Monthly Archives: October 2013

Come on in, we’ve got air-condition

I’m visiting Prague this week and have been enjoying wandering around the city. I have run across a lot of German speakers and many of the restaurants have signs in German to lure in potential customers, thus in some ways it feels very much like home.  What I was also noticing was how many places were advertising air-condition. When I first saw this painted on the window at Les Moules, I photographed it, thinking it was a typo (what do you say when something wasn’t typed?!). However, closer inspection of additional restaurant windows revealed that air-condition is the Czech word for “air-conditioning.” Not quite as confusing as a “photo shoot” being called a Shooting or a “photographer” being called a Fotograf/in in German, but still enough to amuse me with thoughts of what the condition of the air is inside these spots!

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Confounded, Compounded

immerfort – “constantly” or “evermore” or “continually” or “timelessly” says that this is a »Zusammensetzung mit immer, fort« or a compound of immer and fort.

Let’s take the second part of the compound, fort, first. Confound 1: Fort as a German adverb has two basic meanings – “away” (weg) and “further” (weiter) and through the second of these two meanings fort can also mean “constantly” when used in the phrase in einem fort as in Gestern hat mein Handy in einem fort geklingelt – “Yesterday my mobile/cell rang non-stop.”  Given this, immerfort seems a bit redundant, one could just use immer although perhaps the meaning wouldn’t be as intense (or fort!). Confound 2Fort is also a cognate of the English word “fort” – “fortified building.” This comes from Latin via Old French, with the Latin fortis meaning “strong.” Due to this, I have an image of my phone in a fort (what first came to mind was Clifford’s Tower in York! when I read the sample sentence using in einem fort. Perhaps I need to think about Clifford’s Tower being a constant in York for hundreds of years?!

The first part of the compound, immer, is both an adverb and a particle. As an adverb it has several meanings. The primary way I use it is to mean “always,” however it can also mean “each/every time.”  Further, it can be combined with wannwas, werwie, and wo to mean “whenever,” “whatever,” “whoever,” “however” and “wherever” (sometimes the form is wann auch immer, etc.). It can also be used with a comparative adverb or adjective to mean something like “more and more” or “increasingly” or “ever XYZer” – immer größer or immer mehr. Thus far, it’s pretty straightforward, the confounding comes with the fact that immer has three particle forms ( refers to particles as ohne eigentliche Bedeutung – or basically without a meaning of their own and using them makes you sound like a real German speaker for this reason, see also  First of all, immer can be used to intensify noch as in Ist Dieter denn immer noch nicht zurück? – “Is Dieter still not back?” Now something “still” being true is a bit like it “always” being true, but for me this use is confounding because the expectation seems to be that the events being talked about are sort of surprising because they are not expected to stay as they are for all time (e.g., Dieter is likely to arrive at some point!).

The second meaning of immer as a particle is to modify a modal verb such as “can” in the phrase so schnell du immer kannst – “as fast as you can.” translates this meaning as “possibly” which again has some overlap with “always” but is also inconsistent with it in that you can rely on something that “always” happens, not so with something that only “possibly” happens. The third meaning of immer as a particle seems easier to illustrate with some idiomatic phrases than to define, they are mainly informal “commands” of some sort:

immer langsam voran! – “take your time!” or “not so fast!”
immer mit der Ruhe! – “take it easy!” or “calm down!”
immer weiter – “carry on” or “go ahead”

Which leaves me to wonder, could we combine the second and third phrases above to get something like “Keep calm and carry on” which one seems to see constantly these days?!

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That sceptred isle

I have been enjoying this post from the Lynneguist on words that are untranslatable between British and American English (nominate your favorites!):

Reading it made me wonder, can one lie back and think of England for England?

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Dance your way to fluency

I’ve just come back from my Irish Set Dance group. Set dances are called by someone and here in Hamburg we use a mix of English and German. The step names are mostly in English – I’m not sure that there any books that explain the steps in another language – but there are moves where German is used. So you might here »Ladies Chain und  dann umdrehen« meaning “Ladies Chain and then turn around” or »Ein halves House«  – “Half a House” –  which is particularly interesting because of the inflected form of the word halb to match the German word for “house” – das Haus. One also learns words like schwindelig – “dizzy” (from all of that umdrehen) – and die Pause – “the short break” – that aren’t dance specific.

But probably most importantly, I think that dancing acts a little like alcohol is meant to, it relaxes you and you are more willing to give German a try. It helps too that you laugh when steps get screwed up, at least in my wonderful group, because laughter is a great learning accelerator!

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Elbow room

Today’s post is inspired by comments on Facebook by Herr Doktor Language Maven David Dunning whose use of the word Ellbogen prompted me to wonder about “bow” words in English and Bogen words in German.

In English we have “elbow,” “rainbow,” “crossbow” and the proper name “Strongbow” for a brand of alcoholic cider, as well as “bow-legged” and “bow-hunting.” There are also phrases with the word “bow” such as “hair bow” or “Cupid’s Bow.” These all derive from the “arc” or “arch” or “curve” meaning of “bow” – whose pronunciation /boʊ/ – rhymes with “glow” – rather than from its homographic sibling “bow” /baʊ/ which rhymes with “cow” (given it’s shape, it is a bit of a surprise that the front of a ship is a /baʊ/ instead of a  /boʊ/ but according to it comes from the “Old Norse bogr or Middle Dutch boech ‘bow of a ship,’ literally ‘shoulder (of an animal),’ the connecting notion being ‘the shoulders of the ship.’ ”

In German we have der Regenbogen – “rainbow” – and the aforementioned der Ellbogen – “elbow” – and we also have der Augenbrauenbogen – “the curve of the eyebrow” and other words that fit the English model. There is another, non-parallel, meaning for Bogen – “sheet” – as in the word der Ausschneidebogen – “the sheet of cardboard cutouts” – or der Briefmarkenbogen – “sheet of postage stamps.” Most intriguing to me, though, are a family of idioms using Bogen, namely:

den Bogen raushaben – “to know the ropes” [I couldn’t find an independent meaning for raushaben]
den Bogen überspannen – “to overdo things” or “to overstep the mark” [to straddle]
bei etwas den Bogen herausbekommen” – “to get the hang of something” [from something, to glean]
jemanden in hohem Bogen hinauswerfen – “to throw someone out on her/his ear” [someone, high arc, to throw out]
um jemanden/etwas einen [weiten/großen] Bogen machen “to steer clear of someone/something” or “to give someone or something a wide berth” [around someone/thing, wide/large arc, to make]
plötzliches Erbrechen in hohem Bogen – “projectile vomiting”
etwas in Bausch und Bogen ablehnen/zurückweisen – “to reject something completely” [wad, to refuse/to reject]

Finally, the title of this post, “Elbow Room,” can be translated in three ways. tells me that the first translation means “space to move” – die Ellbogenfreheit (literally “elbow freedom/liberty/privilege”). The second and third are figurative uses meaning “freedom of action” – die Bewegungsfreiheit (literally “movement freedom/liberty/privilege”) and der Spielraum (literally play + room/space, and properly translated as “leeway” or “scope” or “latitude” or “flexibility” ). Perhaps their lack of a Bogen is a signal for this more abstract meaning, although I must say that on reflection, room for one’s elbow(s) doesn’t offer all that much room…

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Gestern bin ich zurück nach Deutschland geflogen.  Ich habe sofort bemerkt, dass bei uns hier in Deutschland mehr Grüße als in den USA haben. Zum Beispiel, verabschiedete man sich erstmal mit »schönen Tag,« »schönes Wochenende« oder »Bis später« und dann mit »Tschüss« oder »Ciao.« Und bedenken das Wort »sich verabschieden.« Auf English müssen wir sagen to say goodbye oder to bid someone goodbye oder to make one’s farewells, es gibt kein bestimmtes Wort.  (Obwohl viele Sprachlehrbücher meinen, dass man »auf wiedersehen« sagen kann, ich habe das fast nie gehört.) »Abschieds-« ist sehr produktiv, gibt 38 Einträge, z.B.:

»Abschiedsansprache« – farewell address
»die Abschiedsbemerkung« – parting observation
»der Abschiedsblick« – parting look
»der Abschiedsbrief« – farewell noteDear John lettersuicide note
»das Abschiedsgesuch« – resignation (sein Abschiedsgesuch einreichen – to tender your resignation)
»das Abschiedsessen« – farewell dinner
»das Abschiedsmahl« – The Last Supper
»die Abschiedssaison« – farewell season
»der Abschiedssschmerz« – pain of parting
»die Abschiedsstimmung« – farewell/parting mood

Also, obwohl es war sehr schwer, verabschieden meine Freunden in den USA, jetzt kann ich »Hallo« zu den vielen deutschen Grüße sagen!

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Partei on, Wayne

I’ve been starting to think about Halloween and in crafting a note to share my excitement with a friend I managed to write eine Halloween Partei rather than eine Halloween Party. This didn’t strike me until hours after i’d sent the, likely because we have just the one word in English for both the political “party” and the celebratory “party” – in fact on election night you might attend a Republican or Democratic Party party.

In looking up the word die Party on, I was reminded of the variety of options in German – die Feierdas Festdie Einladung and die Gesellschaft are pretty standard – but what struck me was how, like in English, there are names for many specific types of celebrations.

“Bachelor party” – die Junggesellenabschiedsfeier
“Beach party” – das Strandfest
“Birthday party” – das Geburtstagfest
, die Geburtstagfeier, die Geburtstagparty
“Block party” – das Stadteilfestdas Straßenfest
“Coffee party” or “Hen party” – das Kaffeekränzchen
“Dinner party” – das Diner (another chance for me to get confused given this is a type of restaurant in English)
“Going away party” – die Abschiedsfeier/fest/party
“Funeral party/meal” – der Leichenschmaus, die Trauergesellschaft
“Housewarming party” – die Einweihungsparty, das Einzugsfest
“Office party” – das Betriebsfest, die Bürofete, die Büroparty
“Party animal” – der Partylöwe (male), die Partymaus (female)

And particularly important where Halloween is concerned, das Kostümfest. Without one on, you could be considered der Partymuffel or die Spaßbremse!

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