Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Friday, June 13, 2008

Word of the month: Angstgegner

One reason why a foreign word enters the vocabulary of a language is that this vocabulary does not have a word or expression with exactly the same meaning. Examples of German words that have entered English apparently for that reason are Gestalt, Zeitgeist, Weltschmerz or Schadenfreude. Examples in the opposite direction are "fair play" or "common sense".

[In parenthesis: Right now, German is experiencing an outright invasion of English terms, some of which are used--for whatever reasons--to replace perfectly adequate German terms; for example, there is no reason in the world to speak of a "game" instead of a Spiel in German. But this issue and its ramifications--endlessly discussed in German blogs--do not concern us here.]

Each month, I will identify a German word that has entered--or could/should enter--English for legitimate reasons, i.e. there does not appear to exist an exact English equivalent. Given the prominence of soccer news this month, I select Angstgegner (lit. "anxiety opponent") for June. The word is used in German sports to denote an opponent a team tends to lose to on a regular basis, even if the odds would predict otherwise. Given Croatia's win yesterday over a favored German side, together with Germany's 0:3 loss against Croatia in the quarterfinals of the 1998 World Cup and the fact that Germany always seems to struggle against them, Croatia can now be considered Germany's Angstgegner.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Euro 2008

The European Soccer Championship 2008 will start on June 7 with the match between Switzerland and the Czech Republic. I'll travel to Germany to be closer to the action, perhaps even catch a game live in Austria, one of the host countries (together with Switzerland). I hope this will be a lively thread throughout the tournament (which ends on June 29) and that I will be able to contribute from over there.

For starters, here are the four groups in the preliminary round:
A: Switzerland, Czech Republic, Portugal, Turkey
B: Austria, Croatia, Germany, Poland
C: Netherlands, Italy, Romania, France
D: Greece (the def. champion), Sweden, Spain, Russia

Conspicuous by its absence is England, basically b/c of a chronic weakness, goalkeeping. Their goalie managed to lose the decisive match in the qualifying round against a team (Croatia) already qualified.

In the preliminary round, the teams in each group play each other, round-robin fashion. A win gets you 3 points and a tie 1 point. The two teams with the most points in each group advance to the quarterfinals (I'm not going into the tie-breaking rules here). Group C is generally considered this year's "group of death"--it is indeed a pity that at least one of the perennial European power-houses (Italy, France and the Netherlands) will not make it past the first round--and Romania is no slouch, either. I also think that Germany's group is stronger than the Germans want to believe.

So, let's see what happens...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tristan und Isolde

Live from the Met!