Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fun with German!

A Spanish teacher I used to work with used to say that a lot of German words sounded like swear words. His example was “Schneeflocken.” (snowflakes) I maintain that German is a beautiful language but, yes, if you say Schneeflocken with a bad American accent, it’s clunky.

A word I’ve been thinking about lately is “Mehrwegflaschen” (more-way-bottles, or multiple use bottles). One of the many things I like about making my own yogurt is the absence of endless plastic cups to recycle. Plastic is very difficult to reuse, and just because you throw it in the recycling bin doesn’t mean you’ve done something to keep that container out of landfill. I think the numbers have improved, but a lot of plastic still isn’t reused.

Perhaps you noticed from my two examples that German has a limitless capacity to make compound words. Someday I’ll dig through the basement and find the actual newspaper that I have that has this word in the headline:


I used to write that up on the board when I was teaching. Kids were amazed I could spell it so easily. The truth is that it’s just a series of very easily spelled words.

Cat – ear – zip code – reorganization – problem

The article explained how the reunification of Germany in 1991 caused problems with the reassignment of zip codes for people who had tattooed their old zip code onto their cats’ ears. Much like the chips they implant in pets now.

And that’s why I like German.


Mistress La Spliffe said...

How strange. I learnt whilst on the job in Germany that almost all the plastic that Germans so responsibly put into their ubiquitous recycling piles gets compressed and sold for incinerator power plants in countries with vile emissions standards.

And elsewhere, the plastic that actually gets recycled into something consumes a great deal of energy and produces a great deal of vile crap whilst being broken down and treated.

In a way it'd be better off in the dump. In another, much less retarded way, it'd be better off never being produced because people like you do things like make your own yoghurt.

arlopop said...

Stemmy, do a post on the yogurt production. Pretty pleeeease.

Adam said...

Um... those are easily spelled words?

Anonymous said...

Very Very proud of myself. I got cat, ear, reorganization and problems all without looking ahead! I got post, but didn't quite get to zipcode. Although I never would have guessed that it had to do with tatooing cats ears. I wonder what else is stored deep inside my little noggin.

I'm anonymous, but you know who I really am.....

Anonymous said...

I don't think all German is spoken harshly. There are regions where the r's are pronounced in a guttural way and other places where it's much softer. It's like comparing English spoken in the South and English spoken in the midwest.
I looked it up on the web and found a comment I really liked in defense of German.
Okay, I'll use my 2000th post to defend one of my favorite languages. I think the sound of German, spoken with the right accent, can be soft, warm, and lovely. Note that this is not my accent, which is a cross between American and Swiss. But its true beauty lies in the elegant structure and word order. A German sentence is like a dance, intricate but inevitable according to the harmony of the language. Primary clauses pivot around the verb in second position; subordinate clauses spin their verbs out to their proper position at the end of the sentence. In fact, I get irritated at the exceptions to this.