November 29, 2010 | German

Back to New York

I turn my flight into a cram session.

Today I flew back to New York (more specifically, Newark). Before I left Amsterdam, I enjoyed my first full-body scan.

The flight was amazing. I got an aisle seat, plus an empty seat next to me, and I worked the whole way. Too good to be true!

Newark Airport Looked Almost Pretty Today

Newark Airport Looked Almost Pretty Today

A flight attendant even gave me a pile of chocolate and cookies from first class. I don’t usually eat that stuff, but on planes and in airports all food discipline and habits are broken.

I did pages and pages of my German Vocabulary book on the flight. I really like it, although some of the transitional text—as I have mentioned before—is pretty silly. I read in a chapter entitled “Health” that “Just like Americans, Germans are very health-conscious.” Which Americans are we talking about?

I also read, “The remedy for illness and disease is treatment.” This writer has not heard of preventive medicine, I guess.

Speaking of health, when people sneeze, I always say Gesundheit (which is German for “health”) rather than “Bless you.” I prefer to keep my sneezes secular.

Exciting vocabulary I learned on the flight: “diarrhea” is Durchfall, which seems to be a combination of “through” (durch) and “fall” (Fall).” If so, appropriate! And literal! 

I also went through a chapter on numbers. One of the things I find interesting about language study is the way differences pop up in places you don’t expect them. Things like the fact that decimals in Germany (and many other countries) are formed with commas, not periods, and that with large numbers you put a space or a period between thousands—not the commas you see in English.

Heading Home from Newark: AirTran Reminds Me of a Disneyland Ride

Heading Home from Newark: AirTran Reminds Me of a Disneyland Ride

For example, 0.3 in English would be 0,3 (null Komma drei) in German. And an American 5,000,000 would be 5 000 000 or 5.000.000. Although I see these things in documents from overseas, I don’t really register the differences somehow. It is very hard for me to replicate the German number-punctuation practices, because they violate my longstanding sense of what a number actually is.

After numbers came the “Clothing and Fashion” chapter, where I learned that “panties” are Schlüpfer. Amusingly, that is a singular masculine noun. I am pretty sure I never learned how to say “panties” in my German lit classes at Harvard. Schlüpfer is a very unsexy-sounding word, by the way. So is “bra”: Bustenhalter, which, unless I am mistaken, means “bust holder.” Like diarrhea, very literal.

Comments (6)

Julie • Posted on Sat, December 04, 2010 - 5:53 pm EST

When I read posts like this I appreciate your blog’s unique combination of crudeness and refinement. Learning words like “diarrhea” and “panties” is about the only prospect of studying another language that holds appeal to me. But that’s because I have the mental life of a fifth grader.

Looking forward to Japanese.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sun, December 05, 2010 - 9:13 am EST

I am laughing.

Thank you.

Vera • Posted on Tue, December 07, 2010 - 10:41 am EST

“rather than “Bless you.” I prefer to keep my sneezes secular.”
LOL, I used to say ‘gezondheid’ in Dutch my entire life until I got brainwashed by all the ‘blessings’ I got after moving here, so now I always say ‘bless you’. Automatically. Another thing that took a little before I got it: Hi, how are you? and how to respond to that, since it’s more polite than to come up with a personal story about your well-being. In Holland you just say ‘hi’ or ‘good to see you’, so I remember being thrown off when people asked me how I was doing. :-)

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Tue, December 07, 2010 - 2:23 pm EST

Vera, funny about the “gezondheid”! In Spanish you also say “health” (salud). I should do a comparative study across languages of what people do in different countries when someone sneezes! Given the nature of a sneeze, “health” DOES seem a more relevant response, I would say.

Donna • Posted on Tue, December 07, 2010 - 4:18 pm EST

Note that in the example on numbers above you have written 5 million incorrectly in German it should read 5.000.000,00. You really need the comma before the non-integers.  If you use the periods then you cannot leave off the comma. If you just write it with spaces, then it is OK as you have it.

Julie • Posted on Tue, December 07, 2010 - 5:23 pm EST

That’s interesting. In Norway they just give you a stern yet slightly pitying look, then silently offer you some pickled herring.

Post a Comment