OK, this is just a silly little squib, but it amuses me and I’m sharing it:

“Oachkatzl” (Eichhörnchen=squirrel) and “Schwoaf” (Schweif=tail) are words that are used to test whether you qualify as a native speaker of Bavarian/Austrian dialect. They were a hugely popular way of testing and teasing the US occupation forces after the Second World War.

In Bavaria anyone failing the test, regardless of where they actually come from, is classified somewhat pityingly as a “Preiß” (Prussian).

Other catch phrases include: “Du múasst an bám gíassn sunst dadirdada” which means “you have to water a tree or it will wither away”.

Or even better: “Mit dem Bam då iss total wuascht wost’hn histeyst. Dådadirdada, dådadirdadaraa und dådadaraadadian” (It doesn’t matter where you plant your tree: It’ll wither here, it’ll wither there, wherever you plant it, it will still wither away).

(If anyone knows where the stress falls on “dadirdada,” and how it works morphologically, you have my complete attention.)


  1. dadian = derdirren = (Standard German) verdorren
    Då dadiad a da, då dadiad a da-r-aa und då dad a-r-aa dadian.
    Da verdorrt er dir, da verdorrt er dir auch und da tut er auch verdorren.
    There withers he to-you, there withers he to-you also and there does he also wither.

    -r- is an epenthetic flap. I’ve changed the spelling of “dadird” for consistency (etymologically r, pronounced /a/). In the video there is an additional “da” in the last part: dou dad a da-r-aa dadian “there does he to-you also wither”.

  2. Seems to be the Bavarian version of the verb “verdorren” (which I didn’t know & only found by looking up “wither” on dict.leo.org). Here it is:


  3. …to save people a click, from the wiktionary link above here’s the relevant tongue twister / grammar puzzle with more helpful spelling and a Hochdeutsch translation:

    “Do dadiad da da, do dadiad da da aa, und do daad da da aa dadian! “

    = Hochdeutsch

    “Dort verdorrt er dir, dort verdorrt er dir auch, und dort würde er dir auch verdorren”

    …so the very long “d” words in the first version aren’t the verb itself being conjugated, but the verb plus combinations of the very similar-sounding short Bavarian words for “there”, “it”, “you”, “also”, etc.

  4. David Marjanović says

    They were a hugely popular way of testing and teasing the US occupation forces after the Second World War.

    And anyone else ever. 🙂

    Dådadirdada, dådadirdadaraa und dådadaraadadian

    *pretending to clear throat*

    First, Standard verdorrt “dries up and withers” has here the form *erdürrt. That’s all within the usual variation (e.g., the Standard adjective is dürr). Second, the verb prefix er- “to successful completion” gets an extra /d/ in front out of nowhere. Third, where English has a binary opposition “here – there” and Standard German a triple one hier – da – dort, the dialects in question have lost hier and redistributed the other two by splitting the space in the middle, so that da ends up meaning “here or not too far away”, sort of. Oh, and, fourth, the dialects are non-rhotic, and some like this one have a lot of linking r. Oh, one more: würde “would” for the analytic subjunctive is in free variation (or something) with täte “did”. …And finally, the 3sg ending -t is /d/ [d̥] by default, by a special lenition of medial and final /t/ and /tː/ in most environments; this also applies to the second t of täte. In eastern Austria and much of Bavaria, this is extended to a complete merger of /t/ into /d/.


    Da *erdürrt er dir, da *erdürrt er dir auch und da täte er auch *erdürren.

    The astute reader with a good brain-cooling system will have noticed that it would have been possible, indeed idiomatic, to insert dir into the last string of /dɐ/.

    |dɒ dɐ-dɪɐ̯-d=ɐ=dɐ dɒ dɐ-dɪɐ̯-d=ɐ=dɐ a ʊnd dɒ tad=ɐ a dɐ-dɪɐ̯-n|
    da er-dürr-t er dir, da er-dürr-t er dir auch und da täte er auch er-dürr-en

  5. Thanks, all — I am enlightened and amused!

  6. You can see from this why one of the terms used for standard languages worldwide is ‘clear’. In particular, in N’ko, a written-only koine of the Manding languages, kangbe ‘literary language’ actually means ‘clear language’. Standard languages have to be understood at least partly by people who speak all kinds of dialects, and therefore they have to maintain redundant distinctions at all levels, which is often reinforced by remaining far behind the times. Standard Finnish, which no Finn actually speaks except announcers and such, is scarily close to Proto-Finnic.

  7. Are there “Teach Yourself Finnish” kinds of books that teach you the way people actually talk, or do foreigners automatically learn the newscaster dialect?

  8. Ah, I see there were much more informed comments than mine in the pipeline… in the words of noted Bavarian speaker H. Simpson, “D’å!”

  9. When speakers of Proto-Germanic got rid of the IE aspectual system and switched to one based on the opposition “present vs. preterite”, the PIE imperfect dropped out of use as a past tense. The only form which was retained was the reduplicated imperfect of *dʰeh₁- (3sg. *dʰi-dʰéh₁-t, 3pl. dʰé-dʰ(h₁)-n̥t — a reconstruction I would advocate). After Grimm, Verner and loss of final stops, we get PGmc. 3.sg. *ðiðǣ, etc. (reflected, with complications in English did). For most primary verbs, the old perfect was co-opted as their past tense (the drive, drove type), but secondary verb stems had no perfect, so a complex preterite was built for them, combining, as usual in such cases, a participle (the one in PIE *-tó- > PGmc. *-ða-) with an auxiliary verb — the imperfect of ‘do’. The result was something like this:

    *STEM-ða- + *ðiðǣ

    If it hadn’t been simplified by haplology, we would have *wounded(e)ded rather than just wounded today.

  10. Watching that video before bed, I went into a dream with the Addams Family talking to me in Bavarian.

  11. David Marjanović says

    And after the loss of this tense in Upper German soon after the Tellenlied, the “past subjunctive” (Konjunktiv II) was left without a base to be derived from. It was also, however, left without anything to be confused with – it had ended up identical to that tense for all weak verbs, as it still is in Standard German, but that no longer mattered. Consequently, the suffix used to form it for weak verbs, now /ɐd/, ran wild, partly replacing the strong forms, partly attaching to them as a redundant additional marker. Thus, täte isn’t always /tad/, it can also be /tadɐd/! That’s (just) common enough for a bank called DADAT to use in its ads. Fractal reduplication of *dʰeh₁- all the way down!

    There’s a third version, /tarɐd/; the /r/ is intrusive, linking the suffix /ɐd/ to a reanalyzed root.

  12. David Marjanović says

    the Addams Family talking to me in Bavarian

    It could get worse. Much worse.

    (Viennese dia- and mesolect.)

  13. Lars (not the regular) says

    The heading reminds me of Strauss…

    Spiel’ ich die Unschuld vom Lande,
    natürlich im kurzen Gewande,
    so hüpf’ ich ganz neckisch umher,
    als ob ich ein Eichkatzerl wär’.


    The spelling is thoroughly Hochdeutsch, but the word could be dialectal…

  14. David Marjanović says

    It is.

  15. Piotr,
    “but secondary verb stems had no perfect, so a complex preterite was built for them, combining, as usual in such cases, a participle (the one in PIE *-tó- > PGmc. *-ða-) with an auxiliary verb — the imperfect of ‘do’. The result was something like this:”

    This has happened again in some varieties of English, with “done” inserted to reflect past reference, often in front of a verb in the past tense. “Ye done kilt’em, Sheriff!”

  16. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    @Jim Doyle, or whoever is still around:

    So TIL that the “regular” Latin perfect of secondary stems (fructavi aso.) was made from whole cloth in Italic, though not from a participle as such.
    Piotr, I still check for the last instalment(s) in the REDUPLICATION series once in a while.

  17. David Marjanović says

    It could get worse. Much worse.

    I can’t remember what that was – but apparently it was a copyright violation, and now it’s gone. 🙁

  18. The Wayback Machine has a snapshot but won’t show it, at least to me.

  19. I remember it vaguely as two guys, in the woods, standing by their car. The general vibe I got was: Fargo, but in Austria instead of Minnesota.

  20. David Marjanović says

    Could be a clip from Hinterholz 8, then – no woodchippers, the tragicomedic horror is all psychological, but plenty of forest.

  21. I want to say it was a clip from the Austrian comedy classic Hinterholz 8 but I could be wrong.

  22. David and I posted at the same time. Guess my memory was right.

  23. Yep, that was it.

  24. Trond Engen says

    This is good place to remind the audience of the Anglo-Franco-Bavarian shared non-trivial innovation *ei > *oa.

  25. David Marjanović says

    An intermediate stage of the French path is preseved in Welsh (wy). Not-too-far-eastern Bavarian followed the English path, of which an intermediate stage is preserved in Too-far-eastern Bavarian (except its length is lost because phonemic vowel length is lost altogether: /a/).

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