Tag Archives: stress


Heute habe ich eine B2B Messe besucht. Eine Freundin von mir hat einen Vortrag über Stress gehalten. Sie sagte uns, »Was oder wer macht Stress?« Eine Frau sagte, »Entscheidungen treffen.« Eine andere, »zu viel Termine.« Und ein Mann sagte, »drohender Schaden.« Schließlich eine andere Freundin von mir sagte, »Ohnmacht.« Dieses letztes Wort habe ich niemals gehört. Ich dachte nach, was das Wort wohl bedeutenmöge. »Ohn« sieht wie »ohne« aus und »macht« ist eine Form von »machen.«

Also dann, meine Freundin hat mir erst einmal gesagt, “literally, unconsious but in this case something more akin to powerlessness.” Nun habe ich das Wort bei dict.cc nachgelesen. Der erste Eintrag ist faint, danach faintingswoon, blackoutpalsy und syncope (alle hat die Auszeichnung der Begriffe als Medizin). Dann kommt powerlessness und impotence. Interessant ist dass, das Wort mit diesen letzten zwei Bedeutungen kein Plural und kein Artikel hat. Die Medizinbedeutungen Wörter nehmen »die.«

Wann man sich der Ohnmacht nahe fühlt, hat man auch Stress? Und wenn man sein Selbstbewusstsein nur schwach sehen kann, kommt dann auch Stress, oder?

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Uh-Oh, a Stop!

I was very happy when I finally had my residence permit, die Aufenthaltserlaubnis, so happy in fact that I was telling everyone and in doing so, getting some strange looks (well, more strange than I usually get when I am attempting to speak German). I realized quickly that the problem was where I was breaking this word up into syllables. The correct break, so that the different pieces that make up this compound word stay intact, is like this (the • indicate the breaks between syllables):


But I was breaking it like this:


Now there are two things that happen when you change the breaks in die Aufenthaltserlaubnis. The first is as mentioned, the integrity of the words forming the compound is compromised, there is no word or stem *serlaubnis. The second issue is with the pronunciation. If you are trying to say *serlaubnis, you begin with a /z/ and if you are trying to say halts, you finish with an /s/.

A second word that threw me off in terms of syllabification is the verb sich beeilen – to hurry (oneself). Was I to put the second e with the first e or with the i or was this a new vowel sound composed of all three? The answer is that you put the second  e with the i and add a glottal stop (the sound you make when you say “uh-oh” or  include all over the place if you speak certain British dialects) to make doubly sure your listener knows where the boundary falls, indicated here by underlining the vowel that is preceded by the glottal sto:p sich beeilen. This is in part because eilen is itself a verb that means “to hurry” or that something “is urgent” and thus be– is a prefix. The glottal stop (der Stimmritzenverschlusslaut) also is used because it commonly precedes vowels when they are the first letter of a word or a stressed syllable. In the one piece of linguistic research I looked at on this point, there is evidence the you see a glottal stop most often with a content word (rather than a function word(, when the initial vowel is stressed (rather than unstressed) and with a slow speech rate. Thus many native speakers of German may be unaware of them popping up regularly in speech – one example those of you who are native speakers might try is der Arm (“arm”) and arm (“poor”), in the former the tendency is to begin with a glottal stop.

In some cases, the presence of a glottal stop affects the meaning, compare these two verbs which you can hear pronounced at this site:

vereisenDie Scheibe vereist schnell “The window pane gets icy quickly”

verreisenEr verreist morgen nach Polen “He travels to Poland tomorrow”

In the first case the prefix ver– has been added to the noun das Eis and then the new form is converted to a verb (according to Canoo this is a fairly common word formation process and so likely deserves a post all its own at some point). Verreisen is formed from adding the prefix ver– to the verb reisen. Using the glottal stop helps to indicate that the break is between the ver and eisen. Not to include it would be a bit like my combining the s from halts with Erlaubnis.

With that return to where we started, thus beendet this post!

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Does that ring a bell?

Meet das Handy – the German word for “mobile phone” or “cell phone.” It’s a false friend. One that makes me shake my head. First of all, in English “handy” is an adjective and that das and the capital “H” indicate that the German Handy is a noun. This means it behaves like “candy” or “party,” neither of which make sense when broken down into “stem + y” the way an adjective with this form would (even if, as in the case of “hand + y,” the derivation feels a bit forced). The fact that it is a noun in German also means it has a plural form, in this case it is one on the ones that was affected by spelling reform (more on this in future posts) – previously, you could write die Handies but now you have to write die Handys.

Next, although we do have the word “handset” in the world of communication devices, the word  “handy” doesn’t bring to mind “handset” or even “hand held,” it brings to mind “useful” or “nice to have” or “convenient.” Yes, a phone that you can take with you is certainly “handy” but then so are so many things, for instance, the pocket tissues called “Handy-Andies.”

Finally, there is the issue of pronunciation. I want to say Handy the way I would say “handy” but that could get me looks almost as odd as if I asked for someone’s “*Handy number” in the US.  Das Handy is [ˈhɛndi] and “handy” is [ˈhændi]. Thank goodness that the stress is on the same syllable at least, which cannot be said for Psychologie and “psychology” or Autorin and “author,” both of which I regularly stumble over when I try to talk about my professional life in German.

Perhaps I should simply relax and take Handy as a back-handed compliment about the versatility of English?!

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