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AWADmail Issue 453

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language

From: M Henri Day (mhenriday gmail.com)
Subject: Sitzfleisch
Def: 1. The ability to sit through or tolerate something boring. 2. The ability to endure or persist in a task.

Under the course of my doctoral studies I had occasion to be reminded several times by my professor that the one indispensable quality required of a researcher was not brilliance nor even intelligence, but Sitzfleisch.

M Henri Day, Stockholm, Sweden

From: Gene Racicot (gene.racicot shaw.ca)
Subject: sitzfleisch

As students at university we had a quip "The mind will not absorb what the seat will not endure."

Gene Racicot, Victoria, Canada

From: Venkataraman Balakrishnan (venkataraman.balakrishnan gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sitzfleisch
In my mind, sitzfleisch is inextricably associated with chess. If ever an activity requires sitzfleisch both physically and mentally, it's chess!

Venkataraman Balakrishnan, Chennai, India

From: Susan Coe (cinco_00 yahoo.com)
Subject: sitzfleisch

Such an appropriate word to come up on my first day of jury duty!

Susan Coe, Bryson City, North Carolina

From: Eva-Maria von Hauff (woozel fachverwalter.de)
Subject: sitzfleisch

A sitzfleischorden is a promotion or decoration someone receives not because of personal merit but due to seniority.

Eva-Maria von Hauff, Waldsee, Germany

From: Frances Wade (franwade gcom.net.au)
Subject: sitzfleisch

Re sitzfleisch: My mother and her mother before her had an expression that applied to any old crony of her husband who dropped in of an evening for a chat with him and looked as if he'd settled in for a good few hours: He's got his sticking-breeches on.

Frances Wade, Maldon, Victoria, Australia

From: Claudine Voelcker (claudine.voelcker googlemail.com)
Subject: Sitzfleisch

Sitzfleisch is, like so many German words, a wonderfully concrete word: the flesh you sit on. Chancellor Merkel is described by many Germans as a person with a lot of it. Someone who will sit out anything without actually doing anything about the task at hand -- just sitting through her term.

Claudine Voelcker, Munich, Germany

From: Edith Slembek (ruebezahl bluewin.ch)
Subject: Sitzfleisch

A very common understanding in Germany is: you have guests and politeness wants that the guest has to decide when he wants to leave. Sometimes there are guests who stay and stay, you want to go to bed but guest sits and sits, we say 'He has sitzfleisch.'

Edith Slembek, Switzerland

From: Faith Puleston (faith1110 gmx.net)
Subject: sitzfleisch

What the German language sports in joined-up words, it lacks in verbal variety. There is no continuous tense at all, but the Germans are working on that. They do have gerunds (verb infinitives with a capital letter) and have taken to putting "am" in front to make grammatical coinages such as "am Arbeiten" (am working). But in English the "am" is a verb and in German it's a preposition. This last-ditch attempt at modernizing German is considered uncouth (and incorrect), but everyone uses it.

Faith Puleston, Herdecke, Germany

From: BranShea (via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Subject: sitzfleisch

Germans are clever with word glue. Besides Sitzfleisch they also have the word Fleischersatz, meaning the whole magical world of tempeh, tofu, breadcrumbs, mashed beans, and Analogkäse.

Cécile Hessels, The Hague, Netherlands

Email of the Week - (Sponsored by One Up! - Where words become swords.)

From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr (RRosenbergSr accuratechemical.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ersatz
Def: Serving as a substitute, especially of inferior quality; artificial.

During WWII in occupied Europe everything became ersatz. There were ersatz ladies' stockings, ersatz butter, but mostly ersatz coffee (basically malt).

When my mother Frieda and I went into hiding (for 27 months), we took along a small test tube filled with about a dozen real coffee beans and settled to drinking ersatz coffee until the liberation in 1944. Mother had saved the dozen coffee beans to offer a real cup of coffee to our eventual liberators.

When I talk to groups about our diet of herring, turnips, black bread, and ersatz coffee, I am always greeted with puzzled looks from the audience. It had never occurred to me that this was a word not known in the USA.

Thank you for resuscitating Ersatz. Incidentally, we were liberated by the British and they drank tea!

Rudy Rosenberg Sr., Westbury, New York

From: Bob Carleton (carletonrb msn.com)
Subject: ersatz

In Turkey this past autumn, a guide told us there was a ranking... Genuine Fake, Fake, and 'take your chances'. All, of course, referred to ersatz goods.

Bob Carleton, Albuquerque, New Mexico

From: Paul Hambruch (hambruch telus.net)
Subject: Ersatz
I was born in Germany in 1927 and grew up there. The one thing "Ersatz" I do remember well was Ersatzkaffee, something that had to take the place of real coffee. It was made from the left-overs of sugar beets that were fermented and roasted. As a 16-year-old I was stationed in an anti-aircraft battery near Karlsruhe, next door to a factory where the concoction was produced. The horrible smell sticks in my brain to this very day. Certainly, ersatz in some ways means poor quality. But "Ersatzteile" are spare parts and in no way inferior to the originals.

Paul Hambruch, Golden, Canada

From: Richard Platt (richard.platt.sm.55 aya.yale.edu)
Subject: Ersatz
This reminded me of the limerick I heard many years ago:

The ersatz they served in Berlin,
Made a once-buxom lady so thin,
That when she essayed
To drink lemonade,
She slipped through the straw, and fell in!

Richard Platt, Milford, Connecticut

From: Robert Payne (dziga68 sbcglobal.net)
Subject: ersatz

I remember my first exposure to the word ersatz. As I have learned since that time, a common American expression is "ersatz brothers", meaning close friends who behave like brothers -- or a not-so-close pair of guys who are treated like brothers -- but who aren't really brothers. So, at the time, the joke was lost on me when the album "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers" by the comedy team the Firesign Theatre included a mock advertisement for Ersatz Brothers Coffee, the joke being that the brothers' surname was actually Ersatz.

Robert Payne, Los Angeles, California

From: Oliver Grimm (ogeg2000de gmx.de)
Subject: Re: Lebensraum
Def: Space required for living, growth, and development.

As a German, I can assure you that the term Lebensraum these days also refers to the Lebensraum for certain animal species, to your apartment which offers exceptionally bright and lofty Lebensraum, and also for cities which may offer a relaxing Lebensraum. Many Germans will not be able to tell you the etymological heritage of the term and the connotation of the word has completely changed as described above. It would have been nice to also see the modern day uses of the term and not only the standard Hitler era reference.

Oliver Grimm, Barcelona, Spain

Thanks for sharing the current meaning of the term in German. A.Word.A.Day discusses words as they are used in English though. Also, some readers questioned the pronunciations this week. Again, we include a word's pronunciation in English, which may sometimes be different from how it is pronounced in its native language.
-Anu Garg

From: Jens Kaiser (voodoodoll t-online.de)
Subject: diktat
Def: 1. An order or decree imposed without popular consent. 2. A harsh settlement imposed upon a defeated party.

In Germany, a Diktat also describes a test of students' grammar skills, usually conducted in elementary school. The teacher will read out a text and the students will have to write it down as accurately as possible. Since even missing a colon counts as a mistake and missing only a few of those would earn you the equivalent of an F, many of my classmates always dreaded the day of the Diktat, which would occur at least once a semester. One could say that a Diktat truly was "an order or decree imposed without popular consent"!

Jens Kaiser, Rudolstadt, Germany

From: Silvia Resch (silviaresch hotmail.com)
Subject: Diktat

When I grew up in Austria, the word Diktat meant something completely different. As an 11-year-old girl I dreaded every Monday morning because it meant that during our first class at school we would have a Diktat, meaning a dictated test of the spelling rules we had been going through the week before with our German professor. It normally consisted of about 20 sentences FULL of spelling traps but the worst thing was that at the end of the school day our professor would come into our classroom, although he had no business in doing so, handing out the corrected Diktate! He was really dedicated and a teacher I will never forget ... just as I will never forget all the spelling rules, and there are plenty of those in the German language!

Silvia Resch, Washington DC

From: Peter C. Rotter (petercrotter gmail.com)
Subject: Schwarmerei
Def: 1. Extravagant enthusiasm. 2. Excessive sentimentality.

This link (YouTube) was in an email I received today, the very email immediately before I opened today's A.Word.A.Day. I think it will help me remember schwarmerei.

From: Anke Kapels (akapels gmx.net)
Subject: schwaermerei

As with many German words, it is quite impossible to translate the meaning of Schwärmerei. It means a sort of romantic and innocent love for somebody or something, it's affectionate rather than passionate.

Anke Kapels, Hamburg, Germany

From: Betty Waddoups (betty.waddoups christushealth.org)
Subject: German Words

I don't speak German but I have a German friend who delights me with his examples of how "German has a word for everything." This one hasn't made it to the English language yet, but it should: Drachenfutter; literally "dragon fodder". The word is used to refer to a gift of candy or flowers to placate an angry wife (presumably after the gift-bearer has done something deserving of her anger).

Betty Waddoups, Shreveport, Louisiana

From: Richard Stallman (rms gnu.org)
Subject: E-books (Re: AWADmail 452)

After reading the link in last week's AWADmail it seems to me that the article presumes it is a given that we will all switch to e-books. In other words, it is marketing.

We should not do what they have in mind for us. E-books today deny the reader some of the legal rights and options that readers traditionally have:

  • The right to obtain a book anonymously, paying cash.
  • The right to give, lend, or sell the book to someone else.
  • The right to keep a book for any length of time.
I will never use an e-book that fails to respect these rights, and I hope you will join me in defending readers' freedom. For more info, see my story, The Right to Read, and Amazon's Kindle Swindle. Dr Richard Stallman, President, Free Software Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts

The great men in literature have usually tried to bring the written word into harmony with the spoken, instead of encouraging an exclusive language to write in. -John Erskine, novelist, poet, and essayist (1879-1951)

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