Monthly Archives: July 2013

Abandoned in translation

Here’s how google translated hansestadt (yes, I know it should be capitalized but this is how it was written in the piece I wanted to check): “dumbbell.”  Now pons.eu tells me that “dumbbell” in the sense of “weight” should be die Hantel and der Dummkopf in the sense of, well, “dummkopf,” which entered English through channels such as Hogan’s Heroes. It does list “Hanseatic City” as well, but only when you click on, or should I say ring, dumbbell…

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Through a glass, starkly

One of the phrases from today’s Phrasen des Tages was um es ganz offen zu sagen – “to put it bluntly.” On double checking this meaning on dict.cc, I discovered that there is another quite similar phrase Um ganz offen zu sein… – “To be perfectly candid…” And to be perfectly candid, these phrases struck me funny, as much of the time it feels as though one cannot avoid being rather blunt when speaking German. For example, if you want to say something “smells,” you can use the word riechen. Now, this just happens to sound quite a bit like a much stronger word in English “reeks” and indeed dict.cc offers “reek” as one of the possible meanings of riechen.

riechen
to smell 1241
to scent  204
to reek      90
to nose       8

Then there is weinen “to weep” which happens to sound quite a bit like “to whine” in English, although this doesn’t happen to be one of its possible meanings at least as far as I can tell.

weinen
to weep  626
to cry      364
to bawl     21

The word stark is another example.

stark
strong     1186
vigorous   365
severe       295
powerful  208

With it being a cognate for the English word “stark” it brings along with it some of those strong associations (pun fully intended).

German, like the Devil said to the Hunter who offered him a puff from his gun after calling it a pipe, it’s starker Tobak – “strong stuff!”

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