Tag Archives: prefixes

Please be upstanding and raise your glasses to language

I can’t stand him.

Ich stehe auf ihn.

These two idioms using the word “stand” or stehen communicate very different feelings about another person. In the English case, if you can “stand” someone, then you can bear to be with her/him, although you probably aren’t particularly keen on this person. If you “can’t stand” someone, you really don’t like her/him and/or cannot bear to be with him/her. In the case of the German colloquial expression auf jemanden stehen, you are “keen on” someone or you “have a crush on” him/her, “a thing for” her/him, you are “into” him/her or you “fancy” her/him. In addition to sharing your likes or dislikes of other people, both expressions can also be used to describe feelings about the things you don’t much like (English) or like very much (German).

Both stehen and “stand” seem to be pretty productive. In German this productivity is found in the compound words made from stehen or its relatives. Standhalten — stand is a relative of stehen —  means that you can “bear up under the pressure” (den Druck standhalten), “hold your own” (wacker standhalten) or that your ideas can ”withstand” scrutiny (einer genauen Untersuchung standhalten). Stehen also appears in the prefixed verbs ausstehendurchstehen and überstehen, all of which have to do with “bearing, enduring, withstanding, weathering or surviving” something.

In the case of English, the productivity flows from collocations between “stand” and prepositions and the idiomatic uses of the verb. Thus, you are not likely to “stand up for” someone (einstehenentreten, verteidigen) you can’t stand, nor would you be willing to “stand” this person a drink (spendieren), you probably don’t like what they “stand for” (für etwas stehen) and there is quite possibly something that “stands between you” (≈dazwischenstehen), making it difficult for you to get along. And I must confess (gestehen) that I giggled at the possible confusion that might ensue from the sample usage given in the Cambridge dictionary’s definition of the idiom “to stand on ceremony” (to behave in a formal way) because the literal and figurative meanings of “stand” both appear to be relevant  — “Please sit down and make yourself comfortable, we don’t stand on ceremony here.” I guess they don’t want to leave their learners “upstanding.”

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Close encounters of the etymological kind

I talk a lot here about encountering new words and expressions in the course of learning German, but I hadn’t thought much about the English word “encounter” itself until starting to use the German word begegnen to describe my encounters with new words. According to Duden Online, the word begegnen has its origins in Old High German and is related to the word gegen – “against.” According to Google, the word “encounter” has its origins in the Latin word “contra.”  Both Gegen and “counter” can be used as prefixes with the meaning “against” as in words like “counterattack” – Gegenschlag – or “counterbalance” – Gegengewicht.

Imagining my encounters with German in terms of coming up “against” something has a certain amount of resonance for me. A German word, even when it has a nearly one-to-one correspondence to a word in English, can make me feel like I am swimming against the tide as I try to learn it. Happily, the satisfaction I get from learning something new nearly always “counteracts” this and gives me renewed energy for a “counteroffensive.”

 

 

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All present and accounted for?

Lernkrimis (special mystery stories for German language learners aimed at particular levels in the European Standard Framework for Languages) continue to be a good source of new vocabulary. I already knew the words das Wesen (the “being” or “creature”) from the Nelly Rapp Monsteragentin series by Martin Widmark and die Anwesenheit (“presence” or “attendance”) and anwesend (“present”) from Dialog in Deutsch, however the story »Hits, Hits, Hits« in Tatort St Pauli introduced me to die Abwesenheit (absence).

This triggered two things for me. The first had to do with German. In this post on going up and down stairs, I wrote about the prefix ab- and how it often signals movement away from something. In the case of die Abwesenheit, someone or something has moved so far away as to no longer be “present.” Thanks, Tatort St Paul, for providing further support for this meaning of the prefix.

The second thought was about the words “being,” “present,” “absent,” “presence,” and “absence” in English. The relationship between “being” and the remaining words isn’t obvious and yet we can talk about “sensing a presence” and mean that we are aware of another “being.” In addition, to be “present,” one must orient her/his “being” to the events currently taking place (in the “present” or “here and now” – die Gegenwart) and the other “beings” who are also “present.”

Noticing the Wesen within Abwesenheit also led me to reflect on how we might conceive of our “being” as something that has been “sent” into the world with a particular purpose to fulfill, if only we could be “present” to that purpose. Perhaps we can only become “a presence to be reckoned with” when we tap into this aspect of our “being” and are “present” and “attending to” our true selves?

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Liebe auf den zigsten Blick?

Letzter Donnerstag beschrieb ich, wie ich PONS den Laufpass gab. Aber dieser Donnerstag bin ich mich mal wieder verliebe, weil ich ihres »Deutsche Grammatik & Rechtschreibung« fand. Mein Vertrauen in PONS wiederherstellte, hätte ich nun die Energie, um einen Beschwerdebrief über »Grammatik in Bildern« zu schreiben. Bleiben Sie dran!

 

 


Noch ein paar Beispiele von diesem schrecklichen PONS Bilderbuch:

Es gibt nur »Die Ableitungen mit trennbaren Präfixen« (S. 140) und »Die Ableitungen mit trennbaren Präfixen« (S. 142-143). Keine von den, dass trennbar und untrennbar sein, nämlich (laut canoo.net) durch, über, um, unter, wider.

»Die Ableitung mit Suffixen« (S. 144- 147 fehlt fünfte der Häufigsten -heit, -(ig)keit, -ei, -schaft und -ung.

 

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