Tag Archives: pun

Henkersmahl mit einem Laster geliefert?

Vor ein paar Jahren schrieb ich etwas über das Teekesselchen „der/das Laster“ und letzte Woche kam es gelegen. Ich ging ins Theater. Das Stück war eine Kriminal-Komödie, deswegen erwartete ich Wortspiele. Ich war nicht enttäuscht.

Eine Leiche eines Mannes lag auf dem Boden. Zwei Polizisten musterten die. Einer sage der andere »Vielleicht ist er an seinem Laster gestorben.« Der zweite Polizist runzelte die Stirn. Ein Lkw in einem Bürozimmer?!

Aber das war nicht nur ein Vergnügen, sonder auch eine Deutschstunde. Die Präposition an in Verbindung mit sterben verlangt den Dativ. Entgegen dem Nominativ und dem Akkusativ gibt es im Dativ keinen Unterschied zwischen den Wörtern der und das Laster. Die beiden sind von dem begleitet. Der Laster passt nicht dazu, aber dieses Wort ist viel häufiger als das Laster und deshalb fiel es dem Zuhörer zuerst ein. Tatsächlich hat der Mordopfer ein Laster, Weinbrand Bohnen, die jemand vergiftete. Also, er stirbt an seinem Laster!

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Messer, Gabel, Schere, Licht sind für deutsche Anfänger nicht!*

Heute morgen habe ich diesen Satz gelesen: »Aber warum weiter Versteck zu spielen?« Aber ich dachte, dass ich »Aber warum weiter Besteck zu spielen?« gelesen hat. Ja, die Umgebung dieser Geschichte ist ein Cafe und ich wusste noch nicht, die Redewendung »Versteck spielen,« aber trotzdem ist das komisch. Seltsam, weil »Be« und »Ver« nicht so ähnlich sind, und spaßhaft, weil spielen mit Besteck ein sonderbar Bild im Kopf bringt!

Nach Duden online »Versteck spielen« hat zwei Bedeutungen. Die erste ist ein Spiel für Kinder – hide and seek. Die zweite ist »Versteck [mit, vor jemandem] spielen (seine wahren Gedanken, Gefühle, Absichten [vor jemandem] verbergen)« –  to hide or disguise one’s true thoughts, feelings or intentions. Vielleicht, wenn man mit Besteck spielen, verbergt man seine wahren Appetite und Geschmäcke?!

 


*Der Löffel ist nicht dabei, aber er kann auch tödlich sein wie »den Löffel abgeben« – to kick the bucket.

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Zer-, sehr stark

»Wir sind unzertrennlich, irgendwie unsterblich« singt Helene Fischer in Atemlos durch die Nacht. Ich hatte dieses Wort »unzertrennlich« nie gehört, aber ich habe das sofort verstanden, weil ich das Wort »trennen« kenne und das Präfix »zer-« geläufig ist (z.B., »zerstören« was sieht man oft am Häuser hier in Hamburg). Mit dict.cc habe ich ein Paar andere Wörter gefunden. Alle sind ziemlich stark.

zerreißen – to tear, to shred, to rip to pieces und Zerrissenheit – disunity, strife, inner conflict

zerrütten – to subvert to ruinto wreck und Zerrüttung – breakdown (of a marriage), destructiondisintegration

zerschlagen – to smashto annihilateto shatter

Bei canoo.net http://www.canoo.net/services/WordformationRules/Derivation/To-V/Praefixe/zer.html?lang=de habe ich entdeckt, als ich habe gedacht, dass das Präfix »zer-« »auseinander oder kaputt« bedeutet. Daher die Überschrift, die mit dem Wort »sehr« und dem Präfix »zer-« spielt.

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Composing Word Play?

I’m working my way slowly through Anekdoten, Legenden und Sagen and today’s chapter concerned J.S. Bach. I was delighted to learn that Beethoven used a bit of wordplay to describe Bach that I think would delight a modern advertiser or marketeer:

»Nicht Bach – Meer soll er heißen, Meer

Ein Bach is “a stream” in addition to being the composer’s name, thus given what a “big” composer he was, his name ought to call out something equally big such as an “ocean” or ein Meer. Perhaps we should return the favor and upgrade Beet-hoven from his “patch” – das Beet – to at least a” field” and make him Ackerhoven!

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Sharp sheep

It is lovely when wordplay works in multiple languages:

Warum laufen Nasen, während Füße riechen?
“Why do noses run while feet smell?”
http://www.doheth.co.uk/funny/ponder

Archetyp: Noah
“Archetype: Noah”
http://www.gergey.com/wortspiel-woerterbuch/

And you feel a bit of a loss when it doesn’t:

Man braucht scharfe Scheren zum Schafe scheren.
“One needs sharp shears when one shears sheep.”
http://www.programmwechsel.de/wortspiele.html

“Sheep” and “sharp” are not a million miles apart in phonological terms, but they not nearly as close as Schafe and scharfe. In addition, while I’ve translated the German so that the noun and verb are both “shears,” this renders it a bit awkward and not really the sort of awkward that renders it funnier. So perhaps it would be closer to the feel of the original to say: “To spear sharks you need sharp spears?!”

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999

Today when I made a mistake and put on lip balm/salve before, rather than after, brushing my teeth, I shook my head and said to myself „Nein, Nein, Nein.“ Just then I realized that if overheard by a Brit, this exclamation could be taken either as something truly dire or something ironically exaggerated, because to get the emergency services one calls 999 (I started to write “one dials” and then was struck by how rarely this would literally describe the motion one would make in this age of smartphones). Yes, the sounds are a bit more clipped in the German version, but I would add “nine, nine, nine” and neinnein, nein to my list of English-German/Deutsch-Englisch false friends.

All this put me in mind of when I was taking Japanese back in the early ’80’s because we were taught a bit about word play involving numbers. This type of wordplay is based on the fact that the characters that name the digits 0-9 have three different spoken renderings. This page from Wikipedia gives a number of examples, including the numeral 23 being used as a race car number by Nissan since one rendering of these two digits is pronounced /ni-san/. And as you do, I started to think about how you might put the sounds of the German number names together in order to get something meaningful in English, and at once 69 – sechs nein– came into my head. The bad pun on “head” is fully intended, so here’s hoping no pun-loving and precocious children are reading, or, if they are, perhaps learning German just got a bit more exciting?!

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Are we related?

In one of my German language learning books there is an exercise that involves filling on a family tree (der Stammbaum – Oma, Opa, Mutter, Vater, Schwester, Bruder, Nichte, Neffe, Cousine, Cousin, Enkelkind) and while completing it, I noticed both how relationships between words in other languages may stand out in ways that they do not in our own and how we use relationship words to talk about languages.

The first ‘aha’ came from reflecting on:

die Verwandtschaft – die Verwandteverwandt
“relationship” – “relatives” – “related”

I was already familiar with die Verwandte from previous lessons but die Verwandtschaft – “relationship” or “kinship” or “affinity” or “relatives” – was new.  And as I looked at it, I had a blinding flash of the obvious, namely “relationship” is related (pun intended) to other words in English like “relative” and “related.” I had never really thought about how saying “I’m in a relationship” means in some sense “This person is my relative” because I guess I tend to see “relatives” as givens – you are born into them – and “relationships” as choices. This narrative makes sense as I grew up with my biological parents and my biological siblings around me. At the same time, as the child of divorced parents and a step-parent myself, I’m surprised by my own surprise when seeing the way these words form a family (yes, sorry, another pun).

Which brings me to the other thought that this Stammbaum exercise prompted, the use of kin terms to describe language.  We say that German and English come from the same “family.” We talk about our “mother tongue” or unsere Muttersprache. These metaphors feel normal and safe to English (and I’m going to guess German) speakers. What about the case where two languages don’t come from the same family, though?  Does this encourage us to see the speakers of those languages as more different or perhaps even less than, just as we might forgive something in a family member that wouldn’t be acceptable in an acquaintance? Could such metaphors engender the belief that we might not ever be able to understand each other because the relationship between speaking and thinking seems so tight?  Moreover, think about how language enforces power (think of Animal Farm or 1984): some mother tongues have been wiped out as speakers were prevented from using them, economic opportunities may be restricted to speakers of particular languages, exercising the right to vote may be made more difficult by creating literacy tests. Like in many families, the German-speaking context perhaps offers an example of how family members may also face particularly bad treatment – there is a close relationship between German and Yiddish

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