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

Monday, July 14, 2008

German odds and ends

Let's make this a free-for-all for whatever comes to anybody's mind relating to something German.


PhillySolver said...

It is Bastille Day and I am going out for Steak Frites. IS their an equivalent (either item) in Germany?

Ulrich said...

@mac: Yes, "the jitters" overlap to some degree with das Zittern (noun). But Zittern can be much more serious, like something you do before the Lord.

Ulrich said...

@phillysolver: Pommes frites are generally called Fritten in German, a clear adaptation of the French term. And like the French (?), we like to eat them with mayo. I've not yet seen the equivalent of "steak fries" as such, but I'm no longer that familiar with German pop culture.

A potato side dish that has been clearly borrowed from the US and has become extremely popular is the baked potato, called Ofenkartoffel in German or, when baked inside aluminum foil (something I do not like BTW) Folienkartoffel .

mac said...

Hi Ulrich, I had already moved to your blog, just the grammar site, and it was miriam who asked about the jitters. Zittern could also be related to to shiver. It's much closer to the Dutch sidderen which is also used to mean shaking in fear.

@phillysolver: steak and frites are very popular in Germany. Very close to our home in Hamburg was a Blockhaus, where they had very good steaks and pommes frites and a great salad bar. Even baked potatoes very much like Idaho ones. My husband met Mr. Block and found out he learned all he knew about steaks in the U.S.

miriam b said...

I love French fries with mustard. Having been raised on Russian food, I tend to put mustard on or in many foods. The word for nustard translates as "bitter", BTW.

I'm planning to make a batch of really HOT Russian mustard soon. It's brownish and hotter than the kind you get in Chinese restaurants. I bought a jar of allegedly authentic Russian mustard a while ago, but it was wimpy and not like Grandmma's.

PhillySolver said...

I worked in London for three years but my company was partially owned by Fortis, so I spent considerable time in Utrecht and Brussels. I learned about a variety of toppings for frites including mayo and at least ten different additives (e.g. curry). We had an office in Hamburg , but I was only there on three occasions. I did go to a steak house there and wish I could tell you more, but I have lost the details.

The frites tonight were excellent as was the French wine. Rosê since it is summer time. I am very familiar with French wines, but I do not recall seeing a German Rose.

Thanks to all for taking the time to write.

mac said...

In Holland people have indeed close to 10 choices of dips or sauces to go with their patat, but I also, even as a young child, liked Dijon style mustard with it, maybe because so many of the other sauces were so greasy.
I had fish and chips this evening, and the patat was excellent!

Ulrich said...

@phillysolver: Since I'm not that fond of rosé, French or not, I never looked for German ones--I'm sure they exist. I must say, though, that my favorite wine merchant presented at a recent tasting some dry rosés that I can imagine having in the evening after a hot summer day or taking to a picnic.

@mac et al.: The Germans also have gotten very creative in creating dressings for baked potatoes.

ArtLvr said...

@ miriam, mac et al -- what about Paprika? One of my Hungarian friends always said that the version usually available in the US was never as strong as the "real thing" in Hungary!

miriam b said...

@artlvr: What is usually available in supermarkets is California paprika, which is sweet. My local store sometimes carries the imported Pride of Szeged brand, which I think is half-sharp, but the label doesn't specify. I prefer buying my Hungarian paprika from Penzeys.


They carry Californian as well as Hungarian sweet and half-sharp. I plan to track down a source for the hot stuff, Rozsa, which may be what your friend is referring to.

There's also smoked Spanish paprika, which I also find delightful. It's mild and - well - smoky.

I don't know, of course, whether there's a difference between what's commonly available in Hungary and what is exported.

BTW, about 15 years ago there was a scandal in Hungary involving adulteration of paprika with lead oxide aka red lead. This was promptly resolved, as I recall.

mac said...

@artlvr and miriam: the paprika I used to buy in Holland and Germany was stronger tasting that the stuff we buy at Stop & Shop here, but lately I have been using the smoked paprika, especially for rubs and marinades.

miriam b said...

@mac: Look for Pride of Szeged paprika; it comes in a metal can in both hot and sweet varieties. If you find it and try it, please give me your opinion.

Heika said...

Hi Ulrich, I just read your translation of the " The Erlkoenig," which I thought was really lovely and much better than the translation you originally posted. That translation, in all its stilted, unmusical glory, reminded me of when I read an English version of Sigmund Freud's "Little Hans" case, in which the five-year-old Hans is quoted as saying "I say, I should so like to sleep with the little girl." The German original actually had Hans opening his sentence with the word "Du," literally "you, but which, in this context means something like "Hey," as Hans tries to get the attention of adults to suggest he'd like to cuddle with the little girl that has left him so smitten. Another translation would be "Listen," but whatever the word chosen, it needs to suggest a little nervousness about the child's ability to get the attention he wants. I can't, therefore, think of a worse translation than "I say," which, to my mind at least, bespeaks an adult's self-confidence. Thus, my German odd or end would be this: German literature does not enjoy enough admirers in this country because, if we Americans speak a second language at all, it is most often Spanish or French (I'm thinking here of what we are most likely to study in school; admittedly the languages absorbed at home have more variety), and translation, hard to begin with, becomes an even more difficult because the pool of German-speakers is small. This is purely anecdotal evidence for my claim, but when I wanted to do a doctorate that would have involved some translation of German to English in a fairly prestigious English department, I was directed to the SOLE professor in the department who knew German (and even he said he wasn't fluent). Your translation of "The Erlkoenig" and your discussion of "Zweckpessimismus," reminded me of how much I really love the German language for its seemingly infinite subtlety, something often ignored. In fact, didn't Twain write an essay called something like "That Awful German Language"? I have to look that up but I think so. Well it's not awful, in its embrace of nuance, it's quite wonderful.

Ulrich said...

Since I have nothing to say about paprika from a German perspective, let me respond to heika only. I very much appreciate what you say about German--in fact, I'm preparing a post centered around a poem by Jorge Luis Borges that expresses precisely his love for the language.

I cannot make any general claims about the general quality of the translations of German texts that are available here (I, of course, do not need them and, therefore, do not read them), but the little I have seen is not always encouraging.

I have made a related observation that is really disheartening: Whene German texts are quoted, the proofreading is almost always sloppy, sometimes exceedingly so. Let me give just two examples.

When Gass, whom you quote, in his book on translating Rilke, cites lines in the original German, they are riddled with spelling errors, sometimes more than one in the same line! And that in a book that I generally admire--Gass asks the right questions and consistently comes up with intelligent answers. But if even he cannot find (or doesn't bother to find) a competent proof reader for the German quotes, what can we expect from lesser lights?

Second example: The ambitious Library Of America recently published a collection of 4 novels by Philp K. Dick. He was apparently interested in aspects of German history and has German quotes in some novels, which, as I have come to expect now, are not always correct. I am also not surprised that the LOA edition does not correct Dick's mistakes in the novels themselves. But is has a critical apparatus and notes at the end, and expect that the editor would use these to point out Dick's mistakes. He not only does not do this, he adds mistakes of his own!

I can only shake my head. It may really have something to do, as you suggest, with a culture that is just not used to dealing with foreign languages and is therefore not equipped to deal with the issues that necessarily come up when foreign texts are encountered. I do not know if things are as bad w.r.t. other languages.