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…Wednesday evening, F, the 12-year-old neighbor kid from across the street calls up for help with his English homework. We discussed where the adverbs never, always and often go in the sentence (directly before the main verb), as in “I don’t always know what I’m doing” (my example, not his).
…Thursday evening, my next door neighbor calls asking for an extra pair of hands to help him wipe shit off his cat’s fur. Please. Right now if at all possible. The cat was confined in the kitchen so that she wouldn’t decide to clean herself on the sofa or the bed. R donned thick gloves to hold the uncooperative cat, I was given thinner gloves and a damp rag. Success. We soothed our nerves by chatting in the living room while the cat soothed her (clean) ruffled feathers somewhere else.
…Friday morning, I accept a postal delivery package for another neighbor who isn’t home at the time. Package handed over later that morning.
…Friday evening, the same neighbor kid from across the street rings my doorbell asking if he can hang out here until his mother gets home from work. The timing was excellent, as I had just 30 seconds before arrived home myself. Very polite kid. He played with a couple of puzzles, declined the offer of watching a DVD as he had already seen the ones we had, and was just a nice friendly guest until his mom arrived to pick him up an hour later.
This is a nice neighborhood that I live in. We help each other out.
I couldn’t wait until summer for fresh basil (Basilikum). So I strewed some seeds on potted earth a week ago. This is what I am rewarded with today:
My friend minkymomo raved about the nutritional qualities and general tastiness of pumpkin seeds. So I stopped at a well-stocked health food store and picked up a package of shelled pumpkin seeds. But they looked grey. So I put them back on the shelf. But she said I should get some. So I picked them up again. They still looked so — grey. And wrong somehow. I put them back and picked them up a couple more times, and finally sighed and put them into my shopping basket.
I recently found this ad in my local newspaper. It’s for a new restaurant called Megaschnitzel. It entices you with this promise:
Offer: Whoever can eat the XXL-Hamburger/Cheeseburger in 50 minutes, gets it for free!
XXL experience in food- and drink- related matters.
Be one of the first! Book a reservation!
Sigh. The Germans are importing the wrong things from America.
My friends Andreas and Eva recently gave me a book, Vorsicht Supermarkt! Wie wir verführt und betrogen werden (”Beware Supermarkets! How We are Misled and Deceived”). It is a wonderful tour through the various departments of a typical supermarket (the authors are describing German supermarkets but the descriptions sound just like the American ones I am familiar with). I chuckled a bit while reading the book, thinking that what they are describing are things that I already know.
Amongst the many examples that the authors discuss is the warning to read the ingredients list instead of just the big print on the front of the package. The words Mit ausgewählten Zutaten (”with carefully selected ingredients”) on the front of a container of Beef Soup could, in the fine-print ingredients list, actually mean:
- that the soup is 71% wheat noodles,
- there’s more salt than beef, and
- that there is a long list of other ingredients like MSG, aroma, hydrogenated fats, maltodextrin, yeast extract and caramilized sugar.
The book asks, “Which of these are the carefully selected ingredients here?”
OK, so I know to read the ingredients list of every product that I buy, because I prefer to eat real foods instead of all the manufactured chemicals that are in so many products nowadays. My friends Andreas and Eva know this, which is why they thought that I would be interested in this book.
Redzilla writes one of my favorite blogs. She has an Attitude. Her Bullshit-O-Meter is finely tuned. She hates Bush. (Are those last two sentences redundant?) She makes sweaters to keep her hairless cats warm in the winter. I enjoy almost everything she writes. But.
New Cat Hummel:
Hummel’s list of the things I can do for her:
1) Pay attention to her either at 4:00 in the morning while I’m trying to sleep or at 1:00 in the afternoon while I am in the middle of trying to do some work on the computer so that I am so beguiled by her purring that I will:
2) Get up from bed or computer chair and drag an old shoelace through the house so that she can pretend to stalk a mouse until she gets tired of that and then I can:
3) Put cat food into her bowl and admire her hearty appetite.
Thomas asks some interesting questions in his comment to my post on This Delightful German Language. “Does the structure of the language influence the structure of the thoughts? When German is such a complicated language can there be any easy thinking for Germans, or are Germans inherently more trained to complex abstract models?”
One of the things I noticed when I was first learning the German language was that Germans tend to prefer using just the right word to express something. They want their meaning to be clear and they want to be sure that they understand what someone else is conveying. Germans frequently give me puzzled looks when I try to discuss various topics, and they propose words to clarify what I’m trying to convey. Uh, the real problem here is that I need a lot more practice using my German, in order that my spoken vocabulary becomes large enough for sharing information. But my German friends seem to like me anyway. And their patient tolerance of my inadequate usage of their language is one of the reasons I like them, too!
Americans tend to prefer imprecise language, I think because they are more interested in creating an emotional “bonding experience” and less interested in conveying actual content. This is a gross exaggeration, of course, as there are lots of Americans who do care about conveying content. And, of course, Germans are quite capable of using “empty” small-talk to create a pleasant social experience. To stereotype and oversimplify cultural differences, it seems to me that Germans care about the factual details. Americans care about the social atmosphere.
I have lived for many years in both America and Germany, and I believe that these generalizations have a fair amount of validity.
For the amusement of English speakers who haven’t had the pleasure of learning this excellent German language, I present a prime example of how much information a German can pack into the subject of a sentence, before he has reached the first verb. On Sunday I was scrolling through the teletext news for the television station ZDF, and came upon the following bit of news. The subject of each of the sentences is in blue in both the original and the literal translation, and the conjugated verb is in red. In the third example, I’ve rewritten the sentence to move most of the description of the reactor to a subordinate clause, as is prefered in written English.
(Original German sentence:)
Der erst im Juli wegen eines Kurzschlusses vorübergehend vom Netz genommene schwedische Atomreaktor Forsmark 1 muss aus Sicherheitsgründen wieder abgeschaltet werden.
(Literal English translation:)
The most recently in July due to a short circuit temporarily from the network removed Swedish atomic reactor Forsmark 1 must for safety reasons again (be) turned off.
The Swedish atomic reactor, Forsmark 1, which was removed temporarily from the network most recently in July due to a short circuit, must be turned off again for safety reasons.