Prepare to have your mind blown by my polyglot-ism. Today’s topic: Deutsche.
The word in the title is one of the maybe 30 (?) words that has stuck in my brain after 3 years of studying German at University. Two hours per week of trying to become invisible, dodging the inquisitive eyes of the professor, getting through the gruelling exercises that required forming groups of four and answering questions about Beethoven, The Berlin Wall or Der Untergang.
People ask me what language D and I speak at home. The truth is I couldn’t say exactly. It’s a mix I guess, with Romanian and English as the main elements. My sentences are usually 50%-50% so if some foreigner happens to be eavesdropping on one of our conversations they’re bound to be completely lost at some point, usually around the time I’m searching for a word in a language, can’t find it and automatically switch to the other. Sometimes we throw in a bit of French and a word or two in Spanish just for the fun of it. We like toying with accents. D stubbornly tries to speak with a British accent which to him means talking very posh-like and in a slightly higher pitch. I like to say y’all with a Texan accent bien sûr as in “would y’all like some dinner?” although I’ve never said this when there was more than one person in the room.
This brings me back to my original topic – Deutsche. One of my friends from work once said – and German folks, if y’all happen to be reading this website, please don’t be offended – that to him most of the German words sound like a military order. I agree. German is not the most melodic language out there. The heit found in a great many words is a very harsh sound to hear. And after a few of these heit-s and a bunch of other guttural sounds you kind of tend to stiffen up, straighten up your posture, clench your jaws and think that turning a sentence into a 28-letter word with five suffixes is actually not a bad idea.
The few speckles of German that D and I know, in my case vestiges of yore, and for D memories from his childhood when watching Robocop on Pro7, consist of asking one another Was machen Sie? as in whatcha doin’? or D saying, whenever he comes back from somewhere, Ich bin zurück, baby! in a very George-like manner. Today we had the most amusing conversation about words like Ausfahrt which means highway exit. D, in his naivety thought these signs along highways were actually announcing the entry in a town. To his surprise all towns along most of the highways in Germany were called Ausfahrt.
We also know words like Zeitgeist, and naturally are able to say aber natürlich. “Oh and also let’s not forget about Kartoffel!” said D in an honest Eureka! moment. Of course the Kartoffelsalat, a veritable piece de resistance of the Germanic cuisine, the equivalent of the British fish&chips is another familiar term to us. “What should we have for dinner? Some chicken? That sounds good. With Kartoffel? Even better.”
One of my favourite things accent-related is to call D and when he picks up say “Hallo! Zis is ze German Coast Guard.” which is greeted with a burst of laughter from the other end of the line. Understandable, I think, considering the reference: