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#10271 - 11/13/00 12:31 PM Words from German
Wordsmith Offline


Registered: 03/12/00
Posts: 125
If memory serves me right, Caesar described the Germanii as a large, hardy,
ferocious people who inhabited the gloomy forests to the east of Gaul, wore
hardly any clothes and were perpetually on the move. Well, if he were able to
have a look around the seashores of Spain, Portugal or Italy today, he might
say exactly the same thing, although this time around the context would be
rather more peaceable. The descendents of those redoubtable forest-dwelling
savages are probably the world's number-one travelers today, still gripped by
an extraordinary wanderlust that sends them to the four corners of the earth
in apparent flight from the serious, orderly and slightly boring society they
have constructed for themselves in their geopolitical sandwich between the
Latins to the west and the Slavs to the east. The Germans have done a lot of
fighting and a lot of thinking about that sandwich over the centuries since
Caesar reported on them, and the words that have entered the English language
from their experience frequently reflect those military and intellectual
struggles: they are light on things like play, gastronomy, fashion and
frivolity but top heavy in philosophy, political thought and struggle in
general: serious, consequential stuff. If these words tend to be a little
ponderous and hard to pronounce, they are marvelously apt expressions of what
could never be expressed so well if our English tongue just minded its own
business and never wandered abroad to steal from others. -Rudolph
Chelminski (rudychelminski@compuserve.com)

(This week's Guest Wordsmith, Rudolph Chelminski, is an American freelance
writer living in France.)

#10272 - 11/14/00 04:11 AM Re: Words from German
maverick Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/15/00
Posts: 4757
marvelously apt expressions of what could never be expressed so well if our English tongue just minded its own business

I look forward to this argument’s development, and certainly relish the contribution made to the English language over the centuries by German, both in etymological history and through more recent ‘loan words’.

It strikes me that an alternate view is that these sorts of expressions rarely only do what is suggested above in actual practise. It is notable that the quoted example leant on an immediate Anglican explanation of the term. For me at least, this suggests the writer is seeking a more complex meaning – not merely “clarification” (which stems from the Latinate roots far more directly) but the more self-reflective “upwelling of clarification”. In other words, the writer wanted to draw attention both to his state of enlightenment and also to the frisson of the epiphany.

I also believe Germanic loan words are often introduced by English speakers to lend sometimes-artificial gravitas (another good Latin word!). However, there are some words that spring to mind as particularly useful – name your favourites or pet hates here…?

#10273 - 11/14/00 04:50 AM Re: Words from German
shanks Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/16/00
Posts: 1004
Loc: London, UK
Some very obvious likes:




doppelganger (to which another thread somewhere has become devoted)

And I wish it were more common: gotterdamerung

Would a word like 'Marxism' be German or English?

#10274 - 11/14/00 10:20 AM Re: Words from German
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10538
Loc: this too shall pass
and some more:


#10275 - 11/14/00 12:07 PM Re: Words from German
maverick Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/15/00
Posts: 4757
yes, I particularly love the sheer sound (and conciseness of meaning) of weltschmerz, schadenfreude, and zeitgeist. German's ability to jam short words together like this makes for a great rhythmic sense as well.

#10276 - 11/22/00 05:48 PM Re: Words from German
Father Steve Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/06/00
Posts: 2788
Loc: Seattle, Washington, USA
Christolf Wolff, in his gigantic tome on Bach, includes a diagram from
1800, the "sun of composers." In the center is Bach. Around him, three
rays: Franz Joseph Haydn, George Friederick Handel, and Carl Heinrich
Graun. Graun? Who Graun? Are we missing something?

Carl Heinrich Graun was one of those artists, like Per Luigi Zucchini or
my uncle Sid, whose fame flickered all too briefly, a candleflame on the
tavern wall. A boon companion of King Frederick the Great of Prussia,
Graun celebrated the king's conquest of Upper and Lower Silesia with the
first Ode to Joy --- Joy Maedelbachen Graun being his Graunmother. In
return, Frederick wrote the story-board for Graun's celebrated,
autobiographical operas Lohengraun and Das Rheingraun. They were
produced in off-Berlin but flopped so badly that they were moved to

Here the composer's fortune improved. The city of Baden-Baden had just
been overrun by rats, who packed the streets, took over the gutters, ate
up the sidewalks, and refused to get out of the bierstuben. But the
rodents were so enchanted by Graun's music that they flocked to the
operahouse to hear his new song cycle Die
Liederhosenlaudenflauffen, BMW 240. The rodents were rendered quiescent
by the music, so that the city building department was able to squash
them with a steam roller. The composer immediately memorialized the
great day in his new opera, Die Flattermaus, which was a popular success
with the townspeople as well. The critics compared Graun to the greatest
masters, and the grateful city of Baden-Baden appointed him
Kapellkapellmeister-meister. It was during this time that he produced
his greatest secular Cantata, Ich bin ein Doppelgänger, BVD 36-long.

After this triumph, Graun produced a symphony of some note (possibly
E-flat, although it is hard to be sure), the moving Theme and Variations
on 'Graun Grow the Grässes-Oh?' and a cycle of quartets. Unfortunately,
his balance was not what it had been, and he fell off the cycle going
around a corner, and had to switch to a tricycle. Next, he began his
famous experiments in edible counterpoint, which he illustrated in his
Tafelmusik, BFD 1212, for various ensembles of coldcuts. Works included
the Openface Sonata for pastrami and headcheese, a set of trio sonatas
with basso continuo and potato salad on the side, and the merry
Sauerkraut Dances. These too were a great success with his public, which
ate them up.

In his Golden Years, Graun dropped music entirely to work on developing
new foods for senior citizens. His crowning achievment was the cereal
Graunola, the popularity of which keeps his name alive today. If you
ever visit Baden-Baden, you will find a statue of Graun in the
Rathausplatz, with a band of rodents (after whom the square is named)
dancing happily about, nipping at his toesies.

#10277 - 11/23/00 04:24 AM Re: Graun
paulb Offline

Registered: 03/17/00
Posts: 460
Loc: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Ta, Pa!

I detect a touch of the Schickeles here. Can't wait for the CD.

#10278 - 11/23/00 07:31 AM Re: Words from German
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
Bravo, Vater. Sehr gut! Schickele would be proud.

I also am awaiting the CD. I hope it will include Graun's lesser-known Consonant Cluster for the Clavier, BCD .3

#10279 - 11/23/00 09:14 AM Re: Words from German
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10538
Loc: this too shall pass
interestingly, Schickele and Graun turn up mutually on 36 google hits!

-joe (it's what I do) friday

#10280 - 12/01/00 11:35 PM Re: Words from German
InADearThorn Offline

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 8
Does Fahrvergnügen count?

Hi, I'm new to AWDtalk but have over 35 years experience in struggling to make sense in English, with a Teutonic mind.

Fahrvergnügen, IMHO, masterly expresses the joy derived from driving a well handling car, and this shoe easily fits a lot of German vehicles. Which is why Volkswagen chose it as its claim for English speaking markets.

Audi, another brand of this corporation, has earlier used Vorsprung durch Technik (leading through technology) in Great Britain (don't know about other markets), so the urge to Germanize their international advertising has a history.

Life is a beach, and then you dive.
Life is a beach, and then you dive.

#10281 - 12/02/00 11:12 AM Re: Words from German
jmh Offline

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
>Vorsprung durch Technik

It was quite a succesful campaign in the UK, most people didn't have a clue what it meant but it sounded solid and reliable!

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