Why I love German/Warum ich die deutsche Sprache liebe

This is an article from the FAZ written by Tim Schroder and preserved on the website of German Language Services. I don’t know how old it is, but I found Tim Schroder credited as a translator for a Bertelsmann publication in 2010. But obviously it dates from a time when people smoked in cafés here.

Es zieht: One of the first proverb-like sayings taught in German language courses is Frische Luft ist gesund, “Fresh air is healthy.” Don’t be fooled. For obscure reasons, Germans have got it into their heads that air is the enemy, especially indoors.

For a bit of enjoyment, go into a cafe on a dull winter’s day, one where the guests can barely be distinguished through the cigarette smoke, and tilt open a window just a crack. Before you have retreated three steps, the cry Es zieht! — “There’s a draft!” — will go up and in a flurry of panic the window will be slammed shut. In Bavaria, some patrons will make the sign of the cross. What elsewhere is known as a breeze is, in the Teutonic realm, the grim reaper’s mocking breath. To help the recovery from this near brush with oblivion, butane lighters will flare as the entire room lights up as one.

I think it’s very witty (thanks to Elm for the link).

It’s a bit reminiscent of Wash Echte, of Ich werde ein Berliner, but less harsh. The latter has dried up, since it appeared in book form – bizarrely in German. It’s weird to take something well written in English and publish it only in German. I wonder how many they’ve sold (translator: Karen Gerwig). You can ‘look inside’ the book at amazon.de, and see it just doesn’t quite work in German – I don’t know if the German style exists to do it.

4 thoughts on “Why I love German/Warum ich die deutsche Sprache liebe

  1. “Es zieht!” – how often have I heard this bit of Teutonic paranoia? Hot days in the Berlin S-Bahn are usually particularly miserable, because most attempts to open a window for ventilation are met with a horrified response. And the other day, when I was driving a neighbor to a doctor’s appointment, I cracked the driver’s side window to counteract the smell of dead game in the back of the car for dog training, and I was informed authoritatively that the stiff shoulder I had from bad working posture was really due to my bad habit of opening the car window for air!

  2. Don’t get me started on this Margaret. For instance I go to an indoor biking class at a local gym. It’s pretty tight quarters to begin with plus it’s upstairs and not air-conditioned or ventilated. It can be 25+ degrees C outside and probably 30 in, and all these big tough healthy cyclist types act like they’re going to die if you crack a window. Someone told me in all seriousness that after doing this class last summer with the window open, she caught pneumonia and was sick for 5 weeks. You can’t even turn a FAN on for god’s sake.

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