View Full Version : Mark Twain: The Awful German Language [1880]

Sunday, May 25th, 2003, 08:22 AM
Mark Twain: The Awful German Language [1880] (1/2)

<html><blockquote><A NAME="x1">A little learning makes the whole world kin.</A><br>
-- <cite>Proverbs</cite> xxxii, 7.</blockquote>

I went often to look at the collection of curiosities in Heidelberg Castle,
and one day I surprised the keeper of it with my German. I spoke entirely in
that language. He was greatly interested; and after I had talked a while he
said my German was very rare, possibly a "unique"; and wanted to add it to his

If he had known what it had cost me to acquire my art, he would also have
known that it would break any collector to buy it. Harris and I had been hard
at work on our German during several weeks at that time, and although we had
made good progress, it had been accomplished under great difficulty and
annoyance, for three of our teachers had died in the mean time. A person who
has not studied German can form no idea of what a perplexing language it

Surely there is not another language that is so slipshod and systemless,
and so slippery and elusive to the grasp. One is washed about in it, hither
and thither, in the most helpless way; and when at last he thinks he has
captured a rule which offers firm ground to take a rest on amid the general
rage and turmoil of the ten parts of speech, he turns over the page and reads,
"Let the pupil make careful note of the following <b>exceptions</b>." He runs
his eye down and finds that there are more exceptions to the rule than
instances of it. So overboard he goes again, to hunt for another Ararat and
find another quicksand. Such has been, and continues to be, my experience.
Every time I think I have got one of these four confusing "cases" where I am
master of it, a seemingly insignificant preposition intrudes itself into my
sentence, clothed with an awful and unsuspected power, and crumbles the ground
from under me. For instance, my book inquires after a certain bird -- (it is
always inquiring after things which are of no sort of consequence to anybody):
"Where is the bird?" Now the answer to this question -- according to the book
-- is that the bird is waiting in the blacksmith shop on account of the rain.
Of course no bird would do that, but then you must stick to the book. Very
well, I begin to cipher out the German for that answer. I begin at the wrong
end, necessarily, for that is the German idea. I say to myself, "<b>Regen</b>
(rain) is masculine -- or maybe it is feminine -- or possibly neuter -- it is
too much trouble to look now. Therefore, it is either <b>der</b> (the) Regen,
or <b>die</b> (the) Regen, or <b>das</b> (the) Regen, according to which
gender it may turn out to be when I look. In the interest of science, I will
cipher it out on the hypothesis that it is masculine. Very well -- then
<b>the</b> rain is <b>der</b> Regen, if it is simply in the quiescent state of
being <b>mentioned</b>, without enlargement or discussion -- Nominative case;
but if this rain is lying around, in a kind of a general way on the ground, it
is then definitely located, it is <b>doing something</b> -- that is,
<b>resting</b> (which is one of the German grammar's ideas of doing
something), and this throws the rain into the Dative case, and makes it
<b>dem</b> Regen. However, this rain is not resting, but is doing something
<b>actively</b>, -- it is falling -- to interfere with the bird, likely -- and
this indicates <b>movement</b>, which has the effect of sliding it into the
Accusative case and changing <b>dem</b> Regen into <b>den</b> Regen." Having
completed the grammatical horoscope of this matter, I answer up confidently
and state in German that the bird is staying in the blacksmith shop "wegen (on
account of) <b>den</b> Regen." Then the teacher lets me softly down with the
remark that whenever the word "wegen" drops into a sentence, it <b>always</b>
throws that subject into the <b>Genitive</b> case, regardless of consequences
-- and that therefore this bird stayed in the blacksmith shop "wegen
<b>des</b> Regens."

N. B. -- I was informed, later, by a higher authority, that there was an
"exception" which permits one to say "wegen <b>den</b> Regen" in certain
peculiar and complex circumstances, but that this exception is not extended to
anything <b>but</b> rain.

There are ten parts of speech, and they are all troublesome. An average
sentence, in a German newspaper, is a sublime and impressive curiosity; it
occupies a quarter of a column; it contains all the ten parts of speech -- not
in regular order, but mixed; it is built mainly of compound words constructed
by the writer on the spot, and not to be found in any dictionary -- six or
seven words compacted into one, without joint or seam -- that is, without
hyphens; it treats of fourteen or fifteen different subjects, each inclosed in
a parenthesis of its own, with here and there extra parentheses which
reinclose three or four of the minor parentheses, making pens within pens:
finally, all the parentheses and reparentheses are massed together between a
couple of king-parentheses, one of which is placed in the first line of the
majestic sentence and the other in the middle of the last line of it --
<b>after which comes the VERB</b>, and you find out for the first time what
the man has been talking about; and after the verb -- merely by way of
ornament, as far as I can make out -- the writer shovels in "<b>haben sind
gewesen gehabt haben geworden sein</b>," or words to that effect, and the
monument is finished. I suppose that this closing hurrah is in the nature of
the flourish to a man's signature -- not necessary, but pretty. German books
are easy enough to read when you hold them before the looking-glass or stand
on your head -- so as to reverse the construction -- but I think that to learn
to read and understand a German newspaper is a thing which must always remain
an impossibility to a foreigner.

Yet even the German books are not entirely free from attacks of the
Parenthesis distemper -- though they are usually so mild as to cover only a
few lines, and therefore when you at last get down to the verb it carries some
meaning to your mind because you are able to remember a good deal of what has
gone before. Now here is a sentence from a popular and excellent German novel
-- which a slight parenthesis in it. I will make a perfectly literal
translation, and throw in the parenthesis-marks and some hyphens for the
assistance of the reader -- though in the original there are no
parenthesis-marks or hyphens, and the reader is left to flounder through to
the remote verb the best way he can:

"But when he, upon the street, the
government counselor's wife <b>met</b>," etc., etc. [1]

<blockquote>1. Wenn er aber auf der Strasse der in Sammt und Seide
geh&uuml;llten jetzt sehr ungenirt nach der neusten Mode gekleideten
Regierungsr&auml;thin begegnet.</blockquote>

That is from <cite>The Old Mamselle's Secret</cite>, by Mrs. Marlitt. And
that sentence is constructed upon the most approved German model. You observe
how far that verb is from the reader's base of operations; well, in a German
newspaper they put their verb away over on the next page; and I have heard
that sometimes after stringing along the exciting preliminaries and
parentheses for a column or two, they get in a hurry and have to go to press
without getting to the verb at all. Of course, then, the reader is left in a
very exhausted and ignorant state.

We have the Parenthesis disease in our literature, too; and one may see
cases of it every day in our books and newspapers: but with us it is the mark
and sign of an unpracticed writer or a cloudy intellect, whereas with the
Germans it is doubtless the mark and sign of a practiced pen and of the
presence of that sort of luminous intellectual fog which stands for clearness
among these people. For surely it is <b>not</b> clearness -- it necessarily
can't be clearness. Even a jury would have penetration enough to discover
that. A writer's ideas must be a good deal confused, a good deal out of line
and sequence, when he starts out to say that a man met a counselor's wife in
the street, and then right in the midst of this so simple undertaking halts
these approaching people and makes them stand still until he jots down an
inventory of the woman's dress. That is manifestly absurd. It reminds a
person of those dentists who secure your instant and breathless interest in a
tooth by taking a grip on it with the forceps, and then stand there and drawl
through a tedious anecdote before they give the dreaded jerk. Parentheses in
literature and dentistry are in bad taste.

The Germans have another kind of parenthesis, which they make by splitting
a verb in two and putting half of it at the beginning of an exciting chapter
and the <b>other half</b> at the end of it. Can any one conceive of anything
more confusing than that? These things are called "separable verbs." The
German grammar is blistered all over with separable verbs; and the wider the
two portions of one of them are spread apart, the better the author of the
crime is pleased with his performance. A favorite one is <b>reiste ab</b> --
which means departed. Here is an example which I culled from a novel and
reduced to English:

<blockquote>"The trunks being now ready, he <b>DE-</b> after kissing his
mother and sisters, and once more pressing to his bosom his adored Gretchen,
who, dressed in simple white muslin, with a single tuberose in the ample folds
of her rich brown hair, had tottered feebly down the stairs, still pale from
the terror and excitement of the past evening, but longing to lay her poor
aching head yet once again upon the breast of him whom she loved more dearly
than life itself, <b>PARTED</b>."</blockquote>

However, it is not well to dwell too much on the separable verbs. One is
sure to lose his temper early; and if he sticks to the subject, and will not
be warned, it will at last either soften his brain or petrify it. Personal
pronouns and adjectives are a fruitful nuisance in this language, and should
have been left out. For instance, the same sound, <b>sie</b>, means
<b>you</b>, and it means <b>she</b>, and it means <b>her</b>, and it means
<b>it</b>, and it means <b>they</b>, and it means <b>them</b>. Think of the
ragged poverty of a language which has to make one word do the work of six --
and a poor little weak thing of only three letters at that. But mainly, think
of the exasperation of never knowing which of these meanings the speaker is
trying to convey. This explains why, whenever a person says <b>sie</b> to me,
I generally try to kill him, if a stranger.

Now observe the Adjective. Here was a case where simplicity would have
been an advantage; therefore, for no other reason, the inventor of this
language complicated it all he could. When we wish to speak of our "good
friend or friends," in our enlightened tongue, we stick to the one form and
have no trouble or hard feeling about it; but with the German tongue it is
different. When a German gets his hands on an adjective, he declines it, and
keeps on declining it until the common sense is all declined out of it. It is
as bad as Latin. He says, for instance:

<LI>Nominative -- Mein gut<b>er</b> Freund, my good friend.
<LI>Genitive -- Mein<b>es</b> gut<b>en</b> Freund<b>es</b>, of my good
<LI>Dative -- Mein<b>em</b> gut<b>en</b> Freund, to my good friend.
<LI>Accusative -- Mein<b>en</b> gut<b>en</b> Freund, my good friend.

<LI>N. -- Mein<b>e</b> gut<b>en</b> Freund<b>e</b>, my good friends.
<LI>G. -- Mein<b>er</b> gut<b>en</b> Freund<b>e</b>, of my good friends.
<LI>D. -- Mein<b>en</b> gut<b>en</b> Freund<b>en</b>, to my good friends.
<LI>A. -- Mein<b>e</b> gut<b>en</b> Freund<b>e</b>, my good friends.

Now let the candidate for the asylum try to memorize those variations, and
see how soon he will be elected. One might better go without friends in
Germany than take all this trouble about them. I have shown what a bother it
is to decline a good (male) friend; well this is only a third of the work, for
there is a variety of new distortions of the adjective to be learned when the
object is feminine, and still another when the object is neuter. Now there
are more adjectives in this language than there are black cats in Switzerland,
and they must all be as elaborately declined as the examples above suggested.
Difficult? -- troublesome? -- these words cannot describe it. I heard a
Californian student in Heidelberg say, in one of his calmest moods, that he
would rather decline two drinks than one German adjective.

The inventor of the language seems to have taken pleasure in complicating
it in every way he could think of. For instance, if one is casually referring
to a house, <b>Haus</b>, or a horse, <b>Pferd</b>, or a dog, <b>Hund</b>, he
spells these words as I have indicated; but if he is referring to them in the
Dative case, he sticks on a foolish and unnecessary <b>e</b> and spells them
<b>Hause</b>, <b>Pferde</b>, <b>Hunde</b>. So, as an added <b>e</b> often
signifies the plural, as the <b>s</b> does with us, the new student is likely
to go on for a month making twins out of a Dative dog before he discovers his
mistake; and on the other hand, many a new student who could ill afford loss,
has bought and paid for two dogs and only got one of them, because he
ignorantly bought that dog in the Dative singular when he really supposed he
was talking plural -- which left the law on the seller's side, of course, by
the strict rules of grammar, and therefore a suit for recovery could not

In German, all the Nouns begin with a capital letter. Now that is a good
idea; and a good idea, in this language, is necessarily conspicuous from its
lonesomeness. I consider this capitalizing of nouns a good idea, because by
reason of it you are almost always able to tell a noun the minute you see it.
You fall into error occasionally, because you mistake the name of a person for
the name of a thing, and waste a good deal of time trying to dig a meaning out
of it. German names almost always do mean something, and this helps to
deceive the student. I translated a passage one day, which said that "the
infuriated tigress broke loose and utterly ate up the unfortunate fir forest"
(<b>Tannenwald</b>). When I was girding up my loins to doubt this, I found out
that Tannenwald in this instance was a man's name.

Every noun has a gender, and there is no sense or system in the
distribution; so the gender of each must be learned separately and by heart.
There is no other way. To do this one has to have a memory like a
memorandum-book. In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has.
Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what callous
disrespect for the girl. See how it looks in print -- I translate this from a
conversation in one of the best of the German Sunday-school books:

<DL COMPACT><DT>"<b>Gretchen</b>. <DD>Wilhelm, where is the turnip?
<DT><b>Wilhelm</b>. <DD>She has gone to the kitchen.
<DT><b>Gretchen</b>. <DD>Where is the accomplished and beautiful English
<DT><b>Wilhelm</b>. <DD>It has gone to the opera."</DL>

To continue with the German genders: a tree is male, its buds are female,
its leaves are neuter; horses are sexless, dogs are male, cats are female --
tomcats included, of course; a person's mouth, neck, bosom, elbows, fingers,
nails, feet, and body are of the male sex, and his head is male or neuter
according to the word selected to signify it, and <b>not</b> according to the
sex of the individual who wears it -- for in Germany all the women either male
heads or sexless ones; a person's nose, lips, shoulders, breast, hands, and
toes are of the female sex; and his hair, ears, eyes, chin, legs, knees,
heart, and conscience haven't any sex at all. The inventor of the language
probably got what he knew about a conscience from hearsay.

Now, by the above dissection, the reader will see that in Germany a man may
<b>think</b> he is a man, but when he comes to look into the matter closely,
he is bound to have his doubts; he finds that in sober truth he is a most
ridiculous mixture; and if he ends by trying to comfort himself with the
thought that he can at least depend on a third of this mess as being manly and
masculine, the humiliating second thought will quickly remind him that in this
respect he is no better off than any woman or cow in the land.

In the German it is true that by some oversight of the inventor of the
language, a Woman is a female; but a Wife (<b>Weib</b>) is not -- which is
unfortunate. A Wife, here, has no sex; she is neuter; so, according to the
grammar, a fish is <b>he</b>, his scales are <b>she</b>, but a fishwife is
neither. To describe a wife as sexless may be called under-description; that
is bad enough, but over-description is surely worse. A German speaks of an
Englishman as the <b>Engl&auml;nder</b>; to change the sex, he adds
<b>inn</b>, and that stands for Englishwoman -- <b>Engl&auml;nderinn</b>. That
seems descriptive enough, but still it is not exact enough for a German; so he
precedes the word with that article which indicates that the creature to
follow is feminine, and writes it down thus: "<b>die</b>
Engl&auml;nder<b>inn</b>," -- which means "the <b>she-Englishwoman</b>." I
consider that that person is over-described.

Well, after the student has learned the sex of a great number of nouns, he
is still in a difficulty, because he finds it impossible to persuade his
tongue to refer to things as "<b>he</b>" and "<b>she</b>," and "<b>him</b>"
and "<b>her</b>," which it has been always accustomed to refer to it as
"<b>it</b>." When he even frames a German sentence in his mind, with the hims
and hers in the right places, and then works up his courage to the
utterance-point, it is no use -- the moment he begins to speak his tongue
flies the track and all those labored males and females come out as
"<b>it</b>s." And even when he is reading German to himself, he always calls
those things "<b>it</b>," where as he ought to read in this way:


<blockquote>2. I capitalize the nouns, in the German (and ancient English)

It is a bleak Day. Hear the Rain, how he pours, and the Hail, how he
rattles; and see the Snow, how he drifts along, and of the Mud, how deep he
is! Ah the poor Fishwife, it is stuck fast in the Mire; it has dropped its
Basket of Fishes; and its Hands have been cut by the Scales as it seized some
of the falling Creatures; and one Scale has even got into its Eye, and it
cannot get her out. It opens its Mouth to cry for Help; but if any Sound
comes out of him, alas he is drowned by the raging of the Storm. And now a
Tomcat has got one of the Fishes and she will surely escape with him. No, she
bites off a Fin, she holds her in her Mouth -- will she swallow her? No, the
Fishwife's brave Mother-dog deserts his Puppies and rescues the Fin -- which
he eats, himself, as his Reward. O, horror, the Lightning has struck the
Fish-basket; he sets him on Fire; see the Flame, how she licks the doomed
Utensil with her red and angry Tongue; now she attacks the helpless Fishwife's
Foot -- she burns him up, all but the big Toe, and even <b>she</b> is partly
consumed; and still she spreads, still she waves her fiery Tongues; she
attacks the Fishwife's Leg and destroys <b>it</b>; she attacks its Hand and
destroys <b>her</b> also; she attacks the Fishwife's Leg and destroys
<b>her</b> also; she attacks its Body and consumes <b>him</b>; she wreathes
herself about its Heart and <b>it</b> is consumed; next about its Breast, and
in a Moment <b>she</b> is a Cinder; now she reaches its Neck -- <b>he</b>
goes; now its Chin -- <b>it</b> goes; now its Nose -- <b>she</b> goes. In
another Moment, except Help come, the Fishwife will be no more. Time presses
-- is there none to succor and save? Yes! Joy, joy, with flying Feet the
she-Englishwoman comes! But alas, the generous she-Female is too late: where
now is the fated Fishwife? It has ceased from its Sufferings, it has gone to a
better Land; all that is left of it for its loved Ones to lament over, is this
poor smoldering Ash-heap. Ah, woeful, woeful Ash-heap! Let us take him up
tenderly, reverently, upon the lowly Shovel, and bear him to his long Rest,
with the Prayer that when he rises again it will be a Realm where he will have
one good square responsible Sex, and have it all to himself, instead of having
a mangy lot of assorted Sexes scattered all over him in Spots.


There, now, the reader can see for himself that this pronoun business is a
very awkward thing for the unaccustomed tongue. I suppose that in all
languages the similarities of look and sound between words which have no
similarity in meaning are a fruitful source of perplexity to the foreigner.
It is so in our tongue, and it is notably the case in the German. Now there is
that troublesome word <b>verm&auml;hlt</b>: to me it has so close a
resemblance -- either real or fancied -- to three or four other words, that I
never know whether it means despised, painted, suspected, or married; until I
look in the dictionary, and then I find it means the latter. There are lots
of such words and they are a great torment. To increase the difficulty there
are words which <b>seem</b> to resemble each other, and yet do not; but they
make just as much trouble as if they did. For instance, there is the word
<b>vermiethen</b> (to let, to lease, to hire); and the word
<b>verheirathen</b> (another way of saying to marry). I heard of an Englishman
who knocked at a man's door in Heidelberg and proposed, in the best German he
could command, to "verheirathen" that house. Then there are some words which
mean one thing when you emphasize the first syllable, but mean something very
different if you throw the emphasis on the last syllable. For instance, there
is a word which means a runaway, or the act of glancing through a book,
according to the placing of the emphasis; and another word which signifies to
<b>associate</b> with a man, or to <b>avoid</b> him, according to where you
put the emphasis -- and you can generally depend on putting it in the wrong
place and getting into trouble.

There are some exceedingly useful words in this language. <b>Schlag</b>,
for example; and <b>Zug</b>. There are three-quarters of a column of
<b>Schlag</b>s in the dictionary, and a column and a half of <b>Zug</b>s. The
word <b>Schlag</b> means Blow, Stroke, Dash, Hit, Shock, Clap, Slap, Time,
Bar, Coin, Stamp, Kind, Sort, Manner, Way, Apoplexy, Wood-cutting, Enclosure,
Field, Forest-clearing. This is its simple and <b>exact</b> meaning -- that is
to say, its restricted, its fettered meaning; but there are ways by which you
can set it free, so that it can soar away, as on the wings of the morning, and
never be at rest. You can hang any word you please to its tail, and make it
mean anything you want to. You can begin with <b>Schlag-ader</b>, which means
artery, and you can hang on the whole dictionary, word by word, clear through
the alphabet to <b>Schlag-wasser</b>, which means bilge-water -- and including
<b>Schlag-mutter</b>, which means mother-in-law.

Just the same with <b>Zug</b>. Strictly speaking, <b>Zug</b> means Pull,
Tug, Draught, Procession, March, Progress, Flight, Direction, Expedition,
Train, Caravan, Passage, Stroke, Touch, Line, Flourish, Trait of Character,
Feature, Lineament, Chess-move, Organ-stop, Team, Whiff, Bias, Drawer,
Propensity, Inhalation, Disposition: but that thing which it does <b>not</b>
mean -- when all its legitimate pennants have been hung on, has not been
discovered yet.

One cannot overestimate the usefulness of <b>Schlag</b> and <b>Zug</b>.
Armed just with these two, and the word <b>also</b>, what cannot the foreigner
on German soil accomplish? The German word <b>also</b> is the equivalent of
the English phrase "You know," and does not mean anything at all -- in
<b>talk</b>, though it sometimes does in print. Every time a German opens his
mouth an <b>also</b> falls out; and every time he shuts it he bites one in two
that was trying to <b>get</b> out.

Now, the foreigner, equipped with these three noble words, is master of the
situation. Let him talk right along, fearlessly; let him pour his indifferent
German forth, and when he lacks for a word, let him heave a <b>Schlag</b> into
the vacuum; all the chances are that it fits it like a plug, but if it doesn't
let him promptly heave a <b>Zug</b> after it; the two together can hardly fail
to bung the hole; but if, by a miracle, they <b>should</b> fail, let him
simply say <b>also</b>! and this will give him a moment's chance to think of
the needful word. In Germany, when you load your conversational gun it is
always best to throw in a <b>Schlag</b> or two and a <b>Zug</b> or two,
because it doesn't make any difference how much the rest of the charge may
scatter, you are bound to bag something with <b>them</b>. Then you blandly say
<b>also</b>, and load up again. Nothing gives such an air of grace and
elegance and unconstraint to a German or an English conversation as to scatter
it full of "Also's" or "You knows."

Sunday, May 25th, 2003, 08:26 AM
Mark Twain: The Awful German Language [1880] (2/2)

<html>In my note-book I find this entry:

<blockquote><b>July 1</b>. -- In the hospital yesterday, a word of thirteen
syllables was successfully removed from a patient -- a North German from near
Hamburg; but as most unfortunately the surgeons had opened him in the wrong
place, under the impression that he contained a panorama, he died. The sad
event has cast a gloom over the whole community.</blockquote>

That paragraph furnishes a text for a few remarks about one of the most
curious and notable features of my subject -- the length of German words.
Some German words are so long that they have a perspective. Observe these


These things are not words, they are alphabetical processions. And they
are not rare; one can open a German newspaper at any time and see them
marching majestically across the page -- and if he has any imagination he can
see the banners and hear the music, too. They impart a martial thrill to the
meekest subject. I take a great interest in these curiosities. Whenever I come
across a good one, I stuff it and put it in my museum. In this way I have
made quite a valuable collection. When I get duplicates, I exchange with
other collectors, and thus increase the variety of my stock. Here are some
specimens which I lately bought at an auction sale of the effects of a
bankrupt bric-a-brac hunter:


Of course when one of these grand mountain ranges goes stretching across
the printed page, it adorns and ennobles that literary landscape -- but at the
same time it is a great distress to the new student, for it blocks up his way;
he cannot crawl under it, or climb over it, or tunnel through it. So he
resorts to the dictionary for help, but there is no help there. The
dictionary must draw the line somewhere -- so it leaves this sort of words
out. And it is right, because these long things are hardly legitimate words,
but are rather combinations of words, and the inventor of them ought to have
been killed. They are compound words with the hyphens left out. The various
words used in building them are in the dictionary, but in a very scattered
condition; so you can hunt the materials out, one by one, and get at the
meaning at last, but it is a tedious and harassing business. I have tried
this process upon some of the above examples.
"<b>Freundschaftsbezeigungen</b>" seems to be "Friendship demonstrations,"
which is only a foolish and clumsy way of saying "demonstrations of
friendship." "<b>Unabhaengigkeitserklaerungen</b>" seems to be
"Independencedeclarations," which is no improvement upon "Declarations of
Independence," so far as I can see.
"<b>Generalstaatsverordnetenversammlungen</b>" seems to be
"General-statesrepresentativesmeetings," as nearly as I can get at it -- a
mere rhythmical, gushy euphuism for "meetings of the legislature," I judge. We
used to have a good deal of this sort of crime in our literature, but it has
gone out now. We used to speak of a things as a "never-to-be-forgotten"
circumstance, instead of cramping it into the simple and sufficient word
"memorable" and then going calmly about our business as if nothing had
happened. In those days we were not content to embalm the thing and bury it
decently, we wanted to build a monument over it.

But in our newspapers the compounding-disease lingers a little to the
present day, but with the hyphens left out, in the German fashion. This is
the shape it takes: instead of saying "Mr. Simmons, clerk of the county and
district courts, was in town yesterday," the new form put it thus: "Clerk of
the County and District Courts Simmons was in town yesterday." This saves
neither time nor ink, and has an awkward sound besides. One often sees a
remark like this in our papers: "<b>Mrs.</b> Assistant District Attorney
Johnson returned to her city residence yesterday for the season." That is a
case of really unjustifiable compounding; because it not only saves no time or
trouble, but confers a title on Mrs. Johnson which she has no right to. But
these little instances are trifles indeed, contrasted with the ponderous and
dismal German system of piling jumbled compounds together. I wish to submit
the following local item, from a Mannheim journal, by way of illustration:

<blockquote>"In the daybeforeyesterdayshortlyaftereleveno'cl ock Night, the
inthistownstandingtavern called `The Wagoner' was downburnt. When the fire to
the onthedownburninghouseresting Stork's Nest reached, flew the parent Storks
away. But when the bytheraging, firesurrounded Nest <b>itself</b> caught
Fire, straightway plunged the quickreturning Mother-stork into the Flames and
died, her Wings over her young ones outspread."</blockquote>

Even the cumbersome German construction is not able to take the pathos out
of that picture -- indeed, it somehow seems to strengthen it. This item is
dated away back yonder months ago. I could have used it sooner, but I was
waiting to hear from the Father-stork. I am still waiting.

"<b>Also</b>!" If I had not shown that the German is a difficult language,
I have at least intended to do so. I have heard of an American student who
was asked how he was getting along with his German, and who answered promptly:
"I am not getting along at all. I have worked at it hard for three level
months, and all I have got to show for it is one solitary German phrase --
`<b>Zwei Glas</b>'" (two glasses of beer). He paused for a moment,
reflectively; then added with feeling: "But I've got that <b>solid</b>!"

And if I have not also shown that German is a harassing and infuriating
study, my execution has been at fault, and not my intent. I heard lately of a
worn and sorely tried American student who used to fly to a certain German
word for relief when he could bear up under his aggravations no longer -- the
only word whose sound was sweet and precious to his ear and healing to his
lacerated spirit. This was the word <b>Damit</b>. It was only the
<b>sound</b> that helped him, not the meaning; [3] and so, at last, when he
learned that the emphasis was not on the first syllable, his only stay and
support was gone, and he faded away and died.

<blockquote>3. It merely means, in its general sense,

I think that a description of any loud, stirring, tumultuous episode must
be tamer in German than in English. Our descriptive words of this character
have such a deep, strong, resonant sound, while their German equivalents do
seem so thin and mild and energyless. Boom, burst, crash, roar, storm,
bellow, blow, thunder, explosion; howl, cry, shout, yell, groan; battle, hell.
These are magnificent words; the have a force and magnitude of sound befitting
the things which they describe. But their German equivalents would be ever so
nice to sing the children to sleep with, or else my awe-inspiring ears were
made for display and not for superior usefulness in analyzing sounds. Would
any man want to die in a battle which was called by so tame a term as a
<b>Schlacht</b>? Or would not a consumptive feel too much bundled up, who was
about to go out, in a shirt-collar and a seal-ring, into a storm which the
bird-song word <b>Gewitter</b> was employed to describe? And observe the
strongest of the several German equivalents for explosion --
<b>Ausbruch</b>. Our word Toothbrush is more powerful than that. It seems to
me that the Germans could do worse than import it into their language to
describe particularly tremendous explosions with. The German word for hell --
H&ouml;lle -- sounds more like <b>helly</b> than anything else; therefore, how
necessary chipper, frivolous, and unimpressive it is. If a man were told in
German to go there, could he really rise to thee dignity of feeling

Having pointed out, in detail, the several vices of this language, I now
come to the brief and pleasant task of pointing out its virtues. The
capitalizing of the nouns I have already mentioned. But far before this virtue
stands another -- that of spelling a word according to the sound of it. After
one short lesson in the alphabet, the student can tell how any German word is
pronounced without having to ask; whereas in our language if a student should
inquire of us, "What does B, O, W, spell?" we should be obliged to reply,
"Nobody can tell what it spells when you set if off by itself; you can only
tell by referring to the context and finding out what it signifies -- whether
it is a thing to shoot arrows with, or a nod of one's head, or the forward end
of a boat."

There are some German words which are singularly and powerfully effective.
For instance, those which describe lowly, peaceful, and affectionate home
life; those which deal with love, in any and all forms, from mere kindly
feeling and honest good will toward the passing stranger, clear up to
courtship; those which deal with outdoor Nature, in its softest and loveliest
aspects -- with meadows and forests, and birds and flowers, the fragrance and
sunshine of summer, and the moonlight of peaceful winter nights; in a word,
those which deal with any and all forms of rest, repose, and peace; those
also which deal with the creatures and marvels of fairyland; and lastly and
chiefly, in those words which express pathos, is the language surpassingly
rich and affective. There are German songs which can make a stranger to the
language cry. That shows that the <b>sound</b> of the words is correct -- it
interprets the meanings with truth and with exactness; and so the ear is
informed, and through the ear, the heart.

The Germans do not seem to be afraid to repeat a word when it is the right
one. they repeat it several times, if they choose. That is wise. But in
English, when we have used a word a couple of times in a paragraph, we imagine
we are growing tautological, and so we are weak enough to exchange it for some
other word which only approximates exactness, to escape what we wrongly fancy
is a greater blemish. Repetition may be bad, but surely inexactness is


There are people in the world who will take a great deal of trouble to
point out the faults in a religion or a language, and then go blandly about
their business without suggesting any remedy. I am not that kind of person. I
have shown that the German language needs reforming. Very well, I am ready to
reform it. At least I am ready to make the proper suggestions. Such a course
as this might be immodest in another; but I have devoted upward of nine full
weeks, first and last, to a careful and critical study of this tongue, and
thus have acquired a confidence in my ability to reform it which no mere
superficial culture could have conferred upon me.

In the first place, I would leave out the Dative case. It confuses the
plurals; and, besides, nobody ever knows when he is in the Dative case, except
he discover it by accident -- and then he does not know when or where it was
that he got into it, or how long he has been in it, or how he is going to get
out of it again. The Dative case is but an ornamental folly -- it is better
to discard it.

In the next place, I would move the Verb further up to the front. You may
load up with ever so good a Verb, but I notice that you never really bring
down a subject with it at the present German range -- you only cripple it. So
I insist that this important part of speech should be brought forward to a
position where it may be easily seen with the naked eye.

Thirdly, I would import some strong words from the English tongue -- to
swear with, and also to use in describing all sorts of vigorous things in a
vigorous ways. [4]

<blockquote>4. "Verdammt," and its variations and enlargements, are words
which have plenty of meaning, but the <b>sounds</b> are so mild and
ineffectual that German ladies can use them without sin. German ladies who
could not be induced to commit a sin by any persuasion or compulsion, promptly
rip out one of these harmless little words when they tear their dresses or
don't like the soup. It sounds about as wicked as our "My gracious." German
ladies are constantly saying, "Ach! Gott!" "Mein Gott!" "Gott in Himmel!"
"Herr Gott" "Der Herr Jesus!" etc. They think our ladies have the same
custom, perhaps; for I once heard a gentle and lovely old German lady say to a
sweet young American girl: "The two languages are so alike -- how pleasant
that is; we say `Ach! Gott!' you say `Goddamn.'"</blockquote>

Fourthly, I would reorganize the sexes, and distribute them accordingly to
the will of the creator. This as a tribute of respect, if nothing else.

Fifthly, I would do away with those great long compounded words; or require
the speaker to deliver them in sections, with intermissions for refreshments.
To wholly do away with them would be best, for ideas are more easily received
and digested when they come one at a time than when they come in bulk.
Intellectual food is like any other; it is pleasanter and more beneficial to
take it with a spoon than with a shovel.

Sixthly, I would require a speaker to stop when he is done, and not hang a
string of those useless "<b>haben sind gewesen gehabt haben geworden
sein</b>s" to the end of his oration. This sort of gewgaws undignify a
speech, instead of adding a grace. They are, therefore, an offense, and
should be discarded.

Seventhly, I would discard the Parenthesis. Also the reparenthesis, the
re-reparenthesis, and the re-re-re-re-re-reparentheses, and likewise the final
wide-reaching all-inclosing king-parenthesis. I would require every
individual, be he high or low, to unfold a plain straightforward tale, or else
coil it and sit on it and hold his peace. Infractions of this law should be
punishable with death.

And eighthly, and last, I would retain <b>Zug</b> and <b>Schlag</b>, with
their pendants, and discard the rest of the vocabulary. This would simplify
the language.

I have now named what I regard as the most necessary and important
changes. These are perhaps all I could be expected to name for nothing; but
there are other suggestions which I can and will make in case my proposed
application shall result in my being formally employed by the government in
the work of reforming the language.

My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to
learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in
thirty days, and German in thirty years. It seems manifest, then, that the
latter tongue ought to be trimmed down and repaired. If it is to remain as it
is, it ought to be gently and reverently set aside among the dead languages,
for only the dead have time to learn it.

<h4><A NAME="x4">A Fourth of July Oration in the German Tongue, Delivered at
a Banquet of the Anglo-American Club of Students by the
Author of This Book</A></h4>

Gentlemen: Since I arrived, a month ago, in this old wonderland, this vast
garden of Germany, my English tongue has so often proved a useless piece of
baggage to me, and so troublesome to carry around, in a country where they
haven't the checking system for luggage, that I finally set to work, and
learned the German language. Also! Es freut mich dass dies so ist, denn es
muss, in ein haupts&auml;chlich degree, h&ouml;flich sein, dass man auf ein
occasion like this, sein Rede in die Sprache des Landes worin he boards,
aussprechen soll. Daf&uuml;r habe ich, aus reinische Verlegenheit -- no,
Vergangenheit -- no, I mean H&ouml;flichkeit -- aus reinische H&ouml;flichkeit habe ich
resolved to tackle this business in the German language, um Gottes willen!
Also! Sie m&uuml;ssen so freundlich sein, und verzeih mich die interlarding
von ein oder zwei Englischer Worte, hie und da, denn ich finde dass die
deutsche is not a very copious language, and so when you've really got
anything to say, you've got to draw on a language that can stand the

Wenn haber man kann nicht meinem Rede Verstehen, so werde ich ihm
sp&auml;ter dasselbe &uuml;bersetz, wenn er solche Dienst verlangen wollen
haben werden sollen sein h&auml;tte. (I don't know what "wollen haben werden
sollen sein h&auml;tte" means, but I notice they always put it at the end of a
German sentence -- merely for general literary gorgeousness, I suppose.)

This is a great and justly honored day -- a day which is worthy of the
veneration in which it is held by the true patriots of all climes and
nationalities -- a day which offers a fruitful theme for thought and speech;
und meinem Freunde -- no, mein<b>en</b> Freund<b>en</b> -- mein<b>es</b>
Freund<b>es</b> -- well, take your choice, they're all the same price; I don't
know which one is right -- also! ich habe gehabt haben worden gewesen sein, as
Goethe says in his <cite>Paradise Lost</cite> -- ich -- ich -- that is to say
-- ich -- but let us change cars.

Also! Die Anblich so viele Grossbrittanischer und Amerikanischer hier
zusammengetroffen in Bruderliche concord, ist zwar a welcome and inspiriting
spectacle. And what has moved you to it? Can the terse German tongue rise to
the expression of this impulse? Is it Freundschaftsbezeigungenstadtverordneten versammlungenfamilieneigenth&uuml;mlichkeiten ?
Nein, o nein! This is a crisp and noble word, but it fails to pierce the
marrow of the impulse which has gathered this friendly meeting and produced
diese Anblick -- eine Anblich welche ist gut zu sehen -- gut f&uuml;r die
Augen in a foreign land and a far country -- eine Anblick solche als in die
gew&ouml;hnliche Heidelberger phrase nennt man ein "sch&ouml;nes Aussicht!"
Ja, freilich nat&uuml;rlich wahrscheinlich ebensowohl! Also! Die Aussicht auf
dem K&ouml;nigsstuhl mehr gr&ouml;sser ist, aber geistlische sprechend nicht
so sch&ouml;n, lob' Gott! Because sie sind hier zusammengetroffen, in
Bruderlichem concord, ein grossen Tag zu feirn<!--feiern??-->, whose high benefits were not
for one land and one locality, but have conferred a measure of good upon all
lands that know liberty today, and love it. Hundert Jahre vor&uuml;ber, waren
die Engl&auml;nder und die Amerikaner Feinde; aber heute sind sie herzlichen
Freunde, Gott sei Dank! May this good-fellowship endure; may these banners
here blended in amity so remain; may they never any more wave over opposing
hosts, or be stained with blood which was kindred, is kindred, and always will
be kindred, until a line drawn upon a map shall be able to say: "<b>This</b>
bars the ancestral blood from flowing in the veins of the descendant!"

— <b>Mark Twain</b>

Wednesday, August 6th, 2003, 05:35 PM
No, there is a system...

And because of the sex.
No German (like me) thinks that a tree is male, a weapon is female, etc...
The Articles are more used for the good sounding ;)
Only on persons

For example: All words which ends with an e are "female" - uses the female article "die".

One "exception" that is not really one:

Greek - Der Grieche (male) - Die Griechin (female)
There it is logical ;)
A male Greek can't be female :D

Wednesday, August 6th, 2003, 06:55 PM
Matt, do not expect an American Anglophile to understand or care about german.

Wednesday, August 6th, 2003, 08:03 PM
No, there is a system...

And because of the sex.
No German (like me) thinks that a tree is male, a weapon is female, etc...
The Articles are more used for the good sounding ;)
Only on persons

It's interesting because modern English is hybrid of German and French both of which use masculine and feminine articles but English doesn't.

Wednesday, August 6th, 2003, 09:00 PM
German is even worse than French, because we have masculine, feminine and neutrum articles.

We also have got about a dozen ways of forming plurals of words, and our list of irregular forms of verbs beats yours with ease.

Ich nehme - I take

Du nimmst - You take

Ich nahm - I took

Ich habe genommen - I have taken

Ich nähme - I would take

Just one example. No system. Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache. :bat

Wednesday, August 6th, 2003, 09:24 PM
I've study both French and German a little bit. I found German easier.

Wednesday, August 6th, 2003, 10:53 PM
Hmmm... really? I always thought German to be much more difficult then French. French didn't seem a too difficult language for me, when I had it in school.

Perhaps as an English native speaker it was easier for you to feel into a Germanic language...

Wednesday, August 6th, 2003, 11:45 PM
At least in german it is easy to spell. I never can spell french words.

Thursday, August 7th, 2003, 12:18 AM
I found French much easier to learn than English or German, maybe because Czech took a lot of French words rather than develop it's own as it evolved. I found English very hard, mostly because of the grammar... I gave up German after school so I never became fluent in it, but I can read it quite well. Also, I have a terrible accent in all three three languages which I can't seem to get rid of.

Thursday, August 7th, 2003, 07:00 AM
I found English very hard, mostly because of the grammar...

Well, you seem to have mastered it eventually... ;)

Thursday, August 7th, 2003, 03:07 PM
Well, you seem to have mastered it eventually... ;)
I studied English for four hours a day last year, it was quite awful but I'm happy that I finally got it. Also, this forum is quite good practice for me because I end up doing quite a bit of reading and writing!

Thursday, August 7th, 2003, 05:41 PM
I never can spell french words.

Did you have French at school? If one never had French, French always seems hard in its spelling. But if one learns French, one realizes in two or three lessons, that spelling and pronunciation follows - different than in English - quite strict rules and isn't at all difficult.

Friday, August 8th, 2003, 12:05 AM
nope, i would rather take chinese than french... :D

Friday, August 8th, 2003, 01:43 AM
nope, i would rather take chinese than french... :D

cause you want to be prepared for the Chinese invasion?

Friday, August 8th, 2003, 03:52 AM
cause you want to be prepared for the Chinese invasion?

We must bow to our superiours....

If there will be an invasion... it sure won't be by the french... LOLOLOLOL
Je me rends

Friday, August 8th, 2003, 07:25 AM
Turkish and Arab will be quite useful languages in a future country once known as Germany... :~(


Friday, August 8th, 2003, 09:12 PM
cause you want to be prepared for the Chinese invasion?
But at first, the russian will come, through czech, austria, then to germany, england, france & italy, (europe hasn't got many soldiers) but the chinese will come, too. The chineese will fight against the russian, but not to be a allied of us.
When the russians are more and more in europe, the amercians will decide to help, there will be a terrible war.

Did you mean that war, that will come soon? :stick

Another question: What's your mother language?

Friday, August 8th, 2003, 09:24 PM
But at first, the russian will come, through czech, austria, then to germany, england, france & italy, (europe hasn't got many soldiers) but the chinese will come, too. The chineese will fight against the russian, but not to be a allied of us.
When the russians are more and more in europe, the amercians will decide to help, there will be a terrible war.

Did you mean that war, that will come soon? :stick

Another question: What's your mother language?
I'm confused by this "Russian Invasion" would the Russians be on the side of Europe? It's interesting to see how this thread has gone off track!

Saturday, August 9th, 2003, 10:18 AM
nope, i would rather take chinese than french... :D

Mandarin? Cantonese? Or one of the other 200+ dialects. I would not count on the fact that futue invaders speak Mandarin. ;)

Sunday, August 10th, 2003, 02:04 PM
Mandarin? Cantonese? Or one of the other 200+ dialects. I would not count on the fact that futue invaders speak Mandarin. ;)

I don't know, it just proves how much I don't want to learn french.

Sunday, August 10th, 2003, 02:21 PM
No, there is a system...

And because of the sex.
No German (like me) thinks that a tree is male, a weapon is female, etc...
The Articles are more used for the good sounding ;)
Only on persons

For example: All words which ends with an e are "female" - uses the female article "die".

One "exception" that is not really one:

Greek - Der Grieche (male) - Die Griechin (female)
There it is logical ;)
A male Greek can't be female :D

I understand the noun genders are derived from ancient religion?

Why don't y'all just use das/ein?;)

Interestingly, German is apparently the only major Euro language to see the Moon as masculine and Sun as feminine, it's usually the reverse.

Sunday, August 10th, 2003, 05:36 PM
Ok, ok, it seems to be chaotic if you compare it with another languages :insane

Sunday, August 10th, 2003, 06:05 PM
Why don't y'all just use das/ein?

We do. We also use der/ein and die/eine.


If that is too complicated then blame god for a little brain.

;) :clown

Monday, August 11th, 2003, 02:51 PM
We do. We also use der/ein and die/eine.


If that is too complicated then blame god for a little brain.

;) :clown

Touché;) :king

Monday, August 11th, 2003, 03:18 PM
German spelling reform gets bad grade

Its primary goal of unifying language failed

By Heike Schmoll
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Five years after the spelling reform came into effect, and seven years after its introduction into the school system, the handling of orthography and punctuation in Germany can be characterized as chaotic to anarchistic. The spelling reform failed in its primary goal of unifying the literary language in German-speaking European countries - there are no ifs and buts about it.

Although 80 percent of all newly published books are printed with the new spelling, only 22 percent of Germans use the new rules. According to a recent survey, the new rules are still unclear for almost half of the population.

Parents consider themselves unable to check their children's homework for the right spelling and punctuation. Teachers of German pore over the newest edition of the Duden dictionary to clarify uncertainties when correcting essays and dictation exercises. The number of doubtful cases is numerous and increases with each new edition of the dictionary. In 1996, there were 4,000 different orthographic and grammatical points between the dictionaries produced by Duden and Bertelsmann. Changes to the dictionaries have meanwhile been coordinated, but this hasn't eliminated the general confusion. From Aug. 1, 2005, old spelling will be considered a mistake; until then it will be seen merely as outdated.

The education ministries, which once agreed on the reform - clearly not knowing what they were doing - are wary of admitting problems with the spelling reform. Because of financial woes, most education policy makers have other problems to worry about. None of them would speak out in favor of revoking the failed reform because to do so would be to expose themselves to the accusation of having wasted government funds. All school books would have to be reprinted again.

Yet students lack certainty. They are confronted with different spellings in each primer, since most authors have refused to allow their texts to be printed with the new spelling and they also read newspapers that have retained the old spelling system. Most likely, though, only students with a strong command of spelling can recognize the difference.

The spelling reform was the result of a process that started several decades ago. Around 40 years ago, every lesson was considered a German-language lesson. Whoever handed in biology homework full of spelling or punctuation mistakes knew that they would lose points. In the middle of the 1960s this practice was declared impermissible. In some states, language laxity went so far that spelling mistakes were no longer considered mistakes even in German essays.

Within no time, teachers appeared who were themselves weak in spelling and punctuation or drummed into their students that spelling wasn't that important. The new reform has not corrected this development, on the contrary.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Aug. 8, 2003

Thursday, August 14th, 2003, 08:33 PM
The easiest language to learn is English, the only bad thing is that they write a word and pronounce it then with no sense: the vowels, diptongues not always are pronounced equally, it depends. Funny thing. That´s the reason they don't know how to spell properly.
This doesn´t happen in other languages: in Spanish, for example, an "a" always is pronounced equally and when you see "a" in a word you know how to read it, NOT IN ENGLISH, STRANGE THING.

The rest is cool. The adjectives have no gender, no number, cool.
The verbs are very basic and without subjuntive, etc.

Red hat sombrero rojo red house casa roja
Red hats sombreros rojos red houses casas rojas

I love Yo amo
You love Tú amas
He loves Él ama
She loves Ella ama
We love Nosotros amamos
You love Vosotros amáis
They love Ellos aman

German reminds me to Latin and Classic Greek with its declinations of nouns and adjectives.
The three ones have the male, female and neuter gender.
Spanish and French have male and female gender.

The difficult languages to learn are the non-indoeuropean ones like Basque that I´m learning and is really tough.


Thursday, August 14th, 2003, 09:32 PM
The simplicity of English is perhaps why American Children have a very low education system. And is more difficult for them to pick up a secound language because they are not used to akkusativ, dativ, genitiv (etc.). Or maybe they think they have no need to learn a different language for they are rulers of the world. Why can't most point to their country on a map?


Sunday, August 17th, 2003, 09:49 PM
I've study both French and German a little bit. I found German easier.

I agree.

I have taken French as a second language and I am currently taking German, and I can truly say that I am much more fond of the latter.

And because of the sex.
No German (like me) thinks that a tree is male, a weapon is female, etc...
The Articles are more used for the good sounding
Only on persons

The articles aren't too much of a problem for me.

Only one case I found truly strange is the use of the neutrum article Das for Maedchen, meaning little girl.

Of course, that was until I found out all words ending with the suffix chen were accompanied by the article Das.

Monday, August 18th, 2003, 12:13 AM
Are girls neuter?

By Emma Burrows

Pity the poor expatriates who come to this country with no knowledge of German and no knowledge of what sort of irrational language awaits them here. I'm not talking about the funky dialects - Swabian, Kölsch, Bavarian, Saxon or whatever may hit you - but about Hochdeutsch, high German, the purest form which you're taught at your local Goethe Institute.
Plain old standard German really is complicated enough, with its Umlaute, odd letters - ß, pronounced ess-tset - and three genders (masculine, feminine and neuter), which seem to follow a whimsical logic of their own. The woman (die Frau, but also das Weib) can be feminine or a neuter, while the thing (die Sache) is feminine. And not every foreigner - or German, for that matter - will readily grasp why a brassiere (der BH) is masculine. Those struggling with vocabulary cards may be tempted to sign off on Mark Twain's verdict: Never trust a language in which girls are neuter (Das Mädchen) and potatoes feminine (Die Kartoffel).
The unrestrained tendency to create nouns, a fond specialty of the German language, often results in unbelievably long words. German politicians seem to be particular experts in this field, as witnessed by such monstrosities as the "Steuervergünstigungsabbaugesetz", the law on the reduction of tax subsidies, or "Betäubungsmittelverordnungsänderungsgese tz", the law adapting the ordinance on anesthetic substances.
And rocket scientists might find German rules of grammar a challenge. My experience is that either you're brought up using the accusative and the dative, or you're not.
But rest assured, in this land of thinkers and poets, even the natives regularly stumble over the capitalization of nouns and noun-like verbs or finer points of grammar such as the subjunctive.
That's the German language for you - not always simple or straight to the point, but always exact. But don't give up. Of course, you can easily get by without German in this country, but your neighbors will love you all the more if you give it a try. Start practicing now: Would you like to come to my Nachbarschaftseinweihungsfeier (welcome party for new neighbors)?

Monday, August 18th, 2003, 04:54 AM
Mark Twain: The Awful German Language [1880] (2/2)

I herein wish to THANK!!! Thorburn for posting this article in the first place! I found it most HUMOROUS!!!! Oh, Samuel Clements (Confederate Soldier, C.S.A.), "where art thou today?"

This is MUST READING!! for every English student of "German." lol ;-) It might help said folks to get a CHUCKLE or two while BEATING their heads on the wall while reading some horrendous textbook on said topic!!! ;-)))

Thursday, August 21st, 2003, 10:25 PM
Start practicing now: Would you like to come to my Nachbarschaftseinweihungsfeier (welcome party for new neighbors)?

In german, we put words togehter to one word, we dont divide it than in english.
Nachbarschaftseinweihungsfeier: :birds

This word is made of three words:

Nachbarschaft - neighbourhood
Einweihung - inauguration/induction
Feier - party

Or are any brains not able to notice that?

But if i should be plain - i've never used or heard this word. In Germany we dont celebrate a big party if we get a new neighbour (another customs?) - so this word is not (often) used :eyes
Today it's the first time, that i heard this word, but I'm sure that it exists :joker

Thursday, August 21st, 2003, 11:31 PM
In the house where I live there are many Ausländer. No reason for me to celebrate a welcome party when new darkish folks arrive with bag and baggage...

Thursday, August 21st, 2003, 11:46 PM
Only one case I found truly strange is the use of the neutrum article Das for Maedchen, meaning little girl.

Of course, that was until I found out all words ending with the suffix chen were accompanied by the article Das.

Das Mädchen is originally the diminutive form of die Magd (the "g" must have been dropped out with the time). Magd (maid) is already for a long time an old-fashioned word that is only used in fairy tales, for descriptions of life in former centuries etc., and even mostly in the meaning of "maid servant" (especially for peasants) and not of "girl" (more a poetic word here).
Mädchen made itself independent as word and isn't realized as a diminutive form of anything by the normal German speaker.

Friday, August 22nd, 2003, 01:06 AM
In german, we put words togehter to one word, we dont divide it than in english.
Nachbarschaftseinweihungsfeier: :birds

No kidding. Writing out numbers like 1638 is mind-boggling to those who don't understand the language. After you understand it's easy though.

Sunday, August 24th, 2003, 08:44 PM
In german, we put words togehter to one word, we dont divide it than in english.

My German teacher happened to point this out several times.

Turns out the longest word in the German language is 60-70
characters long!

I can't recall the spelling or pronunciation (can you really blame me?), only remembering that is means that small star on the captain's hat. (or something along those lines)

Sunday, August 24th, 2003, 09:09 PM
Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitä nsmützenabzeichen perhaps?

The Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaft, the "Danube Steam Boating Society" is famous as an official German long word. And a Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitä n is a captain of a boat of that Society. And the ...kapitänsmützenabzeichen would be a badge on the hat of such a captain... But you can extend that how you want: If you are the unlucky guy who has to polish that badge on the hat of the captain, you can call yourself a Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitä nsmützenabzeichenpolierer. :giggle And if you are the lucky guy who drives the polishing slave with the whip :whip , be so free and call yourself a Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitä nsmützenabzeichenpoliereraufpasser. :rofl

Edit: Hell, this program here tears such long words into two pieces.

Monday, August 25th, 2003, 02:12 PM
The simplicity of English is perhaps why American Children have a very low education system. And is more difficult for them to pick up a secound language because they are not used to akkusativ, dativ, genitiv (etc.). Or maybe they think they have no need to learn a different language for they are rulers of the world. Why can't most point to their country on a map?


Yeah maybe we should change the english language to have three words for "the" how about "ther" "thie" and "thas", and also ther>them>thes.... :insane

I hope not... but on the other hand, it would prepare the english speaking population for the rest of the world's languages.

Personally I like the idea of German being simplified to only include das and ein, and no adjective endings! :) The rest is easy.

Monday, August 25th, 2003, 05:04 PM
Yeah maybe we should change the english language to have three words for "the" how about "ther" "thie" and "thas", and also ther>them>thes.... :insane

Thas sounds reasonable. If ther change wouldn't be to hard for thie Britons and Americans... :D

Personally I like the idea of German being simplified to only include das and ein, and no adjective endings! :)

Ein beschissen Idee. :stop

Tuesday, August 26th, 2003, 03:13 AM
Thas sounds reasonable. If ther change wouldn't be to hard for thie Britons and Americans... :D

Ein beschissen Idee. :stop

Warum das denn? Würde es nicht leichter sein? Ich freut mich darauf, wenn Deutsch ein wenig einfacheres wäre. Aber die ist nur die Veranschaulichung eines Ausländers... :)

Tuesday, August 26th, 2003, 01:43 PM
It wouldn't work. A government can change in an administrative act the orthography of a language, but not the grammar or ground-structure of a language itself. It would only work if in a process over a longer time the bearers of the language, the lingual community itself would change the language. There are indeed in spoken German simplification tendencies in regard to the basis grammar (e. g. the avoidance of the proper genetive: dem Vater sein Haus or das Haus vom Vater instead of correct das Haus des Vaters / Vaters Haus), but no German has problems with the three articles or the adjective endings. Ein schön Frau instead of eine schöne Frau sounds simply completely wrong.

I don't see a chance that this will change. Our languages are not only spoken, but written languages, and as such their foundaments are quite fixed and don't change to much. Modern High German is a result of a language standardization process in whole Germany that had made its last great processes in early Modern times. In the last centuries, words or expressions became old-fashioned or new were invented, and language trends come and go, but the language itself as fixed, written literature language in its ground structure is'nt in a ferment anymore and doesn't make great transformation processes. It's no problem to read texts from the 18th or 17th century.

Wednesday, August 27th, 2003, 08:13 AM
"Hey Mr. Japanese. I find your language hard to learn. Would you mind changing hundreds of years of language inorder to fit my laziness?"


Thursday, August 28th, 2003, 12:47 PM
Hehe, I was not really serious about changing it, or maybe I was....

Either way I know they won't change the language and I wouldn't expect them to.

It's good to have it complicated, then less foreigners can learn it. :tie

Dr. Solar Wolff
Monday, October 6th, 2003, 08:11 AM
Let's set aside German for a moment and talk about Mark Twain. Perhaps Europeans have never had the misfortune to read Mark Twain. He thinks he is cute and writes in an obscure, and now extinct, southern dialect. It is not folksy, it lends nothing to the story, it just confuses people. It is just plain painfull to read and I am an American. I gave up. I refuse to read this crap. Not only that, I refused to allow my children to read this crap when assigned to do so in school.

Given that Mark Twain's work is not standard English---and perhaps his own English was less than perfect, it is perhaps no wonder that he did not appreciate German. Language is thought. German has rules, in spite of what Mark Twain says. As a matter of fact, the rules are far better than for English. I say English has no rules because there are so many violations for each rule---you Europeans already know that. German is straightforward and logical. Words are compounded not borrowed from a foreign language. Some say this ruled, internally consistant language makes for an ordered mind.

A German friend, in explaining English to his wife who did not speak English, said that English came from German, it is like a child's language and so is easy to learn. I must say that this took me aback somewhat but it is not far from the truth. Mark Twain was complaining about going uphill linguistically, not downhill as he was used to doing.

The best recommendation for the unique value of the German language is Mark Twain's rejection of it.

Tuesday, October 7th, 2003, 07:25 AM
German is straightforward and logical. Words are compounded not borrowed from a foreign language.

I personally don't really like so much the enormous masses of words with Latin-French roots in English. I sometimes wonder what English would be like if it had in its vocabulary such a Germanic character as German.

Monday, November 3rd, 2003, 05:09 PM
The german laguage was just perfect, before democratic idiots started to tamper with it to accomodate the foreigners who have problems with it.

Our language needs to be radicly cleansed from all foreign words and influance.
German is the most noble, poetic and melodic language one can think of. It is expressive, powerfull and genuine.


Mittersprache, Mutterlaut!
Wie so wonnesam, so traut!
Erstes Wort, das mir erschallet,
süßes, erstes Liebeswort,
erster Ton, den ich gelallet,
klingest ewig in mir fort.

Ach, wie trüb ist meinem Sinn,
wenn ich in der Fremde bin,
wenn ich fremde Zungen üben,
fremde Worte brauchen muß,
die ich nimmermehr kann lieben,
die nicht klingen als ein Gruß!

Sprache schön und wunderbar,
ach, wie klingest du so klar!
Will noch tiefer mich vertiefen
in den Reichtum, in die Pracht;
ist mir's doch, als ob mich riefen
Väter aus des Grabes Nacht.

Klinge, klinge fort und fort,
Heldensprache, liebeswort;
steig empor aus tiefsten Grüften,
längst verscholl'nes altes Lied,
leb' aufs neu in heil'gen Schriften,
daß dir jedes Herz erglüht!

Überall weht Gottes hauch,
heilig ist wohl mancher Brauch;
aber soll ich beten, danken,
geb' ich meine Liebe kund,
meine seligsten Gedanken,
sprech' ich wie der Mutter Mund.

Max von Schenkendorf


"Unter den Sprachen Europas ist die deutsche die einzige lebendige"
Johann Gottlieb FICHTE


Thursday, January 15th, 2004, 06:24 AM
I personally don't really like so much the enormous masses of words with Latin-French roots in English. I sometimes wonder what English would be like if it had in its vocabulary such a Germanic character as German.

I believe it would sound like this :P

Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum; Si þin nama gehalgod to becume þin rice gewurþe ðin willa on eorðan swa swa on heofonum. urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg and forgyf us ure gyltas swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge ac alys us of yfele soþlice.

This is the modern English text: Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil.

Mac Seafraidh
Thursday, January 15th, 2004, 12:57 PM
Yes, English is a Germanic language and it might not sound too much like English, many non-lingual enthusiaists would say that anyway. German itself has Latin roots, in some cases more than English does. I think the English language has more French roots than the German language, but as Old English turned to Middle English you were able to see a lot more French influence.

No Code
Tuesday, July 20th, 2004, 06:44 AM
German kick ass!! Its sounds cool. french is very gay = P. The only problem with german is very hard.well...nothing is better than brazilian portuguese!! yeah!!

Monday, August 30th, 2004, 12:55 AM
I took French in school for like 9 years, and honestly never learned to actually form some sort of understandable sentence in it... Even though there is there feminine and masculine in German I still find it a lot more easy to understand. But that may be because I grew up with people speaking German around me.

Monday, August 30th, 2004, 01:12 AM
French was a horror :D

I like my German language, German is an elitarian language!
I love it. The only foreign languages I like are Latin (it's a shame that we don't learn really to speak it anymore, only translating..) and English, because it is good to communicate with others and is half Germanic half Roman.

Saturday, September 4th, 2004, 01:13 PM
In France a very common prejudice is that German is an awful, harsh-sounding language. That's mainly, in my mind, because many french hear german-speaking only in those movies about WW2 that depicts caricatural nazi officers screaming bloody orders "Achtung ! Still Gestanden ! Ausweis und Papieren ! Heil Hitler !" (it's supposed to make them ridiculous in comic films, and frightening in serious films).

And that results also of an irrational, chauvinistic dislike, that some frenchmen (almost old-timers) have for all that relates Germany, seen as the "traditional hereditary enemy" (even more than England !!!). I think these sort of prejudices began in 1870. lol

Personally, I don't have these sad chauvinistic resentments, and I find deutsch a very beautiful, poetic language.
"Ich weiss nicht was soll es bedeuten, dass ich so traurig bin..." :) ::sigh::
I really enjoy listening to Wagner Opers.
I had learnt german during 7 years (but I had no practice since 4 years, and I forgot much. "Schade..." I wasn't bad at all, but now I hardly could indicate a German tourist his way without using my hands. I still can read german, but depending of the level of difficulty I would need a dictionary .)

If you want my mind about learning foreign languages, one should better learn the languages of the very neigbooring lands (I mean, for European guys), and within this prefer languages of his own meta-ethnic group.

In France since we're supposed to be a "latin" country, italian and spanish are the most taught foreign languages (after english). It is right and good in southern parts, but rather stupid in northern -especially northeastern- France, where Germanic languages should be preferred.
[But officially, the germanic heritage of France is very devaluated. We are taught that "France" is of latin-hellenic culture. The only ancient civilizations kids study at scool are Rome, Hellenic, and even Egyptian ! Very few about Celtic civilization (in former "Gaul"!) and nearly nothing about Germanic civilization (who said Frank-Reich?) That was for the foreign language policy. I don't even dare to speak of the indigenous languages like brezhoneg, elsasser, vlaemsch, occitan...]

I'll told you that one of my greatest regrets is that there was no Dutch teaching at my schools, even when my town is only 40 minutes far from official Belgian Flanders border ! (and much nearer of the flemish speaking Westhoek area within french borders)
But I intend to solve this error in a few years. :) Ik zou Nederlands spreken ! I swear it on all the villages with nordzeegermanisch names of my place ! ;)

french is very gay = PI hardly see what's "gay" in french ? french southern accent sounds quite singing and joyous, if that's what you mean :D

Gorm the Old
Tuesday, March 29th, 2005, 04:12 AM
I am very glad that I grew up speaking English, because I would certainly hate to have to learn it if it were not my native language. The orthography and pronunciation of English are thoroughly irrational. Of the languages with which I have any acquaintance, only Gaelic and Tibetan have departed further in pronunciation from their spelling.
I have studied both German and French. I found it easy to learn to read, write, speak, and understand (fairly well) German, but I must have Germanic ears. I cannot understand spoken French, though I can read, write, and speak it fairly well. For me, there are too many silent letters in French.
Mario Pei pointed out long ago that we actually hear no more than 60% of what is said to us. If we are familiar with the language, the brain supplies the missing sounds from the context. If the langage is unfamiliar, we cannot do this and the spoken langauage is incomprehensible to us even though we may have a reading knowledge of the language.
German , except for gender, is emimently logical. The lack of any ambiguity in pronunciation is a great advantage as contrasted with French or English, for example. Indeed, if I were to choose a universal language for Europe I would consider German exceptionally well qualified.

Monday, June 6th, 2005, 05:14 AM
I am very glad that I grew up speaking English, because I would certainly hate to have to learn it if it were not my native language. The orthography and pronunciation of English are thoroughly irrational.
It's true that the spelling is something which makes English difficult, but in many respects it's easier than other languages, for instance the lack of inflections.

Monday, June 6th, 2005, 08:48 AM
Unfortunately, I could only make it about halfway through Twain's impotent admission of his own linguistic incompetence. The part where he agonizes over translating "because of the rain" alone is hilarious. Had he known that in this instance "wegen" is used, with the following noun in the genitive, his suffering would not have been so extreme, poor man. Then, in an effort to unfairly make the German language seem complicated, he points out of the "den Regen" exception. I believe he must have known that a rare exception does not excuse his failure to grasp the use of "wegen" and four simple noun cases.

The dative can cause English speakers great confusion, but even that can be learned through "feel" and intuition—ah, but of course Mr. Twain had already been studying for "years" and somehow still hadn't caught that.

My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in thirty days, and German in thirty years.Funny, it took me two weeks of eight-hours a day study to grasp the basic grammatical structure of German.

It seems manifest, then, that the latter tongue ought to be trimmed down and repaired.The only thing which required trimming was his frontal lobes. Preferably with an icepick.

If it is to remain as it is, it ought to be gently and reverently set aside among the dead languages, for only the dead have time to learn it.Thankfully, Mr. Twain, the German language lives on, while you are long dead and rotting. You now have plenty of time to grasp those pesky noun cases—one should hope.

Monday, June 6th, 2005, 07:42 PM
It seems Mr. Twain's dry humor is lost on some people.

His poking fun at the German language is more akin to the good-natured ribbing of a close friend than casting spite at an enemy.

Monday, June 6th, 2005, 07:45 PM
The orthography and pronunciation of English are thoroughly irrational.

"The heart of the trouble is with our foolish alphabet, it doesn't know how to spell and can't be taught."
-- Mark Twain

In actuality, it's been demonstrated that English orthography is a logical representation of the underlying phonological forms of lexical items. Somewhere I've squirreled away a good essay on the subject. I'll see if I can dig it out for you.