Saturday, 25 July 2009

Bilingual Brainmelt

I've spent the last week in Berlin, which has been toll. Toll actually means crazy and the German word for rabies is 'Tollwut' which means 'crazyfury' - but in this case it's a good thing, because it also roughly translates as 'ace'.
Now, review that sentence in your head, and then consider that EVERY SENTENCE going through my head currently sounds like that and you'll understand why I have a headache. My brain starts off in English and then....then I realise I've forgotten large chunks of my native language and relpaced them with German. Then I'll get distracted on a little linguistic detour on the etymology of the word which, being German, is pretty easy to map. Last night I was sitting in a bar drinking Pilsener Urquell (which it turns out I say SO BADLY in German that no bartender has a clue what I'm asking for and I'm reduced to flailing over the bar like some unfortunate and desperate drunk mumbling 'da, da, Bier. OOOOrkvell!' until they twig and start speaking in English to me to save embarrassment.) ANYWAY (y'see?) I'm looking at the Urquell label, and at a bottled water someone's drinking called Spreequell. (The Spree is the river in Berlin. you say it 'shpray', well, I do.) and I realise...huh... 'Quell' means source, or spring. Urquell, is like "the original source" - which is also the name of a brand of bubblebath. so if you drank an Urquell in an Original Source bath, you could potentially get confused. What everyone else sees is that weird English girl who understands a surprising amount of German for an Engländerin, but can't talk for shit, giggling at her beer bottle. I'm gonna kvell, already. Which is where THAT Yiddish gem comes from. See? You see? Siehst du? And this is why I haven't updated the blog much. Mein gehirn ist ganz kaputt.


  1. Maybe that's why I never learned a foreign language? My brain is overloaded as it stands.

    I've missed reading you - thanks for checking in!!

  2. And you two want to move to Berlin WHY?! Having studied several other languages, German just seems ugly to me.

  3. Doch! Deutsch ist toll! No really, I know German has a reputation for being ugly, but I think that's more because of the deep rooted associations with bellowing nazis/huns. Before the first world war, German was considered by the English speaking world to be an incredibly sentimental and beautiful language. Rhythm and word order wise it feels like archaic English. It's really easy to translate Shakespeare, for example. the blank verse just fits. I try to like the romance languages, really I do, but they frustrate me. I'd love to learn the norse languages as well, but to me, speakingGgerman is like eating delicious crumbly cookies full of chocolate and fruit and nuts and other delicious surprises, whereas speaking French, for example, is like slurping soup. It tates good, but it gets everywhere and you don't really know what's in there...

  4. That's the last time I try using French to talk dirty to you...I prefer German because it short-circuits my 'too many romance languages proglem' of French, Spanish and Italian. Try understanding one of MY sentences some time.