Karlsbader Oblaten shop in Nuremberg/Karlsbader-Oblatengeschäft in Nürnberg

I was surprised to see this shop selling Karlsbader Oblaten, cold and warm, in Nuremberg today, though they say they’ve been there for four months.

Here is a machine for making them:

They have a huge range of flavours.

The firm is in Karlsbad – www.kvoplatky.cz

I have often encountered Karlsbader Oblaten – probably on my first trip to Prague in 1966 or my second in spring 1968, and certainly sold from a van in Karlsbad in 1990 or 1991. I have even been to Dillingen, where a former seminary is used for further training for Bavarian schoolteachers, and where the local industries include votive candles and German Karlsbader Oblaten, and visited Wetzel.

There has been a dispute between the Czech Republic and Germany on the use of the name, and I gather that the term Karlsbader Oblaten will be restricted in Germany, but firms like Wetzel which have registered it as a trademark can go on using it.

The statements of objection were declared admissible on the ground, inter alia, that registration of the proposed name would jeopardise the existence of a partly identical name, namely “Karlsbader Oblaten”, in so far that this name is used for a product and not protected under trade mark legislation. The evidence further shows that the name “Karlsbader Oblaten” originated from producers in the town formerly known as Karlsbad and that production of the wafer so named has continued for a considerable period of time. Moreover, the evidence shows that the uses of the name “Karlsbader Oblaten” referred to an authentic and traditional product having a common origin with “Karlovarské oplatky”, but was generally not meant to exploit the reputation of the latter name. For these reasons, and in the interests of fairness and traditional usage, the maximum transitional period foreseen by Article 13(3) of Regulation (EC) No 510/2006 should be foreseen.

I have only tried a small wafer with Nugat (gianduja) cream and it was better than Wetzel’s, I thought.

Albrecht Dürer

There was a good Dürer exhibition in Nuremberg this year, but it was very full. Fortunately I got there very early in the day, but still by eleven it was too full to read the rather well-done and succinct texts, especially with bifocals.

And I have still not visited the Albrecht-Dürer-Schwein in Hundshaupten.

However, Dürer did appear on a float at the Fürth harvest festival procession last week:

The text is a reference to the refusal by the Alte Pinakothek in Munich to send a self-portrait to the exhibition because it was not suitable for transport.

Here’s a Protestant church representative showing how exciting 18th-century glasses were:

Signing off on emails/Wie unterschreibe ich eine E-Mail?

Diamond Geezer has a great post on how to start and end an email, with 44 comments at present. It starts Hi Reader and ends Many thanks dg.
I think this shows that there is no easy answer to how to address people in both formal and informal emails.
I hope this post doesn’t come across as prescriptive, because I have great doubts about all forms of address and closing.
In German, the problem is just as great.

First, in letters (British English only):
Dear Sir or Madam … Yours faithfully
Dear Mr. Smith /Dear John … Yours sincerely

In the law firm I worked in, we had this closing for clients:
Kind regards

In formal emails, you might start
And close:
Best regards
Kind regards

Is this right? I rarely write formal emails in English and I have been known to close
Yours sincerely

which may be a no-no in email.

Now the emails to friends, acquaintances and forums.
I usually start:
Some write

To a forum, I often start without a greeting.

To close, I usually write
Some write
Kind regards
Best regards

which seem awfully formal to me.
Then there are
and if one wants an answer
Many thanks
Best wishes

I particularly liked dg’s comments on Take care.

Take care. Whereas this one’s not so good. It may be only eight letters long, but there’s an unspoken hint within that something terrible is about to take place. You might as well end your email with “Watch out!” instead. It’s much too negative for me, and I’d hope for you too.

But I suspect that Take care is more common among Americans.

Now about German. First, formal.
A potential new client might write:
Sehr geehrte Frau Marks … mit freundlichen Grüßen /freundlichen Gruß
Hallo Frau Marks
Guten Tag Frau Marks

This is less formal and might come from the secretary of a client one already knows.
After some time, the client might want to be more friendly:
Liebe Frau Marks
Hallo Frau Marks /Guten Tag Frau Marks

Beste Grüße
Herzliche Grüße
Viele Grüße

Not everyone likes Viele Grüße, but I quite like it, and in any case I follow the client’s lead.
Non-Germans should note that the ß character has not been abolished – Gruß/Grüße and Straße are the most common pitfalls (except in Switzerland, of course).

Now in German to friends, acquaintances and forums.
I do have a difficulty here, because I have found German forums more formal than American and British ones. Maybe that’s because I was on CompuServe much earlier than on German forums and they seemed slower to relax. I have had my knuckles rapped and been thought to be intentionally rude for writing to a forum without a greeting. This was obviously an offence against German netiquette. I don’t know if that is the case any more, but I have an uncomfortable feeling when I write to a German forum.
So some write
Liebes Forum
Liebe Mitglieder

or some variation on the forum’s name.
Otherwise it’s down to
I don’t feel northern enough to use Moin (which is not limited to the morning)
I usually close with
but always feeling it is a bit abrupt.
I have not got used to the increasingly common
Liebe Grüße
which feels overfriendly to me but is possibly becoming standard.
I have just checked my inbox and found one
Schöne Grüße
and one
Mit kollegialen Grüßen
(this reminds me a bit of Mit sozialistischem Gruß in Goodbye Lenin).
It’s also, I remember, fairly common to mention the weather in one’s location:
Mit verregneten Grüßen aus Köln
Mit sonnigen Grüßen aus München

or if one wants a reply to a question
Neugierige Grüße
Is this done in English? I certainly avoid it.

It’s been pointed out by a commenter that MfG is a bit of a no-no, especially in formal correspondence.
That reminds me of some abbreviations widespread in informal contexts. Thnx rather irritated me because it’s scarcely shorter than Thanks.

Lawyers among themselves use Mit kollegialen Grüßen (see comment). I sometimes have to translate this into English, and the equivalent is just Yours sincerely or Best/Kind Regards. There’s a lovely heated discussion on this on the LEO forum.

And I forgot to mention the direct address I often use on forums: just the name of the person addressed, without any ‘Dear’.

MOOC free online course on crowdsourced translation – English/Spanish

I am not really into crowdsourced translation, but it appears that the Open University in the UK is about to run a MOOC, a Massive Open Online Course on Open Translation tools and practices.

There’s more information here, including a video. The pilot runs from 15th October to 7 December 2012 (8 weeks), with the accompanying course website opening on Oct 10th 2012.

The project is aimed at speakers of English or Spanish who are also proficient in Spanish or English (level B2 or above of the CEFR). You might be a language learner, a translation student, or simply looking to develop your translation skills. The project will provide the following opportunities:

Introduce learners to open translation tools and generic translation skills, developing useful employability skills in a global context;
Promote plurilingualism and intercultural communication;
Promote the internationalisation of the student experience;
Introduce learners to real-world translation tasks for volunteer translators in well-established community translation projects (e.g. Wikipedia, TED talks, Global Voices);
Develop translation skills in subject specific domains (maths, education) through translating OpenLearn content (http://www.open.edu/openlearn/).

The Art of Procrastination

The Art of Procrastination, by John Perry

I can’t remember who recommended this – I see it was on Lifehacker last week, but I didn’t see it then – anyway, it is a very amusing read. Here is a quote from the Structured Procrastination website:

Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it. Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because they are a way of not doing something more important. If all the procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get him do it. However, the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.

Structured procrastination means shaping the structure of the tasks one has to do in a way that exploits this fact. The list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.

This is from the essay Structured Procrastination, which won Perry (an emeritus philosophy professor) the Ig Nobel Prize.

Of course, my whole blog and internet postings are based on this system. I was a bit shocked a few weeks ago when a colleague offered me some fairly urgent work. She probably thought because I post so much on mailing lists that I didn’t have a huge amount of real work waiting for me.


In general English one might distinguish between:
in time: rechtzeitig
on time: pünktlich

If you arrange to record a TV programme at 9.00 a.m., you want to start recording on time – on the dot of nine.
If you have to do something by / before December 31, you need to do it in time – before the final date.
(I bought a jar which had the wording ‘Eat the contents until December 2014’ instead of ‘Eat the contents before December 2014’)

In legal texts, there are often deadlines, and the word rechtzeitig comes up for translation, both as an adverb and as an adjective.

In BrE I would say: in good time or within the prescribed period.

One also encounters, in AmE but also in BrE: in a timely manner. (timely is an adjective, not an adverb)

I’ve just been reminded of a word that works better grammatically if you need an adverb: timeously.

Laddie J … said that, at the end of the opposition period and in the absence of opposition, the Registrar was obliged to take steps timeously to place the mark on the register.

There’s a complex of further vocabulary here, for German Frist: a period of time but also a time limit / deadline. I believe deadline is regarded as more AmE usage, but I see no problem with using it. It’s probably more common in general usage than legal texts, though.

Made in Germany

I must be almost the last person to discover the origin of the Made in Germany label. (At least it doesn’t suffer from spelling or translation mistakes like Made in Hungaria or Fabriqué en Dinde).

It was introduced in 1887 in the British Merchandise Marks Act (the link incorrectly describes it as ‘americana’). To combat a flood of imports, these were ordered to be labelled by their country of origin. ‘Made in Germany’ was meant to show people that these were not good British goods, but inferior foreign goods. However, the opposite effect was achieved, because ‘Made in Germany’ became a mark of quality. On www.ndr.de, Henry Rieck writes:

Ursprünglich handelte es sich bei dem Herkunftshinweis “Made in Germany” um eine Warnung. Er wurde von 125 Jahren in England erfunden, um die damals oft minderwertigen Waren aus Deutschland zu kennzeichnen. Doch schnell wurde die Qualität deutscher Produkte ausgesprochen gut. Und so wurde aus der Warnung ein “Gütesiegel”. Ab den 1970er-Jahren bis zur Wiedervereinigung wurde für Waren aus der Bundesrepublik die Kennzeichnung “Made in West Germany” und für Waren aus der DDR “Made in GDR” verwendet.

He goes on to remark on how many current ‘German’ products are largely made of imported materials.

This reminds me of the current complaints in the USA about ‘made in China’ (hm, my Honda was made in China).

Two Spiegel Online articles (in German) on how German products conquered the world.

Wikipedia (English) on Made in Germany.