Monthly Archives: January 2015

Something wickedly clever this way slinks

Shouldn’t Schlauch and schlau be related? And indeed it turns out that, as unlikely as it first seems, according to Duden online, both der Schlauch – “the hose” – and schlau – “smart” or “shrewd” – are related to schlüpfen – “to slip” or “to hatch” or “to emerge.” The specific forms appear have different origins, however. Der Schlauch comes from Middle High German and is related to die Hülle – which seems to make the most sense translated as “the hull” or “the shell” – and schlau comes from Low German and is related to schleichend –  the past participle of “to prowl” or “to slink” or “to crawl” and also, as an adjective, “insidious.” Who knows, this latter relationship might have a role to play in the phrase auf leisen Sohlen schleichend – “sure-footed?!”

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Are you on or are you in?

auf dem Dachboden – “in the attic”

im ersten Stock – “on the first floor”

I’d never have thought about this difference if I hadn’t been asked whether you say “on” or “in” the attic. In English it would appear that “the attic” is thought of as something other than a floor of the house. For example, in English one says, “I’ll leave the box in the kitchen” and “I’ll leave the box on the second floor” with the preposition perhaps signaling that “the attic” is seen as more like a room in the house than a separate floor. In German, although there is a distinction between the expression involving der Dachboden and the expression involving der erste Stock in terms of the prepositions used, there is also the option of a parallel construction with aufˆ using the word die Etage. It’s enough to leave you bats with in your belfry (einen Vogel oder Dachschaden haben)!

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