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AWADmail Issue 647

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

Sponsor's Message: This is a heads-up for all you game lovers out there, especially this week's Email of the Week winner Terry Lindsay (see below) -- we're doing some double dealing over here: One Up! -- The Wicked/Smart Word Game. is on sale 2 for $25; and ONEUPMANSHIP -- The Machiavellian Board Game -- is 2 for $75, TODAY ONLY. Hurry'up!

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Journey to the Center of the Global English Debate
The Guardian

Lost Languages Leave Traces on the Brain

From: Fritz Heberlein (sla019 ku-eichstaett.de)
Subject: Gemeinschaft

You wrote:

Don't hesitate to take a break for refreshments, as needed.

Well ... hm.. I think the length of a word is better measured in terms of syllables than characters. So, "community" has four, "Gemeinschaft" just three. Hee hee.

Fritz Heberlein, Eichstaett, Germany
(once a Beamtenlaufbahnanwärter)

From: Linda Owens (lindafowens netzero.net)
Subject: German words

My husband David and I lived in Germany for two years from 1967-9, after he was drafted into the US Army and became the Transportation Officer in Frankfurt am Main, a challenging job. We lived in a German Neighborhood, I shopped in local stores and markets, and David's secretary invited us to join a German nine-pin bowling Club (Kegelclub), so we could make friends and better learn the language. Some of the words I loved were Gemuetlichkeit, an indefinable sense of contentment, and Mensch, a person of great humanity. We still keep in touch with some of our Kegel club friends, and a few years ago finally went back for a visit. Wonderful!

Linda Owens, Exeter, Rhode Island

From: Gary Muldoon (gmuldoon muldoongetz.com)
Subject: gemeinschaft

A sociologist who observes the deterioration of social relationships might be considered a canary in the gemeinschaft.

Gary Muldoon, Fairport, New York

From: Frauke de Loper (fdelooper aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gemeinschaft

In more class-conscious Germany, the doorman would not really be part of Gemeinschaft. That would apply only to the people living in a building who regularly interact socially. But he could be perhaps part of the Hausgemeinschaft because he watches over who goes in and out of the house. And when you have a group of people living in a house or apartment together you call that Wohngemeinschaft.

Frauke de Loper, Washington, DC

From: William Scoble (wscoble gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gemeinschaft

It would have been helpful had you mentioned, in the differentiation of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft that the latter means "society" as you say, mainly in the business sense, most often used after the name of a company.

Bill Scoble, Camden, Maine

Email of the Week (ONEUPMANSHIP -- It's an already done (double) deal!)

From: Terry Lindsay (tlindsay eagle.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gemeinschaft

Twain also said that if one is to read a German novel, one must read the entire book, because the verbs are all in the last chapter.

The roots of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft are also excellent examples of the richness it is to understand the relationship between the words of a language and the culture of countries in which that language is spoken by at least a plurality, if not a majority, of the people. The words in English have some rather specific semantic dust around them that may or may not apply to the words in German.

My first college German teacher said that translated poetry was like a woman (and he was early 20th Century, when people did not sue each other for supposed insults that were never intended): "If it's true, it's not beautiful, and if it's beautiful, it's not true."

Poetry and humor are the most difficult to translate, and are sometimes impossible to render as anything but a clumsy approximation. Gemutlichkeit, for example, takes a paragraph, and that paragraph gives only a vague approximation of a very real experience in Bavaria, which takes only seconds to experience, defies all words, and captures all but the most unfeeling, determinedly stoney hearts.

Terry Lindsay, Humble, Texas

From: David Graham (David.Graham energyaustralia.com.au)
Subject: Strafe

For me, to strafe will always mean to move sideways, especially in a first-person shooter (FPS) video game. It's a very important part of the game type as it allows for dodging while still aiming at the target. [See animation at Wikipedia]

David Graham, Traralgon, Australia

From: M Henri Day (mhenriday gmail.com)
Subject: strafe

The poet J.C. Squire wrote:

God heard the embattled nations sing and shout
Gott strafe England and God save the King!
God this, God that, and God the other thing --
Good God! said God, I've got my work cut out!

M Henri Day, Stockholm, Sweden

From: Marc Chelemer (mchelemer att.com)
Subject: Strafe

Some years ago, my wife and I were vacationing in Munich and using the "Go Guide" for budget-conscious travelers. I recall the text saying something like "Beer gardens are strafed throughout the city." Strafed was definitely the verb, as my wife and I continue to use it to this day whenever we find a neighborhood with many of the same type of stores (bars, restaurants, nail salons). It would appear that from the act of strafing (firing machine guns from an airplane, and therefore sending bullets along a wide and long path) came, at least in the travel writer's mind, the idea of scattering similar objects or things over a wide area.

Marc Chelemer, Tenafly, New Jersey

From: Anik White (anikw4 gmail.com)
Subject: pronunciation of strafe

The pronunciation of strafe is incorrect. Germans say shtrah-fuh, emphasis on shtrah.

Anik White, St Paul, Minnesota

Some readers wrote to dispute the pronunciation of words, others the spelling (the umlaut should be represented by an e), and still others the capitalization (German nouns are capitalized). All valid points, but when a word travels to another language, it often changes. Think of a Wilhelm coming to English as a William.
A good example is the German noun Doppelgänger. Usually a word changes its pronunciation or spelling or meaning, but this word changes everything. On its way to English, it drops its initial capital, replaces ä with a (instead of ae), changes the last syllable from (uh) to (uhr), and takes a more specific meaning, from "someone who looks like another" to "a ghostly counterpart".
When we describe a borrowed word, we list the pronunciation, spelling, and meaning for it in English.
-Anu Garg

From: Jens Kaiser (voodoodoll t-online.de)
Subject: gleichschaltung

The word Gleichschaltung theoretically has the same neutral meaning in German, but is rarely to never used outside the Nazi context (unless the user wants you to think of the Nazis when talking about something else, of course). There are other words primarily associated with the 1933-45 regime (e.g. Machtergreifung, literally "seizure of power", a term used for Hitler's illegal power grab in 1933), but somehow they aren't as negatively charged.

Jens Kaiser, Rudolstadt, Germany

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sitzkrieg

One of the more astounding "sitzkriegs" in the annals of modern warfare took place w/ what has come to be known in wartime lore as the "Christmas truce", initiated on Xmas Eve, Dec 24, 1914 on the WWI Western Front in the vicinity of Ypres, Belgium. The German and British combatants supposedly laid down their arms and co-celebrated the hallowed Season, by firstly singing, in unison, familiar Christmas carols from their respective trench lines, and ultimately exchanging small gifts in what was deemed "No Man's Land".

Later reports from the front from survivors of both Allied and German camps claimed that for that short, impromptu holy-day sitzkrieg, soccer matches were played between the warring Brit and German sides.

Beyond New Year's Day the truce had ended, and hellish trench warfare had resumed in earnest.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Michael Tremberth (michaelt4two googlemail.com)
Subject: Wordplay auf deutsch

Blitzkrieg, Sitzkrieg, Sitzfleisch -- what does Blitzfleisch represent? The casualties of war, perhaps?

Michael Tremberth, St Erth, UK

From: Paul Lentz Jr (patptc.tmv gmail.com)
Subject: leitmotif

Your leitmotif was "Words from German". Very clever. :)

Paul Lentz, Peachtree City, Georgia

From: Larry Sadler (sl torfree.net)
Subject: Billion

My friend Jim Garrett expanded on the point of expressing numbers to a billion: You can spell every number from minus one billion to plus one billion without using the letter b.

Larry Sadler, Toronto, Canada

From: Robert Horner (deaconbob2 comcast.net)
Subject: Kudos

I have enjoyed your delightful message for years...challenging and broadening in so many ways...and a website I recommend to many.

Robert Horner, The Woodlands, Texas

The strength of a language does not lie in rejecting what is foreign but in assimilating it. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet, dramatist, novelist, and philosopher (1749-1832)

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