Tag der Arbeit. Tag means day; der means of or of the, which is dative (something no one that has gone to school in the United States knows), and Arbeit means work. So, Day of Work or Day of the Worker. First of May. May Day. Day of parades in communist countries. Ignored in the United States and Great (oxymoron) Britain, of course.
The first of May is a holiday in Germany. Today is unusually warm and sunny. We sit on the terrace and drink Champagne (the adjective, French, would be redundant, if you know anything about trademark law, which applies everywhere except New York and other parts of the US). I have slight pangs of guilt, because I do not work. I make no meaningful contribution to mankind. I do what pleases me, which is surely a sin--or many sins--in many peoples’ minds. I don’t care. I enjoy life.
Tag der Arbeit is like any other. I do what I want...or what my dear wife wants me to do...within reason. She worked yesterday--or rather today--until three this morning. Tanz in den Mai (Dancing into May) is a traditional festival in Germany. Because she owns a dancing school, customers expect a celebration on the final day of April and dancing into the new month. I stayed home and went to bed early (still in April).
Despite lack of dancing or working, I still enjoy the first of May. I enjoy pleasant weather. I enjoy a glass of good Champagne, the fine pearls of gas rising to the surface of the flute (that’s a glass, not a musical instrument), and a nice meal on the terrace in the sun. Also, the lilacs have blossomed, filling the air with a wonderful fragrance, and the first rhododendron buds are opening. Winter cold has been forgotten, and one enjoys pleasures of spring, with or without legal holidays.
Life is good (and that is not just a Korean conglomerate’s slogan).
The word of the day is Wein.
I’m not going to bother translating this. Anyone able to figure it out wins a prize…being permitted to consider yourself clever.
The derivation of this spelling looks like a mistake, if used in the wrong language. I assume that the mistake was made at some point in the past by some English speaking dude (women were not permitted to read and write in those days), because German is an older language and English speakers are notoriously lazy about language and, occasionally, stupid.
I like wine. Or rather, I like good wine. That does not mean expensive or having a famous name; it means that I enjoy the flavor. Being a hedonist, that is all that matters.
I have the good fortune of having friends, who own two wine estates in one of the world’s premiere wine-growing regions. Grapes have been growing there, since first introduced by the Romans to lull their troop into not mutinying. It is the ancient equivalent of the US Army taking Burger King and Pizza Hut to Iraq and Afghanistan (although I doubt the residual effect will be as beneficial as what the Romans achieved!)
The daughter of my friend is now running the business, with great success. She has just launched a new website for one of their estates. It is still only in German, but the photographs are well worth seeing. Just click on a word and watch the photos flow, and then go back to the home page and click on the next word. One gets a great impression of vineyards and wine-making on the Rhine. A lot has changed, since the Romans planted the first vines…
_ Often, I think about words. I will wonder about the origin of a word, as well as its meaning. I notice how some meanings change over time, even becoming different from the original use.
Thoughts about words become more interesting when a second dimension is thrown into the mix, ie. comparing words in different languages. This can be humorous or even dangerous, especially when people do not understand the meaning in another language.
Here are two examples, which came to mind today...
1. There is a French bakery chain in Frankfurt (it may or may not have other outlets, but this is not an advertisement), called Maison du Pain. When patronizing the shop, family members playfully refer to it as the House of Pain. For the dolts out there, pain is “bread” in French. So, this simple combination of four letters can mean something necessary for life in one language, whereas it means an experience all humans want to avoid in another.
2. Christmas is a time of exchanging gifts. Everyone wants to discover something nice under the tree. That would not be the case in Germany, if you were to receive a gift of Gift. Another simple combination of four letters is something desirable in one language, yet deadly in another. You see, in German Gift means “poison”.
Never leave the country without a dictionary. Besides providing hours of enlightenment and entertainment, it can be life-saving.
NB. What a deal! Today, you received a German Word of the Day and the first French Word of the Day. I am sure to continue with the former, but cannot promise further editions of the latter. Peut-être.
_ Kreppel is the word of jelly donut (often also known as Berliner).
This is a season delicacy, usually associated with Fasching (which always starts on 11.11 at 11:11). One can find mediocre ones throughout the year, but serious bakers make them during the winter months. A good Kreppel must have red jelly filling, although some people (for reasons that I will never understand) also eat ones with plum or pudding-like filling. I always buy two, because one is never enough. Although two can be a bit much, I manage. If you have never enjoyed a fresh Kreppel from a good German bakery, then you do not know jelly donuts.
NB. Canadians do not need to write in about Tim Horton’s; and residents of the United States can keep their Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts.
This is a special bonus post, featuring several words relating to the Women's World Cup Competition (that's in soccer/footfall for anyone out of tune...which seems to be many in the US).
The first word is verschossen. That means to shoot and miss, which is what more than one player did in the penalty kick shoot-out, needed to determine a winner. If you can't hit the goal, it is difficult to win, especially if the other team can. Penalty shoot-outs are usually decided by one goal: a two goal decision is more than decisive and embarrassing for any team.
The next word is verloren. That's what the US team--the one favored to win the Cup--did to the amazement of everyone, including the team that beat them (Japanese people are not known for visible displays of self-confidence. It's a good thing they won, so they will not have to apologize to the nation for having failed. It will be interesting to see if anyone notices and celebrates, given the position of women in Japanese society.)
The third word is versagen. That means to fail, which can be applied to more than just the American team. This is how the German team is labeled, because "all" Germans expected them to win on their home turf, despite not being favorites (for non-Germans). Perhaps, it can be applied to all teams that did not win, but it sticks best to the American and the German teams. Maybe a bit more to the Americans...
The final word in this bonus issue is Aussenseiter. That's the closest you can get to underdog in German. It means literally, "one that stands outside". I have not seen bookmaker odds, but I doubt that many bet on Japan to win. Somehow, they "got inside" and did a job on all the favorites.
I am happy that Japan won.
After the German team was unceremoniously dispatched by these young and unfavored unknowns, I considered rooting for Sweden. I have no rational explanation. Perhaps it was the large number of blonds (only kidding!). After they lost, I decided that I wanted Japan to win. First of all, I like underdogs. I like to see the favorite upset, especially when one is forced to listen to posturing in the media. Second, I thought a Japan win might reduce the embarrassment suffered by Germany (my wife still can't understand how they could have lost to a nation of short people) and a Japanese win could explain Germany's loss...to her. It didn't. She still can't understand how Japan could win the World Cup.
My friend, Antje, always says "Sport ist Mord", and this World Cup proved her right...again.
The word today is Vielfalt, which means variety or diversity.
This word came to mind as I was considering the list of magazine links offered by one of my favorite websites: Arts and Letters Daily (http://www.aldaily.com/). I read only three or four on a regular basis. It was followed by the same thought when considering the number of cartoons in the Washington Post (I follow only three). One does not have time to read all...or even click on them.
It is not new information that people in advanced countries are confronted with too much choice in all aspects of life. The Internet has made it easier to find more stuff, which makes the choice more difficult. Shopping, regardless of the category, requires self-discipline and the ability to make a decision. Neither are easy. I have a particularly difficult time in a bookstore...because I want too many. Only shopping for breakfast cereal is easy: I select only those without sugar-coating or sugar content (If you don't believe me, read the label), of which there are but a few.
Citizens of the Soviet Union had it easier in that respect. Choice was limited; people must have been happy to have whatever they could have. And, although poor, they were not confronted every day in shop windows or in advertising with a wide variety of products that they could not afford.
It's the time of month that all (well, some...maybe) have been waiting for...
Once again, I remembered promising to make this a regular monthly feature. For new readers, with enough time to waste on this tosh, I will repeat my earlier explanation of this post. Despite of my disdain for horoscopes, I do recognize the creative talent needed to write such nonsense. Several years ago, I received a copy of the definitive horoscope. I think this was written by some clever New York advertising copywriter or team of writers. It is definitely irreverent and ironical, but does contain a glimmer of truth (whatever that is). Each should be able to recognize one or the other personal trait or something irritating in someone you know. Horoscopes and alchemy are similar: each "science" tries to produce something of value from nothing. Alchemy has been debunked, but horoscopes continue to thrive. A clever use of words can manipulate the hopes and emotions of certain gullible people. (Where have we heard that before? It seems to be a common thread in thoughts about human beings.) Like robots, all humans are programmed to act in certain ways...which clever horoscope creators have picked up on.
This month is particularly meaningful: I was born in June. The following words will give you a glimpse into my character, about which regular readers have surely already formed an opinion...
You are a quick and intellectual thinker. People like you because you are bi-sexual. However, you are inclined to expect too much for too little. This means that you are cheap. Geminis are notorious for thriving on incest.
As a bonus feature, I'm including a special addition of "German Word of the Day". It is Zwillinge, which means "twins", but also "Gemini" in horoscopes. There is a saying that people born under this sign have zwei Seelen ("two souls"). This could be mistaken for having a split personality (or, as above, being bi-sexual). I interpret it to mean that Gemini are more interesting!
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.