Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Problem with German Language

I've taken three German language classes in my life.  To be honest....each time....I pick up another 500-odd words.

The first couple of weeks of class....things run smoothly, and I pick up phrases and words.  Then, I start to hit this curb....or ceiling....or fall into a pit over pronunciation, the die-der-das (the "the" fit), and start to find words which are mish-mashed into phrases and fit for a German situation.  These would never work for an Englishman or American to define the moment and know when to just throw this one unique phrase out there.

The German word.....handschuhschneeballwerfer is a good example.

Yeah, it's a mouthful.  It translates into something were wearing gloves---messing around with snowballs---to pitch or throw.  You'd gaze at this, and think it all means something about a winter day and not throwing snowballs around or it's cold for your hands to throw snowballs.

Well, NO.

It means that you came to criticize someone, but only from a safe distance.....such as the distance that someone could lob a snowball at you in retaliation for your ill-conceived comments or negative criticism.

For example, a German newspaper from the next town over might write a serious and negative commentary about your political speech.  Or your German neighbor will comment over your choice of landscaping, but only at a certain pub, and only with certain people around him.  Or it could fit into a situation where you condemn your German wife for stupidity but only in the company of the local Catholic Priest or your bartender.

Twenty-five letters.....tied together....with a phrase that even if you translate it in a figurative makes no sense.  Then you figure has nothing to do with snowballs or gloves or throwing.

This is one of those points, where I'd get to....amazed at the complex nature of German thinking over words, and language.  It's like Einstein strolled into a coffee house on a Monday.....pondered some moment of when a woman cooks a crappy meal while under the influence of alcohol, and the husband responds that her menu prepared for the dinner were lacking in "something" but tries to stay friendly.  So, Einstein invents a word out of thin air that truly amazes you in creativity, and likely will only be used by three-percent of German society....maybe twice a year each.

This is where I started to fall off the language wagon each time.

A fourth occasion?  Yeah, I'm bound in the next year to take another class and try to make up it to another level.  And some moment will occur....where I really know I'm deep in a Einstein-conceived swamp, and need to get some fresh air.

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