Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Beautiful Little Germans #1

In Don DeLillo's “White Noise”, Jack has named his first son Heinrich, in order to render him invincible. A person with such a name, he felt, nobody and nothing could ever touch. Jack is a Professor of Hitler Studies at the College on the hill and, if we are to accept the view of a colleague of his, with his very choice of subject Jack hoped to defy death himself.

There is something about the German language. Once you've made your statement in German, it is final, and nobody can challenge it any more. One can agree, or try to refute, but clarity is not to be escaped, if the Teutonic exchange is to carry on. Having built your thought in German means you have made sure, that all your carefully chosen words have fallen into their age-old places in the sentence, bearing the gravitas of ancient rocks, of monumental meteorites emplaced on a dry river bed a thousand years ago.

Jack could not speak German for sour apples.

But our notorious cousin – who lives in Germany and whose name we shall not reveal this time, because we have received threats – can! She actually claims that the Germans are very sweet people and very tolerant towards her grammar mistakes. When she expresses a request in a shop, for example, the sales assistant will repeat her request in correct German and then proceed to fulfilling said request with the utmost efficiency. Because being correct is more important than being polite. Besides, a correct request means better chances to reach a correct result – and on top of that, thanks to all those corrections, she-who-we-shall-not-speak-of gets the chance to improve her German. Win-win!

Of course we visited our cousin during the Weltmeisterschaft 2006. It was great fun! Even the weather was unbelievably great! And every time a match ended, part of the population took to the streets honking and waving flags of the winner country in joy and granfaloony! Because you will find people from all nationalities living in Germany. Germans appear to be a minority in their own country. There was a funny spot on German TV (they are fun loving people too): a German went to work at a Turkish kebab place, but it was a disaster, because he couldn't tell his tash-kebab from his sish-kebab, his chicken from his lamb. The gloomy voice-over warned: Did you know that more than 60 million Germans do not speak Turkish?

Our cousin reports that hosting the 2006 FIFA World Cup did wonders for the psychology of the country. Opening up to the world for all the right reasons! Finally, World War II could stay where it belonged – the Last Century. Finally, the black-and-white documentaries that haunted state TV night after night after night, were brought to a halt. Hurray!

We have very fond memories ourselves, but now and then we like to make fun of the little Germans, out of impetus, momentum, compulsion if you like, and we don't mean harm. The old clichés are itching. After this disclaimer, let us share with you a few related one-liners made in our household. Enjoy! And if you are German, remember – it is out of love!


RTG said: “German is not a language – it's a martial art!”

RTG on a wild improvisation spree about a dermatologist: “As a German doctor, his specialization is whip scars. In fact, latex allergies and whip scars!”

and continued: “he also has a surgical specialty: tattoo transplants!”

Woman on TV: “This depression gave me the strength to work” RTG said: “This is just the German business model.”

From The Xenophobe's guide to the Germans: “In Germany, humor is no joking matter.”

Ohne Komment:
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-Aber kaput Deutsch sprech'ich doch! Kaput Deutsch ist kein Problem!


Monica said...

White Noise is an amazing book that I had long since forgotten about... and now that you've reminded me, I must go and read it this weekend. Danke!

Roufa Tav Gosou & Mimi Lass said...

Well, if it isn't Ms Quarks herself! Have fun with whatever noise you chose this weekend.