Monthly Archives: November 2015

That’s one for the books

As I was running yesterday, I noticed that the German words for “to publish” – veröffentlichen – and “public” (as an adjective) – öffentlich – are related. Which in turn made me realize that their English counterparts are also related. German also has the word publizieren for “to publish” as well as das Publikum for “audience” or “public” (used as a noun). According to Duden, these latter two are probably the result of an influx of Latin-based words into German from French and English.

I can recall having a conversation with a colleague about twenty years ago over publications in scientific journals – he argued that they really shouldn’t be considered published unless they found a public (that is they were cited by another author in one of her/his publications). I wonder what he’d make of the proliferation of blogs (like this one) or the myriad updates on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram through which so many of us seek to publish our thoughts? If they are without a public are they not really public?

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Mehr als Truthahn

Heute ist Thanksgiving in den Staaten. Ein riesiger Feiertag. Familien versammeln und essen normalerweise Truthahn, Stampfkartoffeln, Süßkartoffeln mit Marshmallows, Cranberrys und Kürbiskuchen. Wenn jemand keine Verwandten in der Nähe hat, bekommt man oft eine Einladung von Freunden, Kollegen oder ab und zu von fremden Leuten. Wir glauben, dass niemand an diesen Tag allein sein sollte. Warum? Weil der einer Tag ist, dass vor allem man seine Dankbarkeit ausdrückt. Und deshalb sagen die meisten am Anfang der Mahlzeit was sie dafür dankbar sind.

Wofür bin ich dankbar? Ich bin dankbar, dass ich eine richtige Wohnung habe. Ich muss nicht im Zelt oder in einer Unterkunft übernachten, wie die Obdachlose oder die Flüchtlinge. Ich bin dankbar, dass ich freiwillig in Deutschland lebe. Das war meine Entscheidung und ich habe das nicht im Not beschlossen. Ich bin auch dankbar, dass es bei Dialog in Deutsch und Meetup so viele Möglichkeiten mit Menschen aus der ganzen Welt zu treffen gibt. Dass ich diese Gelegenheiten ergriff, bin ich hier mit so vielen Leuten befreundet. Natürlich habe ich noch Sehnsucht nach meiner Familie und Heimat, aber nach drei Jahren fühle ich mich auch in Hamburg Zuhause.

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Pull out all the stops

At first blush the German words der Korkenzieher – “corkscrew” – and der Erzieher – “educator” – would seem to have little in common other than their spellings. But break them down into their parts and there is an interesting connection: they both have to do with bringing something up. In the corkscrew case, that something is a cork and the “bringing up” is quite concrete. In the educator case, that something is a child or children and the “bringing up” refers to the more abstract notion of “raising” the children to a higher level – be it intellectual, social, emotional, physical, behavioral, etc.

Here are two things I like about this connection. First, when you think about educating as being like using a corkscrew, it implies that development is unlikely to be linear. There will be twists and turns and you will come to the same place repeatedly, but as you grow, you navigate this place with a greater level of skill or ease.

Second, imagine a sommelier wielding a corkscrew, ready to open a bottle of wine. The wine is presented to the customer with respect. Time is taken to look, smell and taste (and even to describe the “feel” in the mouth); to consider and then detail its stellar and signature qualities. The process is seen as important because the contents are important. What if educators wielded their tools to make the learning process one that respected all learners? If educators were given the time to discern in all pupils their distinctive and special talents? If there was a focus both on what there was to learn and on how students might learn it best? Who knows what rare vintages we could uncover?!

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Anything for a quiet night?

I learned the word stillen over a year ago when a participant in Dialog in Deutsch wondered how to ask if it was okay if she breastfed her baby, which she wanted to do while we were meeting. Stillen came up again a few weeks ago but in the context of assuaging the longing for home or for travel – Heimweh stillen or Fernweh stillen. Hearing these more abstract uses of stillen made me wonder what else could be “stilled.”

It turned out to be an interesting list. Stillen can be used to mean:

  • “to allay/appease one’s hunger” – seinen Hunger stillen
  • “to assuage the appetite” – den Appetit stillen
  • “to staunch/arrest bleeding” – die Blutung stillen
  • “to ease the pain” – die Schmerzen stillen
  • “to satisfy curiosity” – Neugierde stillen

In addition, DWDS.DE offers the following words and phrases found co-located with stillen in their corpus:

  • “need” – das Bedürfnis
  • “ambition ” – der Ehrgeiz
  • “demand” – die Nachfrage
  • “yearning/longing” – die Sehnsucht
  • “desire” – das Verlangen
  • “thirst for knowledge” – der Wissensdurst
  • “for acceptance/recognition” – nach Anerkennung
  • “for justice” – nach Gerechtigkeit
  • “for revenge” – nach Rache
  • “for sensation” – nach Sensationen

“To quench one’s thirst” can be expressed with seinen Durst stillen. With the English word “quench” I began to think about raging fires or hot metal needing to be cooled. The German word for the situation where you are cooling hot metal is a lovely one: abschrecken. Yes, that base word is schrecken which as a noun – der Schrecken – means “terror” or “fright” or “horror.” Not words that come to mind in the context of nursing a baby.

This connection with fear made me curious if there was also a parallel for the English expression “to nurse a grievance.”  It turns out that German uses a different verb to capture this notion, hegen – “to cherish” but also “to nourish” or “to harbor” – and the expression is gegen jemanden einen Groll hegen. also translates this as “to bear a grudge” which somehow felt right to me since in the case of nursing a child it is typically one that you bore.


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