Tag Archives: stilted

Just Playing Around?

In the park near my apartment is a Kinderspielplatz (der). While this translates quite neatly to “children’s playground,” it seems a bit stilted to add the word “children’s” at the beginning. Yes, Atlantic City calls itself “America’s Playground” without intending to suggest it is a place only for children, however the typical image that comes to mind when someone says “playground” is of swings and slides and teeter-totters. Dict.cc has an entry for der Spielplatz – simply “playground” and also offers die Spielwiese – literally “play meadow or play grass” – and the lovely der Tummelplatz – “the romping [tummeln] place.”

The same dict.cc entry offers words for an indoor and an outdoor [play]ground, der Hallenplatz and der FreiplatzDer Hallenplatz is a bit strange – “a hall place” – although in British English we do have the collocation “sports hall.” But der Freiplatz feels awkward unless one already knows the word das Freibad – “outdoor swimming pool.” The “outdoor” or “open air” meaning of frei is quite a bit less common than the “free” or “available” meanings. For instance, one thing you learn pretty early on is to say »Ist dieser Platz frei?« when you mean “Is anyone sitting here?” and everyone is always on the lookout for events or objects that are frei in the sense of not costing anything (kostenlos). Using cannoo.net it became clear however that frei is a pretty productive adjective. I’ll leave you with just one example, der Freigang, which when paired with bekommen means “to be let out on parole.” Having finished this post, I will let myself out to play!

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Confounded, Compounded

immerfort – “constantly” or “evermore” or “continually” or “timelessly”
DWDS.de says that this is a »Zusammensetzung mit immer, fort« or a compound of immer and fort.

Let’s take the second part of the compound, fort, first. Confound 1: Fort as a German adverb has two basic meanings – “away” (weg) and “further” (weiter) and through the second of these two meanings fort can also mean “constantly” when used in the phrase in einem fort as in Gestern hat mein Handy in einem fort geklingelt – “Yesterday my mobile/cell rang non-stop.”  Given this, immerfort seems a bit redundant, one could just use immer although perhaps the meaning wouldn’t be as intense (or fort!). Confound 2Fort is also a cognate of the English word “fort” – “fortified building.” This comes from Latin via Old French, with the Latin fortis meaning “strong.” Due to this, I have an image of my phone in a fort (what first came to mind was Clifford’s Tower in York! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cliffords_Tower_York_UK.JPG) when I read the sample sentence using in einem fort. Perhaps I need to think about Clifford’s Tower being a constant in York for hundreds of years?!

The first part of the compound, immer, is both an adverb and a particle. As an adverb it has several meanings. The primary way I use it is to mean “always,” however it can also mean “each/every time.”  Further, it can be combined with wannwas, werwie, and wo to mean “whenever,” “whatever,” “whoever,” “however” and “wherever” (sometimes the form is wann auch immer, etc.). It can also be used with a comparative adverb or adjective to mean something like “more and more” or “increasingly” or “ever XYZer” – immer größer or immer mehr. Thus far, it’s pretty straightforward, the confounding comes with the fact that immer has three particle forms (DWDS.de refers to particles as ohne eigentliche Bedeutung – or basically without a meaning of their own and using them makes you sound like a real German speaker for this reason, see also http://www.goethe.de/ges/spa/siw/en6370073.htm).  First of all, immer can be used to intensify noch as in Ist Dieter denn immer noch nicht zurück? – “Is Dieter still not back?” Now something “still” being true is a bit like it “always” being true, but for me this use is confounding because the expectation seems to be that the events being talked about are sort of surprising because they are not expected to stay as they are for all time (e.g., Dieter is likely to arrive at some point!).

The second meaning of immer as a particle is to modify a modal verb such as “can” in the phrase so schnell du immer kannst – “as fast as you can.” Pons.eu translates this meaning as “possibly” which again has some overlap with “always” but is also inconsistent with it in that you can rely on something that “always” happens, not so with something that only “possibly” happens. The third meaning of immer as a particle seems easier to illustrate with some idiomatic phrases than to define, they are mainly informal “commands” of some sort:

immer langsam voran! – “take your time!” or “not so fast!”
immer mit der Ruhe! – “take it easy!” or “calm down!”
immer weiter – “carry on” or “go ahead”

Which leaves me to wonder, could we combine the second and third phrases above to get something like “Keep calm and carry on” which one seems to see constantly these days?!

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