Tag Archives: ent-

Negative growth?

Since fostering growth is a key part of what I do professionally, I learned the words die Entwicklung and entwickeln – “development” and “to develop” soon after I moved to Germany. What I didn’t notice until this morning is that in both languages the words for “development” are prefixed with something that typically indicates a negation of the meaning of the stem. For instance, this is the definition of “de-” from the Cambridge dictionary: “used to add the meaning ‘opposite’, ‘remove’, or ‘reduce’ to a noun or verb.” Duden offers a number of meaning for ent- : “something is undone or returned to its original state, the removal or displacement of something, or taking something away.” The German Language page of about.com relates it to the English prefixes “de-” and “dis-” and gives its meaning as “away from.”

Now “*velop” appears in both “develop” and “envelop” but it is not currently a standalone word with a meaning that can be negated (Google gives the etymology as arising from Latin “dis- ‘un-’ + a second element of unknown origin found also in envelop,” which became the French word développer – “to unfold, unfurl). Wickeln, on the other hand, is a standalone word with the meaning, according to Pons, “to wrap something around something” and colloquially “to change a baby’s diaper.” This is a rather productive stem with one word from the family, einwickeln, being one possible translation for “to envelop.”

When I think about development or die Entwicklung now, I will pay even more attention to how it must involve paring away and replacement rather than simply accretion of the new.

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Let’s Meet That Decision Head On

When I first moved the UK I needed to learn that one can “make” or “take” a decision and today I learned that in German one can “meet” – eine Entscheidung treffen – or  “chop down/fell” (okay probably “reach” is the more reasonable translation) – eine Entscheidung fällen – a decision; or zu einer Entscheidung kommen – “to make up one’s mind” or “come to a decision.” The term “decision-making” can be rendered as die Entscheidungsfindung – more literally a combination of “decision” and “finding.” There is even a way to discuss more formal decisions such as the decrees or resolutions made by a government body or a court – einen Beschlüsse fassen. Moreover, there are a number of collocations using the word der Entschluss*:

plötzlicher Entschluss – “sudden resolve”
spontaner Entschluss –
 “off the cuff, spur of the moment or snap decision” (the last one can also be schneller)
ein vorschneller Entschluss – “a hasty decision”
Mein Entschluss steht (fest/bombenfest) – “My mind is made up”
seinem Entschluss treu bleiben – “to stick/remain true to one’s decision”

So, no “taking” or “making” for us here in Germany, although we can still be “coming” to our decisions which is perhaps another way of saying that we are “meeting” them!?

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* Like die Entscheidung, der Entschluss begins with the prefix ent- – and no, it isn’t “Ear, Nose, Throat,” that’s HNO, Hals, Nase, Ohren. See the following page for more info on this prefix: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~german/Grammatik/Wortbildung/Inseparables.html#ent)

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