Language Trivia

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1 items found for "German"

Did you know this about... German?

01German phrases are always full of surprise because of the unusual word order. Quite often the verb (that says what actually happened) is at the end of a sentence. Imagine a phrase like “The postman was *1* by the huge dog waiting for him since the sun had risen *2*.” While in English you’d put the verb in the middle of the phrase (*1*) in German you’d only know at the end (*2*) what actually happened: he was bitten/welcomed/chased/…..

02A distinguishing feature of the German language is its creation of evocative concepts by linking different words together, useful for depicting not just characters but states of mind. Most of us know "Schadenfreude" (literally, damage joy), which describes what we hardly dare express: that feeling of malicious pleasure in someone else’s misfortune; and there are numerous others. Many have had a boss who’s suffered from "Betriebsblindheit": organisational blindness. That very same person could be described as a "Korinthenkacker"; one who is overly concerned with trivial details.

03German is the only language in the world that capitalizes all nouns.

04Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, popularly known as the Grimm Brothers not only collected fairy tales but also researched the German language and laid the foundations for modern-day German literature studies. They left a significant legacy to the field of linguistics in their work regarding the First Germanic Sound Shift, which established the concept of regular sound changes that became a basic tenet of modern comparative and historical linguistics.

05There is a popular legend that German almost became the official language of the United States. This notion has been popularized by German authors of travel literature since the 1840s. According to the so-called "Muhlenberg legend," a vote was taken in the Pennsylvania state parliament sometime in the 1790s on whether German should be the official language. Apparently the Speaker of the House, a German-American by the name of Frederick A. Muhlenberg, cast the decisive vote for English and against German. In reality, many historians claim that this presumed proposition was never brought to the floor and a vote was never taken.

06In German you can easily make long words by combining several nouns. This will give the new word a different meaning:
Blei (plumb) + Stift (pen) = Bleistift (pencil)
Bleistift + Herstellung (production) = Bleistiftherstellung (production of pencils)
Bleistiftherstellung + Richtlinie (guideline) = Bleistiftherstellungsrichtlinie (guideline for the production of pencils)
Bleistiftherstellungsrichtlinie + Kontrolle (control) = Bleistiftherstellungsrichtlinienkontrolle (control of guidelines for the production of pencils)
Bleistiftherstellungsrichtlinienkontrolle + Büro (office) = Bleistiftherstellungsrichtlinienkontrollbüro (office for the control of guidelines for the production of pencils)
Of course, for easy understanding you should never combine more than 3 or four nouns.

07Child’ is understandably neuter in German, but the word for ‘girl’ – “Mädchen” – is paradoxically neuter. As Mark Twain said: “In German, a young lady has no sex, but a turnip has" (die Rübe). In fact "Mädchen" is a dimunitive of "die Magd" (maiden) and all the diminutive nouns ending with 'chen' have a neuter gender in German.

08Texas has its own dialect of German. The dialect, known as Texas German, is spoken by descendants of German immigrants who settled in the Texas Hill Country region in the mid-19th century and today it is near extinction, as it is used almost exclusively by a few elderly German Texans. Watch this video on Youtube about it.

09Religious reformer Martin Luther (1483–1546) helped popularize High German by employing it in his very influential German translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Ancient Greek (published in 1522)

What does German sound like? Listen to a German radio station here

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