Exciting foreign words / Tantenverführer

The British media are spreading lies about Germany yet again.

From today’s Guardian:

And a number of us will need to beware of what Germans call the Tantenverführer (aunt seducer) at this year’s office Christmas party, a young man of suspiciously good manners you suspect of devious motives…

Admittedly the article is by someone who wrote a whole book about odd words in foreign languages (‘Adam Jacot de Boinod is the author of Toujours Tingo published by Penguin’, another young man who may have devious motives). One wonders who gave him this one. Perhaps Mark McCrum?

Like Spinatwachtel (another rare word) in the LEO forum, I found Google suggested this was not known to German speakers:

googelt man nach “Tantenverführer” – Seiten auf Deutsch, erhält man bezeichnenderweise die Nachricht, daß es da nichts gäbe, ob man in einer anderen Sprache gucken möchte. Man klickt “ja”, und hey presto! 14 Hits, die fast alle mit diesem Buch zu tun haben.
Poodle-faker habe ich jetzt immer noch kein Gefühl für, welcher Slang ist das denn? Und kanntest du es schon, bevor du im Wörterbuch nachgeschaut hast? Ladies’ man hingegen habe ich schon gehört.

I’m not the first to comment on this. But I hope no-one gives me this for Christmas!

LATER NOTE: At Language Log, Benjamin Zimmer did a nice, if premature, piece on the author’s earlier book in 2005:

The multitudinous errors in such books should not be surprising; as Mark Liberman has reminded us, when a factoid about language is attractive enough, “the linguistic truth of the matter is beside the point.”

11 thoughts on “Exciting foreign words / Tantenverführer

  1. Naaa, request denied – you can’t just take the holidays off. Just kidding, you deserve it, so have fun and enjoy yourself. If you get too bored, you can always start commenting on other people’s blog to get your “fix”.

  2. Holiday! Infuriate! (to be sung to Madonna’s well-known song – sorry if you end up humming it all day).

    Looking forward to reading you in 2009, Margaret.

  3. Margaret,
    Have a great time in England, and enjoy the show! I really hope you blog it when you’re back, and also try to explain to the unaware what exactly this sort of entertainment is.

    Not a bad time to visit the UK, considering the weakness of sterling….

  4. Thanks for all comments. I was forced to post another entry from Dunkirk. I have given up trying to work out how to attach stickers to dim my headlights. Is it only for the very technical?

    • Margaret,

      I’ve never bothered adjusting or masking my headlights when I’ve driven a German car in the UK, and to be perfectly honest, I can’t remember seeing any other German-registered car that did the same.


      • Yes, I will follow your example, although there was a car, French I think, with them stuck on. There are so many different headlight types that I could not work out how to stick them on, and on top of that it said: headlights should be warm and dry, should have been on for ten minutes.
        No-one hooted at me in England, but I have clear memories of driving in France and Germany with my brothers in the 1970s, when it seemed quite a few French and Germans hooted at us because our headlights were blinding them.

  5. Dear Sir

    Thank you for writing about my Tingo Books on foreign words.

    I wondered if you might like a mutual link to my English word website or press release details of my ensuing book with Penguin Press on amusing and interesting English vocabulary?


    with best wishes

    Adam Jacot de Boinod

    (author of The Meaning of Tingo)



    or wish to include:

    The Wonder of Whiffling is a tour of English around the globe (with fine
    coinages from our English-speaking cousins across the pond, Down Under
    and elsewhere).
    Discover all sorts of words you

    • Thanks for the suggestion, but this post dates from 2007, although a link to your comment will appear on the front page for a time. The topic is slightly outside my main drift.

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