In other words

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - BRENDA BENE­DICT star2@thes­tar.com.my

ALTHOUGH au­tumn has of­fi­cially be­gun in Ger­many, we have been en­joy­ing an al­tweiber­som­mer for the past cou­ple of weeks. Roughly trans­lated it means “old crone’s sum­mer”.

In case you’re won­der­ing what tetchy old women have to do with sum­mer, the term it­self is ac­tu­ally a play on words. The verb weiben refers to the web­spin­ning ac­tiv­i­ties of spi­ders typ­i­cal for this time of year. The noun weibe means women of “a cer­tain age”.

Ac­cord­ing to an­cient Nordic folk­lore, peo­ple as­so­ci­ated spi­der webs with the white hairs of the Norns – three god­desses of fate who spun and wove the threads of each per­son’s des­tiny. Hence the “crone” bit.

Frau Som­mer, whom I en­counter reg­u­larly dur­ing my evening brisk walks in the for­est, re­lated this story to me. By the way, Frau Som­mer is a chatty neigh­bour and not some wood­land sprite!

Tick­led by the story be­hind the word, I fig­ured it was time to once again short­list some Ger­man words for which you can­not quite find apt English equiv­a­lents but that nev­er­the­less cap­ture a mean­ing elo­quently.

Oth­ers how­ever, serve to re­mind non-na­tive speak­ers that things can be con­cise and eas­ier enun­ci­ated in English.

An­other word that harks back to the days of yore is eis­bein (ice leg). This macabre sound­ing tra­di­tional Ger­man dish is ac­tu­ally boiled knuckle of pork and con­trary to its name, is served warm.

Ac­cord­ing to one web­site, it owes its un­usual name to the fact that peo­ple in me­dieval times fash­ioned ice-skates out of knuckle bones in­stead of us­ing iron, which cost an arm and a leg.

Other food-in­spired terms in­clude kum­mer­speck (grief our colum­nist re­views Ger­man words or fig­ures of speech that have no english equiv­a­lent but yet en­cap­su­late an emo­tion or sit­u­a­tion per­fectly. ba­con), which refers to the love A verbesserungsvorschlagshan­dles gained from emo­tion­ver­samm­lung, for in­stance is a re­lated binge­ing. com­pi­la­tion of sug­ges­tions for

If you are a man al­ready im­prove­ment. en­sconced in a re­la­tion­ship, Telling a waiter that you’d like you may be forced oc­ca­sion­ally a side or­der of ober­am­mer­gauerto in­vest in some drachen­fut­ter alpenkraeu­ter­de­likatessen­frueh(dragon fod­der) as a peace of­fer­stueck­skaese would cer­tainly be a ing if you’ve peeved the lady. The mouth­ful. You’d be bet­ter off askname it­self con­jures the im­age. ing for the del­i­catessen break­fast

With win­ter loom­ing round cheese made with herbs from the the cor­ner, gloves will soon be Ober­am­mer­gau Alps. part of our out­door get-up. Yet, But the win­ner in terms of you wouldn’t want to be la­belled length, at least ac­cord­ing to a hand­schuh­schnee­ball­w­er­fer. sev­eral web­sites I con­sulted is ...

Lit­er­ally, it means “a glove(drum­roll) das rind­fleis­chetiketwear­ing snowball thrower”. In tierung­sue­berwachungsauf­gaac­tu­al­ity it de­scribes a cow­ard. I be­nue­ber­tra­gungs­ge­setz. guess re­al­is­ti­cally one must have It ac­tu­ally means the law on some moxie to be able to lob icy del­e­gat­ing su­per­vi­sion du­ties for snow­balls with their bare hands! cat­tle mark­ing and beef la­belling.

Ever en­coun­tered some­one who evokes vi­o­lent thoughts in your head? Chances are he has a backpfeifen­gesicht – a punch­able face that cries out for back­en­fut­ter (cheek fod­der). No guesses for what that means.

You might also oc­ca­sion­ally spot some­one with an ar­schgeweih or a “butt antler”. No, this is not some freak of na­ture. An ar­schgeweih ac­tu­ally refers to swirly tribal tat­toos etched at the base of the spine. Their curled ends some­times re­sem­ble deer antlers. They were once the rage and best flaunted by wear­ing low-slung jeans. Ap­par­ently to­day, they are like the “white trash” of body art in Ger­many.

How­ever not all words are that con­cise. The Ger­man lan­guage is no­to­ri­ous for its com­pound words. Some can even run the breadth of a type­set A4 page. I’m only thank­ful that Ger­man lan­guage tests do not in­clude spell­ing bees. I’d be gob­s­macked if I were tested on the fol­low­ing.

How­ever, as they say, it’s not quan­tity but qual­ity that counts and in Ger­man there is a word that has no sin­gle-word equiv­a­lent in English – the four-let­tered, quin­tes­sen­tial doch, which means “con­trary to your assumptions”.

This multi-pur­pose ar­ti­cle can some­times be used as a third al­ter­na­tive to ja or nein state­ments. For in­stance, if you an­swer ja to the ques­tion, “Have you no money?” the asker may think that yes, you do not have any money. But by sim­ply in­sist­ing, “ Doch!” you make it clear that “Ac­tu­ally, I do!”

It can also be used as an ad­verb or to ex­press sur­prise, cast doubt or ques­tion among oth­ers. It’s just a mat­ter of ex­per­i­ment­ing.

And even if all the other words here fail you, this should stand you in good stead. Doch! n Brenda Bene­dict is a Malaysian liv­ing in Frank­furt. She has yet to mas­ter ‘beam­ten­deutsch’ or ‘civil ser­vant-Ger­man’, a jar­gonin­fested lingo that con­founds the Ger­mans them­selves.

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