The Guardian on Germany/Die Guardian zu Deutschland

A bit late this link, but this week the Guardian has started examining some European countries, starting with Germany – see neweurope. More detail here.

There seem to be more articles every day. I noted in particular some articles on German literature, with more suggestions in the comments (Join the new World literature tour to Germany). Then one on the life of a German family:

Back home, Gerrit opens some lovely Hassaröder Pils beer, while Katleen, in a rare lapse of taste, drinks Beck’s. They put on a CD by a German R&B singer called Joy Denalane. To my ears, it sounds as authentically uninteresting as its English-language counterpartsz. “For me, one of the great things about the past year is that German-language music is becoming popular,” says Gerrit. Fair enough, but the current German top 10 is all in English, even when the songs are sung by Germans.

On the kitchen shelves, there’s a nostalgic East German cookbook, teeming with pictures of men in feather cuts at the wheels of Trabants, and recipes so stolid that subsisting on them would make you look more like Helmut Kohl than a member of the DDR’s gymnastic team.

There’s a hisory of German cinema in clips (including a very long clip, nearly two hours long, from Leni Riefenstahl’s ‘Olympia’ – presumably the whole film – Jesse Owens in first heat at just after 38 mins.), on the war against anglicisms
, on the piecing together of shredded Stasi documents in Zirndorf, and an at-a-glance guide to Germany. And a lot more.

Coming soon, for one week each: France, Spain and Poland.

Have you got freizeitstresse?/Mord an deutscher Sprache

The Germans have always been good at coming up with words for those emotions we all feel but don’t have a name for: schadenfreude, for example, or angst. “Freizeitstresse” is the latest, a term that literally translates as “free-time stress”.

Admittedly one doesn’t always get decent newspapers when staying with relatives. This was the Times, speculating once more about foreign languages. Those Germans are lucky to be able to make portmanteau words, albeit somewhat misspelt in this case. We could call it ‘recreational stress’, but that would not be one word.

Figures show that about 75 per cent of people are incapable of relaxing; even on holiday they experience high levels of stress and feel more overburdened than anything else,” says Professor Doctor Henning Allmer, a psychologist and expert in freizeitstresse at the German Sport University Cologne. “One of the reasons for this is because people take too much on. In Germany, at least, the idea of doing nothing has negative connotations. A ‘nichtstuer’ (a do-nothing) is a derogatory term. So there are people who fill their free time with a very busy schedule.”

LATER NOTE: The Times article, which was wrong in print and online, has now been corrected online (see comments).

German cat case/Deutscher Katzenfall in Times

Gary Slapper reports on two weird cases in The Times. One of them is a case recently decided by the Frankfurt am Main administrative court (Verwaltungsgericht).

The story begins with Peter Neumann’s cat and its expensive food tastes. The cat, Neumann argued, ate a €500 banknote. Holding some fragments of the note which he said had gone through the cat and been discovered in the litter tray, Neumann then went to the German Bundesbank to ask for a replacement note. … The bank declined to replace the note in this case.

The original German case report is here.

Soweit der Kläger geltend machen will, dass die drei von ihm eingereichten Banknotenteile zusammen mehr als 50 % einer 500,00 Euro-Banknote ergeben, hat das überzeugende Sachverständigengutachten ergeben, dass das Teilstück 2 nicht von der gleichen Banknote stammen kann wie die Teilstücke 1 und 3, sondern dass es sich mindestens um 2, evtl. sogar um 3 Ausgangsbanknoten handeln muss, von denen die fraglichen Teilstücke stammen. Aber auch die Teilstücke 1 und 3, die von derselben Originalnote stammen, ergeben – wie sich aus dem Sachverständigengutachten ergibt – keinen Flächenanteil von mindestens 50 % einer Banknote.

Wie die Beklagte zu Recht ausgeführt hat, ist es durchaus denkbar, dass die Katze – nachdem sie die Banknote zerfetzt hat – Teile der Banknote unbemerkt verschleppt hat und die Banknotenteile später aufgefunden werden oder aber wenn sie die Banknote tatsächlich gefressen hat – die Banknotenteile ausgeschieden hat und die Banknotenteile in den Exkrementen der Katze noch vorhanden waren und je nach Verbleib der Exkremente in diesen noch vorgefunden werden konnten bzw. können. Insoweit wäre es dem Kläger zuzumuten gewesen, die übrigen Banknotenteile in den Exkrementen der Katze sicherzustellen.

The name of the plaintiff is correctly not revealed in the German accounts.

Slapper seems to think the most curious other cat to have challenged the courts was Blackie the Talking Cat in Augusta, Georgia. He may not have heard of the other German case where a man received a fax in the night and jumped out of bed so fast that he frightened his cat, which fell off the scratching post and injured itself. Damages were not awarded.

Die zulässige Klage ist unbegründet, da dem Kläger keine Schadensersatzansprüche bezüglich der Verletzung seiner Katze zustehen. Als alleinige Anspruchsgrundlage kommt vorliegend § 823 BGB in Betracht. Der Kläger macht geltend, daß durch das zur Nachtzeit eingehende Faxschreiben der Beklagten sein Telefon geläutet habe, er aus dem Schlaf geschreckt und zum Telefon geeilt sei, wodurch die Katze vor Schreck vom Kratzbaum sprang und sich hierdurch verletzte.

Children of Deaf Adults/Wer kann dolmetschen?

Liaison interpreters (Verhandlungsdolmetscher) are trained to be more than people who just understand two languages.

Die Zeit did not take a trained liaison sign language interpreter when it decided to arrange for an interview with a deaf man and a blind woman (are we allowed to say that?).

Um Karina Wuttke und Mario Torster kommunizieren lassen zu können, ist eine Dolmetscherin gekommen, Rita Spring, Kind gehörloser Eltern. Ihre Gebärdensprache soll die Brücke zwischen beiden sein.

This is commented on in the blog of a deaf woman, Jule, die welt mit den augen schauen.

She calls the interpreter a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults). CODAs often have to help their parents outside the home. The interpreter doesn’t give a complete translation for the deaf man, who comes over as a bit slow in consequence. She also says at the beginning that it’s impossible to say as much in sign language as in speech (that even struck me as odd).

Die Dolmetscherin lässt wieder ihre Hände fliegen, Karina Wuttke horcht in die Stille, Mario Torster liest aus Frau Springs Gesten. Er sieht die beiden Frauen reden, lachen und muss auf eine Erklärung warten. Wer denkt, ein Gehörloser habe es leichter, weil er ja »nur« nicht hören kann, hat sich in diesem Fall getäuscht. Es ist ein Interview mit Zeitverzögerung.

The interpreter’s hands start flying back and forth again, Karina Wuttke listens to the silence, while Mario Torster reads Ms Spring’s gestures. He sees the two women talking and laughing and has to wait for an explanation. If you thought the deaf had it easier because the only thing they cannot do is hear, you can think again. There is a time lag in the interview.

Why on earth did the interpreter not interpret simultaneously, or rather, more simultaneously? Well, there is always a time lapse in interpreted interviews, but that would not call for any comments.

The very idea of interviewing a blind person and a deaf person is not well received by this blogger, nor by the Behindertenparkplatz blogger, from whom I got the links.

Despite the problems, for me it was interesting to read in detail about how the two of them use the internet, or how useful mobile phones are to them. Or how a blind person forms an impression of Gerhard Schröder:

Typischer Macho. Der Stimme nach ein absolut arroganter Mensch, selbstherrlich, überstülpend.

Making a fool of yourself in USA and UK/Englische Peinlichkeiten

The Süddeutsche Zeitung has a quiz up entitled Englische Peinlichkeiten (scroll down to Spiele).

The idea is to make sure you don’t use a British term in the USA or a US term in Britain that would cause embarrassment.

I wonder if the paper is trying to fool its readers with some of the questions?

“May I have a napkin?” In Amerika fragen Sie so nach einer Serviette, in England nach …
* … einem Tischtuch.
* … einem Taschentuch
* … einer Windel.

In England trägt man Hosenträger, wenn von “suspenders” die Rede ist. In den USA ist damit gemeint:
* Strapse
* Manschettenknöpfe
* Strumpfhalter

No wonder I couldn’t get them all right!

Digital thieves/Die (englische) Sprache des Urheberrechts

The Guardian recently had an article entitled Digital thieves swipe your photos – and profit from them.

Pedantic readers were having none of this theft terminology. Hence yesterday’s technology blog post: What’s the right way to talk about copyright stuff?

The aggrieved reader wrote (in part):

“I only read the heading and subheadings of this. For god’s sake, at least use the correct terminology. The photographs in question simply are not being stolen. They’re being copied. No thieves in existence there, but copiers. Illegal copiers I’m sure (whether it’s a good idea for so many things to be illegal to copy or not is another issue). You’re not helping us nor yourselves by perpetuating this kind of BS. The party who initially has possession of the item in one case no longer has the item, and in the other, does. That’s a big difference. That’s why we have different words with very different meanings to describe the two fundamentally different situations. But you’ve got them mixed up. And helped other people get them mixed up too.”

There is an attempt to fight a rearguard action from the legal point of view, but after all, a bit of polemic must surely be permitted, and the latter would be the better argument.

Comment by the author, Charles Arthur:

@ParkyDR @nickholmes: “A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it; and “thief” and “steal” shall be construed accordingly.”

Surely the property here is intellectual property, which courts have construed as existing in the same way that physical property does.

The “permanent deprivation” is of the opportunity to sell it (or prevent it being sold).

The Theft Act says that property ‘includes money and all other property, real or personal, including things in action and other intangible property’ – but the things in action have to be capable of appropriation.

(Dietl: chose in action (einklagbares) Forderungsrecht; obligatorischer Anspruch (der Gegenstand einer Klage sein kann); unkörperlicher Rechtsgegenstand (Wechsel, Sparguthaben, Patente, Urheberrecht, Versicherungspolice, Rente etc))

Comment by AlexC:

As a former copyright lawyer, I think “theft” is *technically* the wrong word. But then most people don’t understand the technical meaning of “theft”, so what does it really matter?

As a matter of general practice, the term “copyright theft” has been around for quite a while – e.g. at the cinema you will see anti-piracy adverts from a group called the Federation Against Copyright Theft (“FACT”).

The legal offence of copyright infringement and the legal offence of theft are so analagous that they fall within the same linguistic term “theft” in piracy-type situations.

Now, for some real fun, we could consider whether the tort of copyright infringement is analagous with the tort of conversion…


BILDblog corrects some legal advice given in BILD Zeitung, quoted as follows:

Laut Artikel 195 des Bundesgesetzbuches (BGB) können Sie Fehler von Handwerkern bis zu drei Jahre nach der Dienstleistung geltend machen.

Apart from the fact that the usual period for a Werkvertrag (loosely translated as contract for work and services) is two years, the misquotation of a Paragraf (section) of the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch reminds me of a howler contained in a book of standard English translations of German legal texts that is sold by a translator in Germany, where at least at one time EGBGB (Einführungsgesetz zum BGB – Introductory Act to the Civil Code) was rendered as European Civil Code (we’re still waiting for that).

(Via der winkelschreiber)

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.”

Bloody deed in Bournemouth / Kanzlei lässt Möwen töten

Drei Möwenküken auf dem Dach eines Gebäudes in Bournemouth, an der englischen Südküste, wurden auf Veranlassung von einer Anwaltskanzlei von Schädlingsbekämpfern getötet, zum Leidwesen vieler Zuschauer, u.a. aus einer anderen Kanzlei.

Under the heading Gulls ‘Strangled’ In Front Of Staff, the Bournemouth Daily Echo reports:

STAFF at offices in Bournemouth were left horrified and in tears after watching three seagull chicks killed in front of them because they were deemed a health and safety risk.
The seagull family lived on the roof of Harold G Walker solicitors in Oxford Road, Bournemouth, and the young chicks had become favourites among staff in surrounding buildings.

Apparently members of the Crown Prosecution Service were watching too.
The story was also taken up by the Law Society Gazette and RollOnFriday (the latter writes ‘No-one mention the hawk in Broadgate’, but that would be the perfect antidote, of course).

The commenters on the Daily Echo are incensed and will not use the services of Harold G Walker in future. One writes (my emphasis):

What Harold Walker has failed to grasp is the impact on the people who have witnessed this incident as it was carried out in an unprofessional manner. ProKill are incorrest to quote that they followed the guidelines as I would like to know where DEFRA state that you are allowed to stamp on a birds head. I would like to add that we are not talking once ,but for several moments so death did not come quickly to the creature, and to add insult to injury to wave at the staff who had come out of their offices in shock is just unbelievable.

There is a certain escalation in the comments.