Monthly Archives: August 2015

What’s all the flap about?

Yesterday I learned that the expression “to have blinders or blinkers on” can also be used in German – Scheuklappen aufhaben or Scheuklappen tragen or mit Scheuklappen herumlaufen – when one wants to describe someone as rather close-minded. According to an entry on http://www.redensarten-index.de/ the word has been used in this figurative manner since at least 1512 (albeit with older word Scheuleder).

The word die Scheuklappe is a combination of scheu – “timid,” or “skittish,” in the case of horses – and the “flap” meaning of die KlappeScheu is also found in the expression die Gäule scheu machen – “to upset the applecart.” The word die Klappe appears in the expression zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen – “to kill two birds with one stone.” Die Klappe is also part of the expression Halt die Klappe! – “shut your trap/gob” – which one might be tempted to shout at someone wearing those Scheuklappen.

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Bob the Bilder?

As I walked past a toy shop today and noticed a sign for Bob der Baumeister, who is called Bob the Builder in English. Now the English word “builder” /ˈbɪldəʳ  US,ˈbɪldɚ UK/ and the German word die Bilder /ˈbɪldɐ/ (“the pictures”) are pronounced and spelled similarly. Therefore to my ears the phrase die Bilder des Baumeisters – “the pictures of the builder” – sounds humorous.

In English we can say that someone has “built up a picture” of someone or something to mean that they have developed an impression or idea about this person or thing. While I couldn’t find a definitive answer, I believe that one could use the verb aufbauen to express this same notion in German as PONS includes examples of using this word when describing building up a new relationship, a new life, one’s stamina or strength. What I can definitively say, however, is that learning German has helped me to build all four of these things.

 

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