How the German language differed between East and West

October 15th, 2020 by One surefire way to tell whether somebody is an east or west German is to ask them what noise a duck makes. West Germans will typically say quak, quak, while east Germans will say nak nak nak. As far as the latter are concerned, it’s frogs that go quak, not ducks. The sound nak nak actually comes from a well-known children’s TV character in GDR, Schnatterinchen the duck. These two variants are still being passed down by parents to their children today. A new book published by Duden about language in the GDR - fitting given the upcoming 30th anniversary of German reunification on October 3rd - is more concerned with other aspects of everyday speech. In her book Mit der Schwalbe zur Datsche - so sprach der Osten (roughly translated as ‘From the moped to the summer cottage - this is how East Germans spoke’), author Antje Baumann explains 50 terms used in the German Democratic Republic. The list ranges from Antifaschistischer Schutzwall (anti-facist protective wall), the East German term to refer to the Berlin Wall, to the widely spread phenomenon of the Westpaket (a care package sent by West Germans to the East). Read more: The Local Germany

The German Language of Fighting

November 21st, 2016 by When one thinks of swordsmanship, one typically thinks of the Japanese warrior, welding a katana, or perhaps a Celtic warrior swinging a broadsword. And empty-hand fighting is attributed to the British boxers or the French wrestlers. But in the Middle Ages, Germany surpassed itself as the European epicenter of knowledge in the martial arts. More than any other nation, Germanic martial artists wrote prodigiously on the subject of fighting arts, producing fencing manuals and other seminal texts that defined the German style of Defence. As Europe slowly emerged from the dark, oppressive cocoon of the Medieval period, a renewed interest in science and reason sparked a revival, be it a very small one initially, in learning. This metamorphosis would eventually lead to the first codified fighting system in Europe. Although Germany military would remain in disorder until the mid-1700s and the rule of Frederick the Great, the German Masters of Defence cultivated a system of learning, and of language, that all Europeans could celebrate as the new scholarship of fighting. In ancient times, Germanic tribes passed down fighting styles by having their most experienced warrior teach the youth. Tribal communities lived in sects and the familial aspect of that culture made learning martial arts a social function, learned within the confines of the group. Training was based on the tribe’s young men, and sometimes women, learning under the tutelage of the best warrior. Martial arts were taught in-person, and there are no written accounts as to how that training progressed, although there is some documentation as to the efficacy of Germanic warfare from the ancient Romans. Read more: VICE

Foreign books Germans are reading

August 19th, 2015 by In Germany, reading is considered a national sport. Jump on Berlin's subway, the U-Bahn and you are more likely to see a head buried in a rip-roaring novel rather than a smart phone. But in a country where its high brow literary stars stand shoulder to shoulder with its sport stars as national heroes, it's also a tough and discerning audience - especially in regards to foreign works translated into the notoriously finicky German tongue. So what contemporary foreign titles are making their way to German bedside tables? Freshly translated into German, "The Harder they Come" by celebrated US author T. C. Boyle (pictured above) is a certified current fave. It's all about a rebellious soul who has no tolerance for mainstream America - an "outsider" theme beloved by German audiences ("Steppenwolf" anyone?). In the book, the young Adam has retreated into the woods, physically rebelling against bourgeois conformists. Although Boyle's latest work is perhaps not as strikingly worded as his "Water Music" and "World's End" of 30 years before, it is indeed commendable. Stefano D'Arrigo's masterwork "Horcynus Orca," published in 1975, has often been hailed a literary treasure. And finally equal praise is now being showered upon its translation into German. The cumbersome novel had long been considered absolutely untranslatable. But where there is a means...there is a willing German translator. Read more: Deutsche Welle