Tag Archives: das Lied

Unfortunate songs?!

Tonight is one of my favorite kitsch classics – The Eurovision Song Contest – which puts me in mind of an error I made a few months ago when talking about this event. Instead of saying “songs” – die Lieder – I said *die Leider which, if it were a noun, would perhaps mean something like “the unfortunates” as the most common meaning of leider is “unfortunately.” Now this is an error that should only be common among people whose native tongue includes both “ei” and “ie” as vowel combinations and who have some idea of how the word “song” is spelled in German. In other words, I made this error as a result of mis-recalling how the word das Lied – “song” – is spelt, rather than mis-recalling how it sounds.

It is also possible that pushing me away from the correct spelling, and thus the correct pronunciation, is the English false friend “lied” which shares the spelling but neither the meaning nor the sound of das Lied. Or perhaps some interference was caused by the fact that we use “lied” in English to talk about a type of music, but keep the English pronunciation so that it matches the past tense for “to lie” (lügen – past participle gelogen)?! (You may know the “lied” as the “art song” – it is usually a poem on a romantic or pastoral theme that has been set to music: http://www.recmusic.org/lieder/.)

Of course, doing the research for today’s post also allowed me to discover something else new and wonderful, namely this blog about die Rechtschreibung (“correct spelling” but somehow also something more than that since this was the result of a planned to change to German in 1996) : http://woerter.germanblogs.de/archive/2012/09/23/es-tut-mir-leid-oder-es-tut-mir-leid-wie-schreibt-man-das-richtig.htm I have to say that I am impressed that someone would make a series of videos about spelling – Rechtschreib TV.

Not to be too critical of the Eurovision, as it is certainly a cultural phenomenon worth understanding – Abba got their start this way and Bonnie Tyler is performing this year’s British entry – if for no other reason than then one can say nil point with authority, but I have to think that there might be more value in watching a couple hours of Rechtschreib TV!

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The little word that could

I’ve been finding myself struggling with how many words seemed to be formed from the stem Zug. As a word on its own der Zug is most commonly used by new speakers like myself to mean “train” and this is also far and away the winner on dict.cc (1182 give this as the translation, the second most common translation, with 84 votes, is “tug” as in “he straightened the tablecloth with a little tug”).

The two examples giving me the most grief, because they seem so completely unrelated, both to each other and to der Zug, are der Anzug – “the suit” as in clothing – and der Aufzug – “the elevator/lift.”  It turns out that they are related, if you stretch that notion a bit, but not directly via der Zug.

Zug is very productive – canoo.net lists 241 forms – but neither der Anzug nor der Aufzug is among them. The –zug portion of all three forms comes from the verb ziehen – “to pull” (and also “to tug” making that connection back to der Zug). For those of you scratching your heads trying to see a connection between zieh and zug, it is via zog, one of the craziest past tense forms around (see my description of it and some of its buddies here in the post First Anniversary). Yup, you say ich ziehe and ich zog and all that changes is when the action happened!

Der Anzug was born when the prefix an was added to make anziehen whose meanings “to put on” or “to dress” best fit this context (apologies, unconscious punning in action). Likewise for der Aufzug, the prefix auf has been added to make aufziehen whose meanings “to raise” or “to bring up” are most relevant here. The nouns forms are created by converting the forms derived from these prefix + zog combinations by subjecting them to ablaut. Ablaut exists in both English and German and involves the signaling of a grammatical change by a change in vowel. For example, ablaut gets us from “sing” to “sang” to “sung” (and from singen to sang to gesungen) and also to the derived noun “song” (unfortunately, while der Song is a word and means “song,” what you will hear people say is das Lied).

Given how funny it must be for German speakers when I confuse der Anzug and der Aufzug, not to mention forgetting that gezogen is the past tense of ziehen, it is interesting to note that one meaning given for aufziehen is “to tease somebody” and another is “to hoist” – perhaps I should just laugh rather than allowing these forms to “wind me up?!”

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