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5 entries from December 2011

Cheer, Sincere.

NeilconcertposterY'know, these newfangled social media ain't so different from good-old-fashioned social life. Especially at this time of year.

Some parties, you have to attend, out of obligation.  Some parties, you really want to attend.  The people are  genuine, warm and mean it when they wish you happiness, merriment or peace. 

Yes, social media let you dispense with the obligatory good wishes easily and quickly.   But they really shine at keeping you in touch with the people you care about. 

Cyber-pal Neil Kramer,  has forged an open, friendly community of generous souls with his long-running blog Citizen of the MonthEvery December, his online version of a seasonal shindig is the tongue-twistingly PC Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert. 

All his online friends get together and do what they would do, were they a 3D community.  They sing songs, share laughs, wish each other well, and enjoy a drink or two.  Judging by some of the singing, they probably enjoyed more than two. 

The singing consists of YouTube videos, which Neil posts at the appropriate time. (This year, he did it wirelessly aboard a plane form New York to Los Angeles.) Those, like me, who choose not to sing for reasons of modesty, can submit a picture.

You recall that I said social media may be used to share happy, memorable, sincere good wishes, or you can use it as a cheap way of going through the motions?  Guess which of the following videos came from Neil's concert, and which not. 


Readers will note that public comments on the second video were disabled on upload.

With that small tale, please accept sincere good wishes for a great holiday weekend from Master Right and me, and for a fantastic, Deutschmark-denominated 2012. 

The chap below is my contribution to this year's Christmahanukwanzaakah celebration on Neil's blog; we snapped him in the Austrian ski-and-spa town of Bad Gastein on Boxing Day, 2010.    I love it when a twink...er, twig, gets naked without you having to ask.   I'm sure he wishes you a ho or three. 

Bad Gastein Woody Twink

The Meaning of Snot

Meaning of snot

The hashtag #dailydeutsch is a great source for learners of German who sport an English mother tongue.  It sometimes veers into philosophical issues, like whether there is an Englsih word for Schadenfreude—the conclusion was yes, and it's schadenfreude.

Thanks to Gilly in Berlin, yesterday's batch of daily Deutsch served up the word rotzfrech.  Literally, it means snot-rude, or in proper American English, snotty

Learners of German must be careful not to confuse it with kotzfrech, which if it existed, would mean puke-rude.  Vomit takes things to another level; a difference in degree which I'm sure would make a difference in kind.


Snot and impudence go together in both languages.  Do other cultures make the same association?

Arabic does, and the word is moukhati.  In Romanian, it's mucös.  The same goes for French, where the noun is morve, and the adjective is morveux.

Interestingly, a slang term for snot in French is caca de nez, or nose-poo.  I asked a French colleague if one might equally say merde de nez, or nose-shit.  She replied that latter would simply sound too rude.   French has many words which distinguish among degrees and types of rudeness.  (I guess it's like how Eskimos need twenty different words for snow; a response to the environment.)  One charming such expression is cucul la praline, to describe rudeness that comes from the self-absorption of the shallow; the metaphor literally means the cheesiness of the chocolate bon-bon.

Noses, and their byproducts, get a bad rap.  Poets can write volumes about beautiful eyes, but seldom do they praise a beautiful nose.  The eyes are the windows of the soul, but the nose is the catflap of the lungs.  Noses are all about ugliness; a hairy, drippy thing that you can't hide, right in the middle of your face. 

Unless you're Asian, of course.  You might wear a surgical mask when you have a cold, because then your nose is just too grody (and infectious) to bare to the world.   The Japanese find you incredibly rude if you blow your nose in public.

And why does American English conform with the rest of the world with snotty, whereas British English focuses on another bit of facial anatomy, with cheeky?

Why should we take snot as a measure of impudence, when snot could equally represent cowardice (as in snivelling), sickness or weakness?

 Humans are a fascinating species.

Bloom and Grow, Bloom and Grow

We left Germany last month, to go to the supermarket.

It was a public holiday, you see; the twenty-first Tag der Deutschen Einheit, or Unification Day.  Stores closed in Bavaria, but across the border in Austria, businesses opened as usual.  We share most holidays with our Austrian cousins—especially the religious feasts—but Unification Day remains a strictly German affair.  The last time Austrians celebrated German unity, it didn't work out so well.

Thus, we found ourselves in Salzburg watching the Austrians go about business-as-usual, and a lot of that business involves music.  Two particular composers have enriched the city, both culturally and financially; the famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and a certain Richard Charles Rodgers.   Mozart changed the face of baroque music with a prolific output of incomparable masterpieces.  Rodgers composed The Sound of Music.

Let's be fair. Rodgers was a genius in his own field, and a prolific one. Like many geniuses, he loathed those who tampered with his vision.  Rosemary Clooney earned scorn for a swing-style Falling in Love with Love, and Rodgers wanted to sue the Marcels over their doo-wop version of  Blue Moon until Oscar Hammerstein reminded him of the royalties.  Of Peggy Lee's Lover, he moaned "I don't know why [she] picked on me. She could have fucked up Silent Night."

What would Rodgers think if he visited Salzburg today?  Specifically, if he sat in the Mirabell Gardens for a spell, listening to this tour guide sing. 

The first word which might spring to his mind is royalty, and not because he's beside a palace.  He was leading one of the many Sound of Music tour groups which cross the city.  If you visit Salzburg, you can't miss them.

Many demand that a guide serenade his group, lending an air of authenticity to each movie location. 

And this guy wasn't bad, either.  A baritone, he put some real oomph into Edelweiss.  And he sang it with an accent.  Master Right identified this group as Korean.

As he hit the first chorus, the group began, gently, to sway in time to the melody.  Bloom and grow, bloom and grow...and as they reached the word forever, swayed in half time for a couple of beats.

I asked an Austrian colleague if felt uncomfortable that the Sound of Music so dominated the image of Austria in the eyes of the world.  "No, Austrians love The Sound of Music," he replied.  "When you think about it, we come off rather well, considering."


The Danube Steamship Company Captain Can Suck It

Danube steamship
A Danube Steamship

In the course of dealing with a thousand niggling details at work this morning, an event of historic cultural importance occurred.

A friend emailed, to remind Master Right and me of a roast dinner to which we had been invited, in honour of Advent.  The subject line in his email read Adventsbrateneinladungserinnerung, or Advent roast invitation reminder.

In my RSVP, I remarked how this was one of those glorious compound words, so plentiful in German, which might nudge the record as the longest.

The host reminded me, in reply, that his orginal message was an Adventsbrateneinladungserinnerungsmail.  In itself, not quite enough for a record.

But his reply landed in my spam folder.  It made my heart race with linguistic excitement.

Our email became an Adventsbrateneinladungserinnerungsmailfehler!  An Advent roast invitation reminder mail failure!

Tradition acknowledges that longest naturally-occurring German word is Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän, or a Danube steamship company captain.  This tops out at 42 letters, 43 if you use reformed German spelling that demands a tricky triple f in the middle. 

Adventsbrateneinladungserinnerungsmailfehler runs to 44.

Oh, I can hear nitpickers now.  What if the Danube ships captain's assistants dealing with electrcal matters at headquarters formed a union, and it needed an office?   Then it would be a Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaftsbüro.  But since there is no association of electrical assistants in any steamship company operating on the Danube, they don't need an office, so this isn't actually a word.  

(Hang on.  I'll need to insert a hyphen so TypePad can fit that into a column. Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhaupt-betriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaftsbüro.)

And then there's the German Word of the Year 1999, Rinderkennzeichnungs-und Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz.  It is a law on the books in the state of Mecklenberg-Pomerania, which has to do with the certification of British beef against Mad Cow Disease, and who may be delegated to inspect it. 

I'd quibble that it's easy to make long words in legal or technical speheres. Think about medicine, in English.  One could create a disease like Pseudometacystoblastopsychopancreatitis, and elongate it ad nauseam. But such a disease would be physically impossible to contract.

How about it, all you Deutschemuttersprachessprecher?  Have we, with the help of an over-zealous copy of Lotus Notes, stumbled onto the longest naturally-occurring word in German?

EDIT: The Danube Steamship Captain has the last laugh.  Those Pomeranians have repealed the beef inspection law. So the word referring to it no longer exists, officially. 

This post is part of the Awful German Language Blog Hop on Young GermanyServus to you, Nicolette Stewart!