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

Monday, March 1, 2010

Word of the month: Frechdachs

FrechdachsDachs is the the German name for a badger (because of its short legs, a Dachshund is able to follow a badger into its burrow). The adjective frech can mean anything from "rude" or "impudent" to "sassy" or "cheeky." The latter, almost positive, meaning is implied in Frechdachs, which Germans use in contexts where one would use "whipper-snapper" or "little rascal" in English, i.e. to refer to a somewhat sassy child. And I have no idea how badgers got involved in all of this.

Addendum (5/23/2012): As was doing research for my book, Wild Things in the German Language, I came across some explanations. According to one of them, Frechdachs is a mnemonic to help students of Latin remember that audax means frech in that language. I find this explanation somewhat more plausible than a second one, which claims that frech survives in Frechdachs in the now obsolete meaning of "brave" and that badgers got a reputation for bravery because they were willing to defend their burrow, when they had young, even against larger predators.

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


Laraine Flemming said...

I always check your blog but I normally don't comment--except when it involved the campaign for president-- but the "Frechdachs" is just too, too adorable. I seem to have a very talented husband.

Heika said...

Hi Ulrich, I just got in from trip and one of the first things I did was look at your blog. I agree totally with your wife. All of your drawings are wonderful, but the expression on this little creature's face is the perfect accompaniment to the word. What a wonderful drawing. Heika P.S. You have a very pretty wife.

Ulrich said...

Credit where credit is due:

"Frechdachs" was suggested to me by my brother Dietrich--there's a reason the word came to his mind: He has two young children.

And Laraine performs an essential role as critic for my drawings--I always show them to her before publishing them, especially when I have the sense that there is something not quite right yet, as was the case with Frechdachs--sticking out the tongue was entirely her idea!

@Heika: Thx--she's actually prettier in real life.

A word on drawing: Like in playing an instrument, manual dexterity is essential, which can be created and maintained only through constant practice. I hadn't done free-hand drawings for decades when I started to draw the cartoons for my blog, and my first attempts landed in the wastebasket. I also had no sense of what something like a personal style would be for me. To preempt the compliments I'm not fishing for, I would say, in all modesty, that I seem to be making progress.

Esther said...

I had checked krautblog the other night and although I found your discussion of Vorfreude very interesting, I must confess that I was disappointed not to find a new animal (your drawings have spoiled me). Frechdachs makes up for it. It is a perfect combination of naughty and adorable. (Is the English word "fresh," as in "Stop that, you fresh kid!" related to the German "Frech"?

And by the way, I love the last line of your accompanying text.

Ulrich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ulrich said...

@Esther: The Free Online Dictionary lists as the 15th definition for "fresh" "informal: bold and saucy; impudent", which clearly overlaps to a large degree with German frech--there must be a relation. However, for the predominant meanings of "fresh" (new, recently-harvested, not spoiled etc), the German word would be frisch, not frech.

miriam b said...

And I wonder how the English verb "to badger", i. e., to pester or harass, came to be connected with this animal. That's on my Must Look Up list.

Now, via free-association, I've acquired ein Ohrwurm: "Ich bin die fesche Lola..."

Ulrich said...

@miriam: Where in the world did you learn about this song? I think newer generations in Germany have never heard of it.

BTW fesch (fashionable, stylish) is mostly used in S. Germany and Austria. I wonder if it is indeed derived from English "fashionable"--in the stereotypical German accent, a long "a" often becomes a short "e", as in "ve heff vays to persvade you"...

miriam b said...

OK, Ulrich, I'll come clean. I saw a revival of Der Blaue Engel way back in college, and that song simply stuck in my mind. I've come to the conclusion that said mind is like a sponge, and that whenever I squeeze it some rather weird stuff issues forth. I admit to being sufficiently - um -mature to demand what I ironically call (to the consternation of some retailers) my "senile discount", but the 1930 movie does predate me - not by very much.

When I was a little kid, we actually had a pianola! We lived upstairs from our landlord, who was its original owner. When he and his family established a funeral home and moved, they gave us the instrument along with many rolls. I never did find out whether they shared a building with the funeral home, which, if true, would explain why they found the presence of the player piano inappropriate. My love of opera probably had its origins at that time. The rolls consisted mostly of music from operas (the landlord was Italian.). The Grand March from Aida as played by that piano would knock my socks off. My tastes in opera have become more catholic over the years. My current favorite is Pique Dame.

I'm going on like this because I'm avoiding the looming task of sorting books to be replaced in a bookcase which I've just repaired and repainted. Well, I'd better face it.

Anonymous said...

Relationship to badgers? Little kids have short legs. Cute art. Cuter wife.