Mysterious English by Lena again/Wer versteht den Text?

The Eurovision Song Context approaches and Lena’s song has been chosen. Does anyone understand the text? The title is ‘Taken by a stranger’, which sounds worrying enough, but is the first line really ‘She’s got a knuckle in her eye’? For more theories, see TQE.

LATER NOTE: the Eurovision site has now posted the original lyrics:

Original Lyrics
Eurovision Song Contest 2011 Final
Performer: Lena
Song title: Taken By A Stranger
Song writer(s): Gus Seyffert, Nicole Morier, Monica Birkenes
Song composer(s): Gus Seyffert, Nicole Morier, Monica Birkenes

She’s got a knuckle in her eye
He knows her cat call
Can’t escape from telling lies I heard her saying
Hey mind if I take this chair
Hey mind if i take this chair
He drops a pause
She looks annoyed
But she’s so mean he thinks she has to be the one
Taken by a stranger
Stranger things are starting to begin
Lured into the danger
Trip me up and spin me round again
You got some coffee on your collar
And you forgot to comb your hair
But I can’t wait till I do better
You’re here and I don’t care
I can’t help it if you like it
Cause I won’t be here tomorrow
No one ever told you that you wouldn’t be rejected
Taken by a stranger
Stranger things are starting to begin
Lured into the danger
(Danger is a risky business)
Trip me up and spin me round again
Dip dip dada dada da
Dip dip dada dada da
Uh uh uh uh
Nah nah nah nah nah
Taken by a stranger
Stranger things are starting to begin
Lured into the danger
(Danger is a risky business)
Trip me up and spin me round again

STILL LATER NOTE: here is more information on Eurovision, plus Lena singing German on Sesamstraße.

IEL 9: The term “Common law”/Der Begriff “Common Law”

The meaning of the term “common law”

This term has at least four different meanings.

1. (in contrast to local law) The law common to the whole of England after 1066, as opposed to local law (which had existed before 1066 and continued to exist to some extent after 1066). This was the original meaning of the term. This common law was the law made in the King’s (or Queen’s) courts. E.g.

The common law was developed gradually over a period of time, beginning in 1066. Eventually it became a rigid system and ceased to develop to any great extent.

The term is only used in connection with legal history.

2. (in contrast to legislation) Law made by the decisions of judges, as opposed to legislation (statutes), which is law made by Parliament. This meaning arose because the law of England was often made by judges. Another expression with a similar meaning is “case law”: much of English law is case law. E.g.

Murder is a common-law offence ( = its definition is contained in an old report of a legal case where the judge defined the offence of murder in the course of giving his opinion). Theft, on the other hand, is a statutory offence (its definition is laid down in a statute, the Theft Act 1978).

3. (in contrast to equity) The law developed by the old common law courts, mainly between the 12th and 14th centuries, as opposed to equity, a separate legal system which grew up later, and was developed first by the Chancellor and later by the Court of Chancery). E.g.

The common law became so rigid that people used to apply to the Chancellor for a remedy. As a result, equity was developed. However, equity eventually became just as rigid as the common law (or: just as rigid as the law).

At law trusts were not recognized, but in equity they were.

Legal remedies, equitable remedies

4. (in contrast to other legal systems) The law of England and Wales and all other legal systems based on it. E.g.

The USA, England and Australia are all common-law countries

Note also the expression “a common-law wife” ( = the woman a man is living with, without being married). This term is used in England without any legal significance, but in some US states and in Scotland there is a form of legally recognized common law marriage (cohabitation with habit and repute).

A book whose main character is your ideal/Ein Buch, dessen Hauptperson dein “Ideal” ist

No wonder this meme is getting bogged down. Only three or four entries to go! But I don’t know what my ideal is.
For example, I haven’t read Oblomov. And I am quite glad I am not the main characters in most of the books I read. I’ve been thinking about this for a week and can’t think of one. Besides, subordinate characters are usually more interesting. Perhaps I could take the Nibelungenlied and pretend Brünnhilde was the main character.

Continental law/Kontinentaleuropäisches Recht

Like common law (of which more shortly), civil law is a term with more than one meaning.

1. civil law in contrast to criminal law: private law (Zivilrecht)

2. civil law in contrast to common law: a legal system based on Roman law (ius civilis – römisches Recht, kontinentaleuropäisches Recht)

The second meaning can confuse people who’ve never heard of it. One can call it Roman law, but that’s confusing too, because it might mean the law of ancient Rome rather than that of systems based on it.

Hence we have the relatively rare term continental law. It has the advantage of being comprehensible.

Now, Germany and France recently joined together in the ongoing campaign to show the world that civil law is best, and everyone ought to come to the German and French courts and draft German and French contracts and everything will be better.

There was an article to this effect in the FAZ on February 1.

Verglichen mit dem angelsächsischen Recht leidet das kontinentaleuropäische Recht unter einem Wahrnehmungsproblem: In den letzten 20 Jahren wurde es immer wieder als unflexibel, bürokratisch, wirtschaftsfeindlich und teuer dargestellt. Zu Unrecht, wie sich bei näherer Betrachtung zeigt. Die juristischen Berufsorganisationen Deutschlands und Frankreichs haben daher eine „Initiative für kontinentaleuropäisches Recht“ gegründet.

(Compared with common law, continental law suffers from a problem of perception: in the past twenty years it has repeatedly been described as inflexible, bureaucratic, inimical to business and expensive. Wrongly, as a closer look shows. The professional lawyers’ organizations of Germany and France have therefore initiated an ‘Initiative for Continental Law’.)

Note the use of angelsächsisches Recht for common law. I recall an employer wanting to describe me as an expert in Anglo-Saxon law, but I felt too young for it.

The arguments for continental law as opposed to common law appear compelling (in view of the authors –

Henri Lachmann (Präsident der Fondation pour le droit continental), Rechtsanwalt Axel C. Filges (Präsident der Bundesrechtsanwaltskammer), Notar Dr. Tilman Götte (Präsident der Bundesnotarkammer), Rechtsanwalt Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ewer (Präsident des Deutschen Anwaltvereins), Notar Dr. Oliver Vossius (Präsident des Deutschen Notarvereins), Oberstaatsanwalt Christoph Frank (Vorsitzender des Deutschen Richterbundes)

they would say that, wouldn’t they?):

codified, so law is easy to find
application is predictable
procedural law is efficient and proceedings are cheap
good at protecting property
hmm – number 5 is ‘Nicht zuletzt ist kontinentales Recht ein Recht der Freiheit. Effizient, kostengünstig, sicher’ – a law of freedom? I think we’re getting into advertising language here.

The article expands on this. Thus if you use the common law, you have to burrow your way through the decisions of many centuries, whereas continental law, with its codes, gives you a ‘checklist’ (a new way of looking at the BGB, or do they mean the French, Austrian or Swiss civil codes?). I take the point about contracts backed up by codified law being simpler and shorter. And about a reliable system of registration.

What’s more, the article continues, continental law cannot be reduced to economics. It has a political mission.

Unser bürgerliches Recht haben sich Bürger gegen absolutistische Fürsten und Feudalherren in Jahrhunderten erkämpft.

I think the French got the upper hand here!

This initiative has a brochure, and I downloaded it in German and English at I expect there’s a French version too. This is the related site.

One exciting bit of the brochure is the map of the world. It shows, in mustard yellow, ‘Continental law and mixed legal systems strongly influenced by continental law’ and in blue ‘Other legal systems’. That blue almost fades into the sea. We can see how huge the continental law countries are – they include Louisiana and Quebec. Greenland is pretty big. Then there’s the whole of Russia, China, and nearly all of South America – all great places to get your simple legal contracts backed up by a reliable code, of course. It says ‘Continental law is the prevailing law for two-thirds of the world’s population.’

There is more to be said on this, of course. Probably a big reason for the ‘Dornröschenschlaf’ (it’s a Sleeping Beauty) of continental law is the lack of a common language that isn’t English.

The Lost German Slave Girl/Eine Deutsche als Sklavin in Louisiana?

Here is yet another gratuitous book report.

The Lost German Slave Girl. The Extraordinary True Story of Sally Miller and Her Fight for Freedom in Old New Orleans, by John Bailey, Atlantic Monthly Press 2003

This book was a present from my friend and fellow-translator Karen in Denver (thanks, Karen!). I read it quite a few weeks ago, so my report is rather vague now.

John Bailey is an Australian lawyer who has now turned to writing, and he discovered this story when he was researching the details of law relating to slavery in Louisiana. Sally Miller was the ‘lost German slave girl’, who won a case freeing her from slavery because a person who was Caucasian could not be a slave. It’s a fascinating story and it throws some light on the situation of slaves who could not be freed from slavery. There’s also a fair amount about the circumstances in which the Müller family from the Alsace emigrated to the USA, following years of pillaging by French troops, bad harvests and ice in summer (apparently resulting from volcanic eruptions in the West Indies, the Philippines and Indonesia from 1813-1816 – so tonight I will be watching the arte documentary on ‘The year without a summer’).

From an interview with John Bailey:

My plans unraveled, when one day, in the quiet corner of a law library on a university campus in Louisiana, as I struggled to bring some semblance of order to my unruly and ever expanding manuscript, I opened a volume of the Louisiana law reports for 1845. There I met Sally Miller, the Lost German Slave Girl. I was immediately enthralled by her story. By the end of the day, I had shoved my notes on lawyers, judges and politicians into my bag, and opening a fresh page in my diary, had began to jot down ideas for an entirely different project – this one, on the saga of Sally Miller’s bid for freedom.

One feature of the book is that while it cloaks the story in mystery – the witnesses in the trial are obviously long dead – at the same time it often knows exactly what the weather was like or what the main characters were thinking. This is part of the genre ‘bringing history to life’, I think. For a long time I was convinced that I was never going to know anything more about the truth or falsity of the story, but in fact more information was revealed at the end, which made the end of the book more satisfying than I had expected.

A bit of research on the Internet revealed that the story has been told before. Curiously, there is a 2007 American book on the subject, which looks similar to Bailey’s: The two lives of Sally Miller: a Case of Mistaken Racial Identity in Antebellum New Orleans, by Carol Wilson. You can read quite a bit of this on Google Books.

Minor criminal offences/Bagatelldelikte

Can anyone tell me what criminal offence is to be reported to the police here?

These people must have been very angry for a long time. One is almost tempted to give them the Sonntagsblitz (an advertising paper with some local news, produced I think by the Nürnberger/Fürther Nachrichten).

Here are some less angry people:

See earlier entry on Communicating with the postman.

The other most stupid book you read as school reading/Das andere blödeste Buch, das du während der Schulzeit als Lektüre gelesen hast

I know this meme is getting really boring, and I should not go back and repeat an earlier entry, but I forgot I wanted to rant about a long poem, rather than a book, that I think we did for O Level. It was a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins called The Wreck of the Deutschland.

I never really ‘got’ Gerard Manley Hopkins, but I understood we are suppose to venerate him and recognize his brilliant originality in devising stuff like sprung rhythm. I couldn’t even appreciate this much in short poems.

You can get an impression of this work on youtube nowadays. I must say this brings back all the negative feelings I felt then. Here is the text (beginning – it gets quite long):

To the happy memory of five Franciscan Nuns exiles by the Falk Laws drowned between midnight and morning of Dec. 7th. 1875



THOU mastering me
God! giver of breath and bread;
World’s strand, sway of the sea;
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh, 5
And after it almost unmade, what with dread,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.

I didn’t know about the Leytonstone connection, though.