trade barriers.”
(This is a great example of the importance of noticing the case marker – Den tells you that while they come at the beginning of the sentence, the auto workers are not the subject of the sentence – and of needing to wait until the end to know what verb is being used.)

A final phrase is sein blaues Wunder erleben – “to be in for a nasty surprise” or “to get the shock of one’s life.” While this is something that may happen if one chances to use a word or phrase incorrectly in a new language, it seems that just as often something wonderful happens!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sounds like

One of the challenging things with using a dictionary to help you understand another language is that you sometimes simply don’t get what you expected. For instance, when I was writing the post about unheimlich, I noticed that “sinister” was given as a meaning and figured that “sinisterly” (the adverbial form) was also one of its meanings. When I did a search for “sinisterly” on the results were quite a surprise. It was happy to offer me the word “sinister” (and its German translation sinister), but the adverbs it returned were “sisterly,” “masterly,” “easterly,” “westerly,” “bitterly,” “painterly,” and “gingerly.” Presumably, membership in this set is based on all of them sharing “-(st)erly” and “sisterly” came first because it has even more sounds in common with “sinisterly.”

It is true that in both English and German there are many words where a relationship in terms of sound also indicates a relationship based on meaning. However, this clearly isn’t the case for the pseudo-ending “-(st)erly.” That is “sini,” “si,” “ma,” “ea,” “we” and “ging” are not English roots, and while both “bit” and “pain” are, they are not the roots from which the words in which they appear above were formed (rather these are “bitter” and “paint”).

Interestingly, given that all of the words are adverbs ending in “‘ly,” if one examines the German translations, the similarities are much less sharp. Schwesterlichöstlich and westlich (“sisterly,” “easterly” and “westerly”) share –lich, but meisterhaft (masterly),  malermäßig (painterly) and behutsam (“gingerly” – in the sense of “gently”) all end in different suffixes –haft, –ig and –sam, and bitter (“bitterly”) has no suffix at all.

If you do the exercise in the reverse direction, using the final portion of unheimlich, specifically mlich, you get another interesting set of words which don’t happen share meanings beyond being adjectives/adverbs just as their –lich endings would predict: förmlich (“officially” or “formally”),  dümmlich (“simple-minded”), räumlich (“spatially” or “three-dimensionally”), ziemlich (“rather,” “almost” or “nearly”) and abkömmlich (“available”).

All of this was a great reminder that although there is no sinister plot designed to make learning another language harder, overlap between sound or word form and meaning can’t be taken as a given.

Tagged , , , , ,

Did you get it?!

Since I was a girl and read Bennett Cerf’s Book of Riddles alongside my grandmother Mimi, I’ve enjoyed all sorts of jokes involving wordplay. For example, poised between a chuckle and a groan is “Why do birds fly south?” Answer: “It’s too far to walk.” Today at the library I checked out Witzbuch für Kinder, a collection which contains jokes of a similar nature in German. I found myself taken back in time, and like poetry, I think the economy of language in jokes gives you a special insight to real-world or everyday word use (die Alltagssprache).

WARNING/VORSICHT! You may want to read the examples below in private just in case you let out a loud guffaw (eine Lachsalve or in ein Gelächter ausbrechen – “to erupt in laughter” – or wiehern – ” to bray with laughter” – or gackernd lachen – “to cackle” – or schallendes Gelächter – “peals of laugher”) and then have to explain yourself by telling one of these jokes…

Zwei Flöhe kommen aus dem Kino. Es regnet in Strömen. Was meinst du? fragt der eine Floh. Springen wir zu Fuß, oder nehmen wir uns einen Hund?

Two fleas come out of cinema. It’s pouring rain. “What do you reckon?,” asks the one flea. “Should we walk home (literally jump or leap by foot) or should we take a dog?”

Zwei Spatzen sitzen auf der Fernsehantenne. Sie schluchzt herzerweichend. Er versucht, sie zu beruhigen. Vergeblich. Schließlich schreit er ganz verzweifelt: «Nun glaub mir doch endlich! Ich bin nicht verheiratet. Der Ring ist von der Vogelwarte.»

Two sparrows are sitting on a TV antenna (hmm, a bit dated, that). She is sobbing inconsolably. He is trying to calm her down but in vain. Finally he cries out in despair: “You have to believe me! I’m not married. The ring is from The Audubon Society” (or The European Union for Bird Ringing).

While das Rätsel seems to be the most common translation for “riddle,” I prefer die Scherzfrage – “the question joke” or perhaps “the joke question.”  Now hold onto your hats, because here’s my attempt to have a bit of fun by creating a “question joke” in German.

Sf: Wo findet man die Deutschsprachigen Leute?
A: Meisten sind unter dem demselben D-A-CH.

Qj: Where do you find the German-speaking people?
A: Most are under the same roof.

For this to have a chance of being funny you need to know that the word for “roof” is das Dach and that the abbreviations for the three major German-speaking countries are Deutschland, Austria and Confoederatio Helvetica (Switzerland). Therefore while coming up with this pleased me to no end, I’m not going to be outselling Mr. Cerf anytime soon!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Today when I made a mistake and put on lip balm/salve before, rather than after, brushing my teeth, I shook my head and said to myself „Nein, Nein, Nein.“ Just then I realized that if overheard by a Brit, this exclamation could be taken either as something truly dire or something ironically exaggerated, because to get the emergency services one calls 999 (I started to write “one dials” and then was struck by how rarely this would literally describe the motion one would make in this age of smartphones). Yes, the sounds are a bit more clipped in the German version, but I would add “nine, nine, nine” and neinnein, nein to my list of English-German/Deutsch-Englisch false friends.

All this put me in mind of when I was taking Japanese back in the early ’80’s because we were taught a bit about word play involving numbers. This type of wordplay is based on the fact that the characters that name the digits 0-9 have three different spoken renderings. This page from Wikipedia gives a number of examples, including the numeral 23 being used as a race car number by Nissan since one rendering of these two digits is pronounced /ni-san/. And as you do, I started to think about how you might put the sounds of the German number names together in order to get something meaningful in English, and at once 69 – sechs nein– came into my head. The bad pun on “head” is fully intended, so here’s hoping no pun-loving and precocious children are reading, or, if they are, perhaps learning German just got a bit more exciting?!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Einen Versuch Machen

Oder kann man “ein Experiment machen” sagen.  Und dieser Versuch ist – Trommelwirbel, bitte – ich probiere schreiben dieses Blog auf Deutsch aus. Ja, du hast das richtig gehört. Ich muss Schreiben üben. Jetzt geht’s los – tut mir leid über mein mangelhaft Deutsch!

Heute in Dialog in Deutsch haben wir über den Schultag diskutiert. Nur unsere Gruppenleiter ist deutsch, deswegen wir über anderen Länder gehört haben. In China schuften die Kinder ab halb sieben bis zwölf und dann ab halb eins oder eins bis fünf. Nächste haben sie Abendessen zusammen mit ihre Mitschüler (oder Klassenkameraden) und dann lernen sie weiter, bis ungefähr halb zehn oder zehn. Sehr anstrengend! Die Chinesische Kinder mussen viele Ausdauer haben.

In Weißrussland haben die Kinder zwei oder drei Jahre von alle Wissenschaften wie Physik, Biologie und Chemie. Das klingt ja gut, ich lerne gern Wissenschaft.

Weil ich die Internet gern suchen, ich habe [Schule etymologie] gegoogelt (aus “googeln,” obwohl pons.ed hat “ergoogeln” gesagt). Der Eintrag von Wikipedia gibt eine Begriffsklärung:

Schule (lat. schola von griech. σχολή [skʰoˈlɛ:], „freie Zeit“) bezeichnet:

Aber ist Englisch oder Deutsch die Quelle von diesem Zettel? Es fühlt mir ein bisschen wie Englisch…

Endlich habe ich einen Ausdruck über Schule.
“aus der Schule plaudern” – to talk out of school (“plaudern” ist mehr wie chat oder natter oder gossip als talk)

Ich glaube, dass ich ohne versuchen witzig gewesen. Ich hoffe das stimmt! Bis zum nächsten Mal.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Week 7 Anniversary

Earthquakes make the ground tremble and according to Online Etymology, the word “terrible” comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *tres–  which means “to tremble.” What both earthquakes and trembling bring to mind for most of us is fear – think of the related word “terror” – thus, it can be rather confusing for people trying to learn English when they come across  the adverbial form of “terrible” – “terribly”-  as the former usually signals something negative and the latter something positive (think “terrific”).

“That was a terrible meal” VS. “That was a terribly good meal”

Similar issues arise with “awful” and “awfully,” which can be substituted above with no significant change to the meanings of these sentences. In both cases, the adverbial form has come to be used as an intensifier rather like “very” or “really.”

It turns out that there is at least one similar situation in German. Because German does not have a suffix like “-ly” to mark adverbial forms, disambiguating the two meanings/usages is perhaps even more confusing for a non-native speaker; one must rely on the surrounding words to get the correct sense. The word I’m thinking of here is unheimlich. As an adjective, says it means “terrible” or “eerie” or “sinister” or “gives you the creeps” and also “incredible” and “terrific.” As an adverb, the meaning given by is “incredibly” (or “eerily,” however this meaning is not given in the entry for unheimlich but only when you look up “eerily” itself).

Also note that unhelpful un at the beginning of unheimlich. This prefix usually signals negation as it does in English (you may recall unsichtbar from a previous post, meaning “not (or in-) visible”), thus increasing one’s tendency to believe this word has a negative connotation. However, appearances can be deceiving as heimlich also expresses something on the negative end of the spectrum, among the possibilities gives are: “furtive(ly),” “surreptitious(ly),” “secret,” “clandestine,” “steathily” and “covert(ly).” Using heimlich with a verb adds a sense of sneakiness or doing something on the QT, for example, “to elope” – heimlich heiraten, “to plot something in secret” – etwas heimlich planen.

There is a German expression that plays off this pair – Lieber heimlich schlau als unheimlich doof – which means something to the effect of “It is better to be brilliant and keep quiet about it than it is to be an obvious and loud-mouthed idiot” (I did like this effort to preserve the word play: “Better guardedly canny than uncannily stupid” – although I altered the last word as the original made me uncomfortable).

So here’s wishing you an awfully, terribly, tremendously, earth-shakingly, unheimlich good week!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Ray's Musings

Mostly Music Mixed With Miscellaneous Mayhem

virtuelles Migrationsmuseum

DOMiDs Blog zum Virtuellen Migrationsmuseum

Hamburg für Anfänger

Leben und (ver)lieben in Hamburg

Deutsch lernen mit Deutschlernerblog

Deutsch lernen - Hörverstehen, Leseverstehen, Wortschatz, Grammatik, Übungen, Prüfungen, Schreiben, Quiz, Musik, Videos, Bilder

a free state of mind

Thoughts from the Journey...

The Diversity Dividend

Doing Diversity Differently


Smart language learning

Leading with Trust

Leadership begins with trust.

Akademie für geile Texte

Lasst mich schreiben. Dann wird alles gut.

Idol Musings

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

The Elementalist Epoch

Stories and Poems from the mind of Tristan Nagler