Friday, 30 October 2009

The imminent travels of Lexicon H.

I'm off to Germy-land in exactly eighteen sleeps, and in between marking essays, and brewing my conference paper, and deciding what colour to do my powerpoint slides in (Lady of Shallot green and Robert Browning beige or Stick With What You Know black and Keep Sticking With What You Know white?), and keeping an anxious eye on the town well, and losing sleep – several sleeps – over people I enormously respect who think that comparing the way we treat non-human animals with humans' experiences of racism trivialises humans' experience of racism (which it certainly does, if you are of the opinion that the fact the world is knee-deep in barn-raised chicken carcasses is absolutely inconsequential, or even just not very consequential, or indeed requiring anything less than urgent revolution) – and in between not blogging, I have been brushing up on my Tscherman.

I've been doing this with the aid of two texts: (1) The Penguin Book of German Verse, and (2) Ecce Homo: Wie man wird, was man ist, the autobiographthingy of Friedrich Nietzsche. And so now, in addition to the useful phrases I learnt in highschool, viz., "Wo ist die Jugendherberge?" (Where is the youth hostel?), "Entschuldigung, haben Sie drei Wellensittiche?" (Excuse me, do you have three budgerigars?) and "Ich möchte die Schokoladenkuchen - jetzt!" (All purpose phrase), I can now say, in the words of August Stramm, "Die Steine feinden/Fenster grinst Verrat" (The stones are hostile/window grins treachery), and, after Rilke, "Feigenbaum, seit wie lange schon ists mir bedeutend,/wie du die Blüte beinah ganz überschlägst" (Fig-tree, for a long time I have found meaning in the way you overleap the stage of blossom). This will be mighty handy if I find myself detained by customs: "My good man, my name is Lexicon Harlot. For a long time I have found meaning in the way you overleap the time of blossom. I have three budgerigars. Do you have three budgerigars?"

But why am I telling you all this? Warum? Warum? Because Ecce Homo is - surprisingly - hilarious. Or - the popular theory - the work of a nutter on the verge of deliquescing irretrievably into public lunacy. But I prefer to think of it as hilarious, and I cite in defence of my amusement the following chapter titles: "Why I Am So Wise", "Why I Am So Clever", and "Why I Write Such Good Books". Take that, autobiographthingies the world over. They don't call him a genius just because his moustaches look like a couple of oversized mice protruding from from his nostrils.

F. Nietzsche with Moustaches, portrait pilfered from here.

And that's the end of my story. If you have any good German words to share (bearing in mind that I already know Regenschirm, Dudelsack, and Schildkröte), let me know.


mischa said...

one of my favourites has always been "Gluhbirne" (lightbulb, lit. glowing pear) and, as a public servant, i can't go past "Papierkrieg" (bureaucracy, lit. paper war).

mach Spass in Deutschland, Fraulein Harlot!

Mitzi G Burger said...

"Schon" - is for pretty, or fine-looking. I believe it's pronounced "shern". Also the word for "tasty""or "yummy" is "Shmekt!" and you remember this because it sounds like the sounds one makes as one's smacking one's lips in delight over a strudel or pfefferneuse, "Mmmm, schmekt gut!"

Jayne said...

Have a good time :P

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

Excellent words! Thank you. Gluhbirne is beautiful. I could try teaming it up with Feigenbaum and Schmecht (thanks, Mitz).

Der Feigenbaum hat viele Gluhbirnen - sie schmecken mir mit Licht, aber ich möchte Schokoladenkuchen immerhin.

Did that make sense? Anyone?

Mach Spaß in Melbo, Alles.

Anonymous said...

Drachenfutter ('dragon fodder'): the bunch of flowers brought home by the guilty husband as a peace offering for his wife

Dan the VespaMan said...

Der Feigenbaum hat viele Gluhbirnen - sie schmecken mir mit Licht, aber ich möchte Schokoladenkuchen immerhin.

translates to:

The fig tree has many light bulbs - they relish it with light, but I want chocolate cake anyway.

Wo wären wir ohne Google Translate werden?

Geoff said...

War comics are a good source of useful phrases. "Donner und blitzen", "Gott in himmel", "Hande hoche Englander swein". If you get into trouble ask a policeman. The corerct mode of address is "Achtung Herr gestapo Hauptmann"

Beth's dad again

Martin Kingsley said...

"So I was at the Olympics, right, and this guy comes past me with a great bloody thing over his shoulder, and I says to him, I says, 'are you a pole vaulter?', and he turns to me and he says, 'No, I'm a German, hau did joo know my name vas Walter?'

Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week.

Ampersand Duck said...

Damn, I've always wanted to learn German, and now you're fanned the flame. I love their propensity for long words that can only be translated into sentences. Has anyone got an example of a silly long German word? I need another good laugh now that Nietzsche has worn off. Oh, wait, no he hasn't...

TimT said...

Meerwasserhallenwellenschwimmenbad. Hot water inside bath something or other.

Nietzsche needs a long word especially for his moustache, one feels. Grosseiforgetthegermanwordfornosezwiewellensittichen, perhaps?

Pip pip all, must get back to my appointed morning task, writing a poem about drunk people. Life is tough.

Martin Kingsley said...

Ampersand Duck said...

Extrafantastisch ausgezeichnetes, MK! (I love Babelfish, have never tried other translator services)

Wow, that list will keep me going for AGES, just trying to say the buggers.

Ms Rachy said...

With 'Blog' you can use either the neutral article "das" or masculine "der". As 'Blog' is not native to German they couldn't decide on an article so both are used interchangeably.

But 'Totenkopfäffchen' is one of my personal favourites. It actually means 'squirel monkey' but if you were to directly translate it it would be 'little death's head monkey'.

'Torten-kopf-eff-shen' is the best way I can describe how to pronounce it.

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

Good old Totenkopf-monkeys. That's definitely going to come in handy.

I'm not even worrying about the gender thing. I'll plead feminist grammatical insouciance or sumfing.

TimT said...

Ah, now that must be a minefield of problems. What if Der Wellensittichen actually feel, deep down, as if they are women at heart? What if they are Die Wellensittichen?

kiki said...

i would like the chocolate cake now!

i think you can't go past "genau" and "doch!" for conversation

genua doesn't have a translation, it's pretty much just "i agree" - imagine your mum on the phone when you're a youth and instead of her going "mmmm mmmm yes mmm" replace it with "mmmm genau mmmm ja genau"

and "doch" is the german "NO WAY"
eg. "hey alexis, i slept with judy garland"

TimT said...

Always knew Bugs Bunny was a Kraut. 'Genauuuuu... what's up, Doch?'

kiki said...