English language curiosities

On reading this headline in The Local:

Merkel to meet Putin in January over Ukraine

I wonder whether anyone will shoot them down. However, the earlier headline about the blazing ferry has been improved (Flaming ferry counted 18 German passengers).

In the following, what role was played by Microsoft Word capitalizing words at the beginning of a line?


but maybe the locals can’t read.

On a different subject, there is probably a law against this kind of thing in Germany:



Heston also created his own kind of mince pies, which were OK except they weren’t really mince pies, more like Linzer Torte. They had the tangerine-flavoured sugar too.

Sheep and lamb

Here’s a photo taken earlier this week by my friend in Donzdorf, on the Schwäbische Alb. The shepherdess is carrying a newborn lamb up the hill to the place where the sheep are put in an electric fence. The mother ewe apparently headbutted the sheepdog aggressively. Up the hill, the lamb stood up and began to bounce around.


Even in the middle of Fürth I have seen shepherds and sheep – see earlier post. But I haven’t seen them moving along the roads.


There’s a term in German constitutional law, Gesetzesvorbehalt, literally (reservation/requirement of a statute).

On Legally Yours, Rob Lunn discusses the equivalent Spanish concept. How to translate “reserva de ley” into English (using a descriptive strategy).

In my database I find a suggestion to translate the German term as ‘constitutional requirement of the specific enactment of a statute’ (because secondary legislation is not enough).

It is apparently sometimes translated as ‘legal reservation’ or ‘reservation of law’, which doesn’t convey the meaning at all.

The word Vorbehalt is often a problem. If you translate it as ‘reservation’, you are using a word that’s less usual in legal English than Vorbehalt is in legal German.

I prefer ‘requirement’.

There’s a discussion of the term on LEO (quite useful in parts, but I particularly enjoyed the comment ‘I actually discussed that topic with a common lawyer. He completely ignored that concept’ with its interesting use of ‘ignored’).

I’ve apparently had to translate quite a few words with ‘Vorbehalt’ as part: Änderungsvorbehalt, Beamtenvorbehalt/Funktionsvorbehalt, Eigentumsvorbehalt (reservation/retention of title), Einwilligungsvorbehalt, Erlaubnisvorbehalt, Identitätsvorbehalt, Kontokorrentvorbehalt, Liefervorbehalt, Parlamentsvorbehalt (another term for Gesetzesvorbehalt), Progressionsvorbehalt, and several more.

I can’t quite agree with Rob that this is such a culture-specific term (see Things I learnt from a journo about translating culture-specific terms: (1) Description trumps linguistic solutions), but OK, it is not a concept that applies to UK constitutional law. I would definitely use the definition here, and I might not add the German in brackets.

LATER NOTE: A query on a mailing list relates to Saldohaftungvorbehalt, as in ‘ Eigentumsvorbehalt
Bis zur vollständigen Bezahlungen bleiben alle gelieferten Waren unser Eigentum (Saldohaftungsvorbehalt).’

I would suggest ‘liability for balance’.

The time of day

I was toying with the idea of attending a free webinar by STAR Transit – in fact, I registered. This was the time given, although I didn’t know if they were referring to the time in Germany or the UK:

Dear Participants,

thank you for your interest in the webinar

“You asked, we listened: What’s new in Service Pack 8”

on 18.12.2014 at 16:00 a.m. (GMT +1:00).

We use the webinar software TeamViewer. To watch and listen to the webinar,
you can participate with the speakers of your computer.

To join the webinar, click this link:

Possibly there would be not much new for me, but at all events I was at my desk at 15.30 British time, which would be 16.30 German time, though not a.m. When I clicked the link at 16.00 British time (apparently that is currently GMT) I was informed that the webinar had already ended.

STAR didn’t cast any light on this, but they did say that the webinar has been recorded and will be available soon.

Zur vollsten Zufriedenheit: voll verwirrend für Übersetzer

Beck Blog (Prof. Dr. Markus Stoffels) reports on a recent decision:

Unzufrieden mit „voller Zufriedenheit“? BAG äußert sich zur Leistungsbeurteilung in Zeugnissen

in which the Federal Employment Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht) found it was acceptable for an employee to receive the equivalent of Grade 3 on the six-grade scale because this is the average grade).

Die Note 1 wird mit der Formulierung „stets zur vollsten Zufriedenheit“, die Note 2 mit „stets zur vollen Zufriedenheit“, die Note 3 mit „zur vollen Zufriedenheit“ und die Note 4 mit „zur Zufriedenheit“ zum Ausdruck gebracht.

An employee who wanted a better grade had to show evidence it was deserved.

One sometimes wonders how to translate these terms, where ‘satisfactory’ is quite negative. The non-German recipient ought to be informed of the code used, but I can’t see any other way to translate it except literally (I have actually refused to translate references of this kind in the past).

According to Wikipedia:

Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Bulgaria are the only countries in Europe where employees can legally claim an employment reference, including the right to a correct, unambiguous and benevolent appraisal.

Meanwhile, as English is used more and more widely, the Frankfurter Allgemeine is worried about unfortunate phrases in bad English:

Es gibt Empfehlungen, die mehr schaden als nützen: „He left us with enthusiasm“ oder „You will be lucky to have him to work for you“ gehören zweifellos dazu – besonders wenn sie als gutgemeinte Abschiedsformeln am Ende eines englischen Arbeitszeugnisses stehen.

Here’s the Süddeutsche Zeitung on the same topic (interview with Professor Arnulf Weuster):

Der Bewerber war “attentive to detail”, ein Pedant also. Der Vorgesetzte bescheinigt ihm Flexibilität. Schade nur, dass “flexible” auch “unentschlossen” heißt. Deutsche Arbeitszeugnisse ins Englische zu übersetzen, ist tückisch. Arnulf Weuster, Professor an der Hochschule Offenburg, hat Ratgeber zum Thema verfasst. Trotzdem hält er es letztlich für unmöglich, alle Feinheiten der Zeugnissprache zu übertragen.

And here’s Toytown Germany discussing it.

German lawyers fighting in Munich?

Under the heading Exclusive: Two Linklaters partners resign after office party fight
Roll on Friday reports that two partners at Linklaters in Munich have resigned after a fight at an Oktoberfest party.

I’m not sure if this is right because I can still find Laurenz Schmitt on the Linklaters site, but not thomas Elser.

LATER NOTE: Here’s a German report from November. It looks as if just Thomas Elser left, and Linklaters weren’t saying why.

Happy interpreters video

A video showing happy interpreters at the UN in New York.
Happy Interpreters
from Empanadilla de Atún 1 day ago / via Final Cut Pro Not Yet Rated

To dispel the tower of Babel and other clichés about us we thought that this holiday season we would show you what we really do and what we are really like. Don’t be afraid- no other humans or animals suffered during filming, no extra budgetary resources were required. Not even the need to talk about multilingualism, cost cutting, increased efficiency, doing more for less or any of those buzz words. We have managed to use a universal language and we hope it makes you feel HAPPY.

Apparently this is not the first cover of Pharrell Williams’ video.

Thanks to Elm.