German-related links from all over:

1) A list of grammatical terms, with each Latinate term followed by a native one and one or more examples: Adverb / Umstandswort / dort, heute, dabei so. (From UJG.)

2) The Gesellschaft zur Stärkung der Verben (Society for the Strengthening of Verbs), which promotes the extension of the strong verb (like English “sing, sang, sung” as opposed to “walk, walked”) to as many areas as possible, creating conjugations like “knirschen, knorsch, knürsche, geknorschen” or “schweifen, schwoff, schwiffe, geschwiffen.” The latest entry is a suggestion that the same process be applied to English, with the example “invite, invote, invitten.” (Also from UJG, who got it from Transblawg.)

3) Langenscheidts Konversationsbuch English-Deutsch

This wonderful entry at Deuce of Clubs gives samples of such conversation-stoppers from the phrase book as:

Ich verabscheue den Geist der Unduldsamkeit, der diese Sekt beherrscht.
“I detest the spirit of intolerance by which this sect is dominated.”

Bitte hören Sie sofort auf, so zu tanzen.
“Please stop this kind of dancing at once.”

Ich habe die meisten un[s]erer Reste für die Suppe verwendet. Ich gebe ihr daher lieber keinen Namen.
“I have used most of our leftovers for the soup. I therefore hesitate to give it a name.”

And everybody’s favorite:
Humanitäre Gesichtspunkte werden wohl stets den militärischen Notwendigkeiten weichen müssen.
“Humanitarian considerations will probably always have to yield to military necessities.”

(From Des.)

4) False Friends between German and English

Besides the obvious (Gift/poison, &c), there is a useful (if short) list of loan words for which German has kept the form but shifted the meaning:

Slipper slip-on shoe
Smoking dinner jacket
Dress sports shirt/jersey; strip
Boy hotel bellhop
Oldtimer veteran car
Textbuch songbook or script

(I have omitted a couple which are false for Brits but not Yanks; this link is courtesy of Kai von Fintel, who adds Beamer for multimedia or data projector and Handy for cellphone.)


  1. The third item reminds me of the Zompist phrasebook, a necessity when travelling abroad.

  2. Is there a society for making the German noun declensions even more arbitrary and senseless?
    Yes, I have a senseless hatred of the German noun declensions. You don’t want to try to argue with me. Especially don’t say “It’s all really logical once you understand the system”.
    I am actually totally in favor of strengthening verbs. Hm. “He dang his fender yesterday, but nobody core.” “He had corne for his aged mother for many years”. “I have never chorne a meeting before”.

  3. Cultural bias. In the US this sentence will be useful to more people: “Ich verabscheue den Geist der Duldsamkeit, der diese Sekt beherrscht”.

  4. You don’t want to try to argue with me.
    As a matter of fact, I don’t. I know this is a shameful thing to admit, but when I started studying German I disliked the der – die – das so much I stopped taking it seriously, and when I had to learn it for grad school I did so purely passively, so that to this day I have to try to remember names of newspapers to get a fix on gender (Die Welt, aha!). I don’t know why this is, and I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a senseless hatred, but you’re not alone.

  5. It’s especially the plurals that I hate. More exceptions than rules, really.

  6. I actually have sketched out a passive German grammar, for people who want to be able to read without speaking or writing. The cases and plurals would be at the end in an appendix, because you don’t really need to know whether a noun is singular or plural very often (context or the verb form often tells you, and often it doesn’t make any practical difference whether someone, e.g. looked at the cow or looked at the cows).

  7. If it’s got an umlaut, it’s plural.

  8. Yes, it’s always the nouns that make my students’ heads explode when I’m teaching German – the verbs and their tenses seems to be much less of a problem. What I really hate is that the genders of nouns so often turn out to be regional: Most Germans say “die Butter,” for example, but because nouns ending in -er tend to be masculine, many Austrians say “der Butter.” It’s madness.

  9. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one with this problem. I don’t know what it is — I cheerfully learned genders in Greek, Latin, Russian — but for some reason German nouns are supremely annoying. And those regional differences you mention… c’est le comble! (As my French teacher, Mme. Ruegg, used to say; she was Alsatian and also taught German, and if I’d taken German from her I’d have learned those genders like it or not. *shudder*)

  10. However, let’s strengthen the American verbs! I know I’ve heard “clumb”, and “thunk” is a trite joke by now. It’s true that we’ll sound like hillbillies, but you can’t make an omelette, etc. Sacrifices must be made.
    My Canadian brother once heard two Quebequois trying to decide whether the name of a certain tree was feminine or masculine. They were making a lot of smutty comments about the tree and having a great time.

  11. What I find attractive about German is;
    – There seems to be none of the supremely stupid stuff, like /fam/ (one of the more common words) being written “femme” in a language that otherwise cares about its vowels. Ask any six-year-old kid about what’s wrong with the written language in a French-speaking or an English-speaking country, and they’ll give you a long, reasonable list; that won’t happen in Germany.
    – You can spell a word from how it sounds (as opposed to French; is /to~/ tuna, time, or a possesive determiner?) and pronounce a word from how it’s written (as opposed to English; “the” was there in Old English, so you would imagine it has undergone the same vowel shift as the other words of that origin, but it’s hardly ever pronounced “thee”, if you say “tomayto” around here people won’t understand you.)
    – Even most of the exceptions, you can advance a plausible guess as to why it’s that way. So, “Fenster” isn’t masculine; okay, it comes from the same root as “fenetre” which would have made it feminine, but German speakers are uncomfortable with -er words being feminine, so there’s a compromise & it’s neuter.
    (I was pretty déçu when I found out “etage” was feminine in German, though–it goes against the language’s tendency to get the genders right when borrowing.)

  12. The plausible reasons for the exceptions are part of my objection to the language. The ones I’ve seen strike me as ad hoc attempts to gild the chaos.

  13. How do you spell /tõ/ so it means `time’?

  14. > How do you spell /tõ/ so it means `time’?
    sth. like “temps”
    > If it’s got an umlaut, it’s plural.
    Good guess, but you’d have to deal with a lot of exceptions.
    Btw: The Gesellschaft zur Stärkung der Verben has begun to strengthen nouns as well. Enjoy!
    (I personally dislike their recent developments, since there are only two people left understanding those words, not including me.)
    And check out their list of English verbs at Feel free to add!

  15. temps (‘time’) is /tã/, not /tõ/.

  16. As a native speaker of a language that still knows gender (to some extent), may I venture to point out that one of the reasons that English speakers have so many problems with languages that have preserved grammatical gender could be that English has none left?
    Personally I’ve never experienced any difficulty with gender in French, Spanish, or German — or for that sake Latin. (Which doesn’t mean I don’t make the occasional error, but what’s so bad about that?)

Speak Your Mind