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Archive for the ‘Odd’ Category

Why is swearing in German so damn hard?

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The new Wonderella comic actually manages to get German swearing right. Consider me impressed. It’s only one word, but seeing how many non-German writers ever manage anything close, it is quite an achievement.

I always wondered about that: Not really that many people seem to know even the most basic swear words in German, even though everybody knows some in Spanish or French. Which is even worse because Germans are… well… potty-mouthed would be lacking as a description.

We hardly go by in any talk without using words that would cause an uproar in American media.¹ I guess there is a bit of a cultural thing going on here, together with some linguistical quirk. You know, swear words are not swearing in German. So even from a deeply Christian point of view (which often is used against it in English speaking countries, the “No Swearing” commandment in the Bible) if we are using foul language it’s not actually touching any religious feelings in most cases. There are some words like “gottverdammt” (god damn it) which would be, but those hardly are the morst poignant or popular ones. They actually are considered quite mild.

Of course it is the most deeply catholic part of Germany (southern Bavaria) which loves to use these words in speech. On the other hand this is considered ethnical identity nowadays (everybody EXPECTS them to behave like that), so they actually get free passes on insult charges if they use those. Seriously. Using bad language is part of the Bavarian national identity.

So, why is it actually so hard to get a few words right? We swear all the time. And yet every time there are some aggravated Germans in any medium it’s always “Schweinhund”. Even worse writers don’t seem to notice that this the word is not even grammatically correct. (it would be “Schweinehund”). But yeah, I know… German is hard

No, that word is not really used in German that much. Actually, it’s not used at all. One could say it’s one of the aforementioned Bavarian quirks. It could be used to insult, but generally it’s more used as an endearment.

Yes. I know how weird that sounds.

I might sound strange but sometimes I just wish people would take one or two minutes to actually research their stuff. It’s not that hard! the thing is just, every single time “Germans” appear on the screen in foreign media they might be presented badly, they might be assholes and Nazis (and for some strange reason they’re also all blonde), but I just can’t see them as Germans. I’m not even insulted by presentations of Germans anymore. I don’t understand the most basic sentences they wharrgarrbl on the screen (because it is so hard to find any German to write you a few basic sentences for your multi-million dollar script…), I don’t even recognize their most basic utterances. They are from some mythical quasi-European country with a language that sounds sorta like Dutch.

Just without any proper “ch” in there…


¹ to be fair: America is a nation that STILL talks about seeing one nipple for a split-second SIX YEARS AGO,but they do have the world’s largest porn industry

Written by G. Neuner

27. February 2010 at 6:35 pm

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Fare dodging is one of these small offenses that many people in Germany don’t find that bad at all. All excuses aside (and there are a lot of them around, everybody always tries to reason away this actually being wrong…) the reason for the increased amount of fare dodgers might come with the insane amount of money privatized public transport is demanding lately.

So of course some people get a bit creative when trying to dodge fares without getting punished for that. One case that has just gotten out of courts actually had a fascinating reasoning behind it: the legal terminology for dodging fares in German law is “Leistungserscheichung” which might be translated as “obtaining something surreptitiously”.

Now everybody always was kind of sure that meant any kind of fare dodging. After all, if you were going to dodge a fare, was there any way but doing it, well, in secret? Surreptitiously as the dictionary says?

Turns out yes, technically there is a way: Seeking refuge in audacity. Tell the conductor beforehand that you are going to go without a ticket. Show openly that you are not paying and still ride the train.

That theory was put to test in court a few days ago. One guy decided to try the idea and rode on the subway wearing a t-shirt saying “Ich fahre schwarz” (I’m fare dodging). And then tried to take it to the court when he got caught.

He lost though. The nice idea aside, the court said, but just wearing the shirt was not enough (the conductors said they didn’t even notice it), but he would have had to tell the ticket vendor at the station AND the conductor when he boarded the train. Then of course he could have used the train without paying the fare. If both of them had let him do that at least. Which they were pretty unlikely to do.

So the reasoning obviously was valid (he would have been allowed to ride without paying IF only…) but the execution was flawed.

Written by G. Neuner

26. February 2010 at 12:21 am

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Flashcards and Fitness

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“Two days ago I discovered something that stunned me: Using Anki WHILE walking on my treadmill was enjoyable. I easily did it for an hour and the next day (yesterday) did it for an hour again. The time goes by quickly. Two boring activities, done together, became pleasant. Anki alone I can do maybe ten minutes. Treadmill alone I can do only a few minutes before I want to stop. In both cases I’d have to be pushed to do it at all. Yet the combination I want to do; 60 minutes feels like a good length of time.”Seth Roberts

I think Seth might be onto something with that. I noticed that while I can’t stand listening to audiobooks anymore (it was different when I was a kid), during long travels I actually enjoy listening to audio lectures even on topics that do not really interest me (and those topics normally are a bit weird because there are not that many free online classes available to download and listen to).
I dislike sitting in some of my lectures because the topics don’t interest me at all, yet I cherish listening to lectures about rhetoric when travelling between Poland and Germany? It’s weird, isn’t it?

I too should try using flashcards when working out next time. Actually I should try working out again…

Written by G. Neuner

24. February 2010 at 2:24 am

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Analog Communication

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I have to admit, I am a sucker for good old analog communication. In other words: letters.
I really like to write them and receive them. My girlfriend agrees with me I think, she seems to like getting them as much as I enjoy writing them.
There are of course situations in which I wonder how much writing letters actually fits into this modern world I was born into. Today I noticed again that the whole service concept the german postal service have is rather, well, lacking. Once we had a post office in the village. I remember that pretty well.
Our village is the main village of our whole commune (for lack of a better word…), so even after they closed down the offices in all the other villages, we still had one.
Of course that was in the mid-nineties.
With time came the privatization of the postal service, and with that the need to make money. With that came the cutting of costs. And with that came the integration of service points into the local supermarket.
Luckily the village still has it’s own supermarket.
So nowadays all the letters and postcards I write at my parent’s place is taken in not by someone who knows about postal rates and whatever arcane knowledge there is to a post lady’s job (I really really appreciate the work they do!), but by the girl from behind the meat counter.
And as it always is more important to get the latest village gossip this can lead to rather long waiting times until someone manages to look for the people who want to post something. The service point, by the way, meanwhile has been transferred from the entrance to the backside of the shop, right next to the beverages.

At least the girl knew what I had to pay for a letter to Poland.

It was kind of shocking to me a year ago, when I sent one of my first letters from Germany to Poland, how much ignorance I could encounter with those people.
“Poland?” the girl asked back then. “That’s not in Germany, is it?”
I thought she was joking. “Well, no.” I said.
“But is it in Europe?”
She wasn’t joking.
She didn’t know our neighboring country.
What are they teaching kids nowadays?
Oh wait, that girl was in school with me.
Help? Seriously…

Written by G. Neuner

2. June 2009 at 11:40 pm

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…by any other name…

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GetACoder is a freelancer marketplace. People can post job offers for small software projects they need to get written but don’t have time or patience enough to do themselves. Coders can bid on these offers, seeing as to who can do the job the best with the least cost.
That said the concept is perfect for people to get some code they need, and for coders to get some direly needed money (although they normally are at a slight disadvantage).
Of course some people somehow misunderstand how much work actually goes into programming, as can be seen with this pearl of a job offer:

I need someone to program me a new OS (Operasting System) that looks different than Ms Windows XP etc. but has the same style. It does not need to run on a mac but all the other PCs. It’s supposed to have a stylish look with clear edges etc. And ITS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE JUST A REDESIGNED WINDOWS as I’m going to sell that operating system later on.
These are some important points :

It should have ALL THE FEATURES that Windows Xp Professional has.
ALL the files that run on Windows XP ust also run on the BlueOrb OS.
It must have a very user-friendly interface (like MS WINDOWS XP)
When it gets Installed, the user needs to insert a serial number.
It must be quick and good looking.

This, of course, was posted with an offer for 20$ to 100$ to complete the task. How could one even dare to demand more for this basic kind of programming work? An operating system? Don’t coders do stuff like that all the time?!
Interesting that nobody really bothered to respond yet…

Written by G. Neuner

27. March 2009 at 2:02 am

CSI: Disaster

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white_menboI don’t know if I should laugh or cry: Over the last two years there has been a big hunt for a female police officer killing criminal with mob connections based mostly around southern Germany and Austria.

In 2006 an officer was shot in Heilbronn and the DNA traces which were brought in from the crime scene showed the presence of a female person at the car the officer was shot in. I still remember that case, a friend of mine was in Heilbronn that day and he told me that the police was frantic searching for the murderer and never found him/her.

The same DNA as in Heilbronn later was found in samples from crime scenes from all over southern Germany, and spreading over to Austria, from small burglaries into garden cottages to acts of violence and vandalism. They even started a whole special department trying to find this queen of crime who managed to elude the authorities somehow, and whose presence never actually could be verified by witnesses, only by DNA samples… and who is more trustful, a (maybe even criminal) witness, or an unbiased DNA sample? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by G. Neuner

25. March 2009 at 7:48 pm

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Resources III

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The Catalogue of Digitized Medieval Manuscripts actually cares about a problem which I have found to be quite serious in digital scholarship: Loads of manuscripts are digitized and available on the net, yet if you don’t know they are there you also can’t work with them. A problem which I have encountered rather often lately when thinking about actually working with the original sources. I just can’t afford a short trip to London just to look up a 10-page apocalypse in the library there… as much as I want to. So having a way of FINDING any of those documents available on the net is like a gift from heaven.

Not really something historical, but fascinating noneteheless… a Russian artist made medieval looking woodcuts of various fantasy and science fiction movies. Oddly fascinating to look at, even though I can’t read a word of what is written there. Makes me wish he actually made a book of these things. Or maybe illustrate one.

People interested in photography and addicted to caffeine (or anyone with the lack of funds for digicams and a professional photolab) might be interested in the fact that one actually can develop films using freshly brewed coffee and a dash of fresh orange juice. Only black and white (even with color film), but the pictures still look fantastic.

If one might not be that interested in photography but rather, let’s say, fashion, coffee obviously also can get used to dye clothes, for example to give jeans a nice vintage look; although of course the REAL jeans affectionado would never actually do that: there is  a trend of wearing dry/raw denim in by just wearing it. Raw denim means jeans which never have been treated (stonewashed or otherwise altered) before being sold. And people try to fade them naturally themselves, meaning they wear them down themselves to make them look good and wear comfortably by only having the natural wear and tear of daily use have an effect on their trousers. This includes in some cases wearing them for half a year, maybe a year, without ever washing them (some of them actually have a phobia of ruining their effort by that). Which just might be a bit too much if the only reason for that is to get a jeans that fits and suits only it’s owner. But then… they have their own forums in whih they actually post pictures of the progress they are making, and some of them look, well, pretty fantastic

Sometimes I wonder if there is really a fetish for everything, and on other days I just believe there is.

Written by G. Neuner

24. March 2009 at 7:47 pm

xkcd’s Guide to the Metric System

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Guide to Converting to Metric

xkcd today has a wonderful table of reference points in the units of the metric system. Having experienced the Americans living with me for a while, stumbling around in an environment which used the system showed me that something like that actually can be useful. And be it only for the sake of intercultural communication. After all (as obviously has to be pointed out) the USA is one of only three nations in the world which doesn’t use the metric system. And, all the humbug about how it is so much more complicated than the imperial system aside, about 5.7 Billion people use it every day without any problems. So it can’t be that complicated.

I don’t want to say: “come on, switch to metric now!”, because I like the idea of a nation clinging to a horribly outdated traditional system for no other reason than it’s history and their comfort with it (also I noticed that some Americans can get rather upset when confronted with the idea of converting), but at least this table might help understand the metric system a bit better. As is pointed out on the table, it is more important to make up new reference points for a new system than just convert it to the metrics one is used to.

Written by G. Neuner

5. January 2009 at 3:22 pm

Dinner for One

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“Dinner for One” is a rather obscure comedy sketch written by British author Laurie Wylie for theatre in the 1920s. In 1963 German regional public TV-station NDR made a recording of the piece for broadcast with Freddie Frinton and May Warden. In English actually, as everything English was kind of hip back then, even though people would not have called it that way. As the German audience was supposed not to know enough of English to actually understand the whole of it, it was produced with a little introduction in German explaining what exactly would happen on screen in the following 15 minutes. Not really the best way to keep the suspense up, but who did ever say Germans knew how humor works?

90-year old Miss Sophie (whose family name is omitted for the sake of decency) is having a birthday dinner with her four best friends/suitors. Unfortunately all of them are dead already, the last one of them died 25 years ago. So trusty butler James has to take their place toasting to the host. And while he does so he becomes increasingly sloshed. Hilarity ensues. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by G. Neuner

31. December 2008 at 5:57 pm