Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Lesson in Linguistics

Our friend Eric just came back from a trip to Germany. He said something so interesting. He said that you can tell a lot about a culture by the words in its lexicon..... What does it say about a language that has a word for Schadenfreude - something it takes FIVE words to describe in our language (deriving pleasure from another's pain)?

Another good example would be the fact that we Jews have a word for Mechutanim... something not 100% translatable into English.... ("in-laws" would be the closest match but not 100%).

But that got me thinking about the German language in general. They have the craziest LOOOOONGEST words you've every imagined. Some guy way back when must have lived with the credo "Why say 6 or 7 separate words, when you can combine it into one awesomely long word?".

Don't believe me?

Try these on for size....

Herzkreislaufwiederbelebung (heart-circle-run-again-enlivenment) = C.P.R.

Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung = speed limit

Geschwindigkeitsüberschreitung = speeding (noun)

Hoechsgeschwindigkeitsbegrenzung = maximum speed limit

Gepäckaufbewahrungsschein (luggage-up-hold-certificate) = luggage check ticket

Hubschrauberlandeplatz = helicopter landing pad

Oooooh and let's not forget the 1999 German Word of the Year, (you can't make this stuff up folks....) Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz = beef labeling regulation & delegation of supervision law

So I suppose English isn't such a bad language after all... if we can only get people to USE IT more. Don't get me started again on the corruption of our language.... I get overly excited and it's too early in the morning (Have I mentioned that Joey has started using the word (if you can call it that) "B-T-W" conversationally...grrr.... oh, and I really need a separate post on the fact that he's trying to introduce his own new word into the English language and uses it every chance he gets - "funsies" {insert eye roll here}).

3 comments:

Meir said...

I once went onto wikipedia regardimg the German language and I believe it said there that German kids play a game where one kid says a word, another kid tags on another word (to make a new word), etc. etc.

G6 said...

I forgot to include Mark Twain's wonderful quote:
"Some German words are so long that they have a perspective."

daughtersintheparsha said...

or the joke with Mark Twain at a lecture where an aggravated and impatient friend got up to walk out in the middle and Mr. Twain exclaimed, "Don't you want to wait for the verb?"


and I assume Joey read Frindle as a boy...