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

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The English invasion

The Liebeskummer thread drifted at the end into comments by me on the avalanche of English words currently hitting German. I think this topic deserves a thread in its own right, and I moved the comment I made there to the no. 1 spot here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

FIFA World Cup 2010: The 8 starting groups

On Dec. 4, the 8 groups to start the first phase in World Cup play next year will be determined in Cape Town in a ceremony broadcast to the entire world, emceed by one of S. Africa's most notable exports, Charlize Theron. This thread will give readers a chance to comment--I'll start with a preview...

Word of the month: Liebeskummer

A combination of Liebe (love) and Kummer (grief, sorrow) that refers to the state of mind of people whose love life is not going well, especially the sorrow felt by jilted lovers.

Note on pronunciation: The "ie" is pronounced like English "ee", not like English "eye". The "u" is a short "oo" as in "foot".

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Word of the month: Angsthase

Angsthase Word of Month Index

I had a good time two months ago with drawing a Pechvogel and a Glückspilz and decided to add to the series. Angsthase combines Angst (fear) and Hase (hare) and is used to indicate a person who scares easily—a "scaredy cat" would be its English counterpart.

More in my first comment...

[Source: Wild Things in the German Language: Kindle version | iBook version]

Saturday, October 24, 2009

More slants on language

In the Sachzwang thread, we ended by briefly talking about Heinrich Böll's critique of language as a tool for overt or covert political propaganda. A reader reintroduced the topic under a more general perspective...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

FIFA World cup 2010 in S. Africa: Who is qualified?

I created this thread to keep the soccer fans among my friends up-to-date on the qualifying rounds currently played all over the world. I continue to post updates as soon as new informations comes in. The official FIFA website will give you more details.
Update 11/18: All 32 teams have now been determined--and they include some real surprises. I'll create a new thread on Dec. 4, the day when the 8 groups of four that start competition next year will be set up (through a mixture of seating and random drawing).

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chandler--which novel is the best?

On a different blog, several fans of Raymond Chandler have outed themselves, which motivated me to start a discussion dear to my heart: Which of his half-dozen or so novels is the best?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Word of the month: Lebensgefährte, Lebensgefährtin

Both words mean literally "life companion" (male and female form, respectively--they combine Leben ("life") with Gefährte/Gefährtin ("companion"). The words are used to indicate the person one is sharing ones's life with without being married, i.e. a live-in lover. I do not expect these terms ever to enter English usage, but they are interesting to me because they point to a real difference I perceive in the way Americans and Germans deal "officially" with sexual relations. More in my first comment...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Health care here and there

One thing is for sure: Nowhere in the industrialized world would people put up with a system like the one in the US, and if they had one, they wouldn't resist change to that degree. A reader raised the issue, so let's see...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Words of the Month: Pechvogel, Glückspilz

Pechvogel combines Pech (misfortune, bad luck) with Vogel (bird). The word denotes a person who has bad luck, like a soccer player who scores an own goal--he or she will be the Pechvogel of the match. More generally, the word denotes a person who seems to have always bad luck. The word is used in German where in English one would perhaps use "bad news bear".

Glückspilz is its antonym. It combines Glück (good fortune, happiness) with Pilz (mushroom) and refers to a person in luck, particularly one who always seems to have luck.

More in my first comment...

[Source: Wild Things in the German Language: Kindle version | iBook version]

Monday, August 10, 2009

Word of the Month: Wanderlust

This word is in the language, but I like to talk about it anyway (see my first comment). It's composed of two Words: wandern (to hike, stroll, travel by foot) and Lust (desire). In its milder form, Wanderlust indicates a fondness for travelling, especially for travelling abroad; in its stronger form, it implies a real itch or restlessness--people overcome by Wanderlust do not want to stay home, and when they return from a (possibly extended) trip, immediately start thinking about the next one.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summer food

Cool tips for hot days...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On race and class relations

A reader posted a comment about the Crowley/Gates case, and I want to expand the topic somewhat...see my response.

The thread now has drifted to the politics of resentment, a topic I find fascinating as it took me a long time to realize the degree to which resentment permeates perceptions and politics in the US. (8/19)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wetlands (Feuchtgebiete)

A reader asked about "Wetlands", which is a translation of the German novel Feuchtgebiete, a bestseller in Germany when I was there the last time. I can't really contribute to a discussion as I haven't read the book except for the first few pages (in a bookstore)--so, it's up to readers to take the lead in this.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Word of the month: Sachzwang

Here's another something+zwang word without exact English equivalent that I find useful. It's composed of Sach, short for Sache ("thing, object") and Zwang ("compulsion, pressure, constraint"). The term denotes the necessity to do something that is inherent in a situation or, as my dictionary so coyly puts it, a "compulsion by the object in question"--no wonder I'm using the German term even in English!

Examples and pronunciation note in my first comment.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The next 100 days

I'm grateful to a reader for restarting the political discussion we had last fall on this blog. I don't know if we can muster again the same passion, but much has happened since--and much has stayed the same. Obama continues to be hugely popular, the GOP continues to be clueless, and Washington proves incredibly difficult to change, no matter which party is given the task. But Obama has been a disappointment for a segment of his liberal base, and a huge disappointment for some. So, there's lots to talk about.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Days of Heaven

Here, finally, is the slide show I have been yacking about for days:

Start show

The handsome fellow accompanying me is one of my brothers, Dietrich Gottwald.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hofmannsthal's poem Vorfrühling (Early Spring)

The Viennese poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874-1929) is perhaps best known outside the German-speaking countries as the librettist of many Strauß operas, notably Der Rosenkavalier. What's less well know is that he also wrote some of the most beautiful and haunting poems in the German language. My favorite is his Vorfrühling (Early Spring), which is one of the three German poems I love most. Here it is, together with a prose line-by-line translation by me.

In response to a reader's comment, I've added since a second poem by Hoffmannsthal at that link, Reiselied (Travel Song).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Grammatical vs. natural gender

When my (American) wife learned German, I understood for the first time the difficulties posed for English speakers by the gender of German nouns, which, with very few exceptions, has nothing to do with "natural" gender. For example, a sausage (Wurst) is feminine, but an umbrella (Schirm) is masculine--how can this possibly make sense to someone for whom both are neuter? After all, there is nothing inherently "masculine" or "feminine" about either. This thread intends to explore this issue further.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Do-it-myself construction

Since I'm spending much time again on reconfiguring parts of our Hexenhaus and have less time for this blog, I may as well make a thread of it. Here's a link to detailed descriptions of everything I've done so far and what I'm currently doing.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Word of the month: Die Nachdichtung

Nachdichtung combines the preposition nach ("after", "according to") with Dichtung ("poetry"). The word denotes a piece of poetry that tries to re-create the spirit in which another piece of poetry was written and its effect on the reader without being literal about it—what's more important is that the new piece is a successful piece of poetry in its own right while staying "true" to the original in a deeper sense.

The term is particularly useful in discussions about translations, and the discussions we had on this blog about translations (from the German) motivated me to introduce the term, for which I cannot find an English equivalent. I'll give examples and a note on pronunciation in my comments.

Word of the Month: Index

Friday, February 6, 2009

Kesselschlacht (word of the week)

This could have been a word of the month, but since a reader has brought it up, let's look at it now.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Word of the month: Kostümschinken

Kostümschinken means literally "costume ham", but no, it does not refer to an actor prone to over-act, but to a historical movie distinguished more for the lavishness of its costumes than the quality of the dialogue or acting--think Victor Mature (Samson and Delilah), think Charlton Heston (The Ten Commandments), think Yul Brynner and Gina Lollobrigida (Solomon and Sheba). More recently, Marie Antoinette has been considered by some as a modern version of the genre. More in my first comment...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The role of speeches

This thread is a spin-off from the Clinton vs. Merkel thread. In the latter, a consensus seems to be emerging that when it comes to the chances of women making a career in politics, the situations in the US and Germany seem to be more similar than different. In the present thread, I would like to pursue the role of speeches in the respective political cultures, where I perceive real differences. For my current thoughts, see my first comment.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Merkel vs. Clinton

Heika, of whom we haven't heard for a while, posed an interesting question about women as politicians and the expectations they face in different countries, exemplified by Angela Merkel, chancellor (i.e. head of government) of Germany, and Hillary Clinton.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Word of the Month: Zugzwang

This word is in the language, but I'm still meeting people who don't know what it means. So, let's have a look: It originates in German chess terminology, where it describes a situation in which a player has to make a move (one cannot "pass" in chess), but all legal moves available will make his/her position worse. The word combines Zug ("move" in the context of board games) and Zwang ("compulsion", "being forced to do something"). Zugzwang is now generally used to indicate this sort of dilemma, and this makes it a very useful addition to one's vocabulary.

Note on pronunciation: Tsook-tsvang, where the "oo" is long, as in "fool", and the "a" is open like in "father", not like in "gang".