Saturday, May 17, 2008


Our son, newly back from New Zealand, kindly offered to go to the supermarket for me.

He did four years of German at school (up to 2000); I did three (up to 1967). As a family, we occasionally converse in what we know is bad German, French, Latin, Spanish or whatever. In German especially, we tend to elide the endings and other hard bits.

Needing money to do the shopping, he said to me, “Habst du Monat?”

Monat?” I translated mockingly. “Have I month?”

“Ach,” he said. “Geld, then, habst du Geld?”

“Ja,” I said. “In mein Handtusch.”

“Ah, gut,” he said, picking up my handbag (or purse, in American English). Even though, as I realised after a moment, I’d just told him that I had money in my handtowel. I think what I meant to say was "Handtasche".

You might have to know a little German to understand the above, though I think a genuine German person would have some difficulty. Still, my boy and I knew what we meant.


  1. Did he arrive back from this fair land with anything interesting for you?

  2. Who needs words ... of any sort?

    Sometimes, in this domain, grunts, nods, winks, smiles and growls pass for communication ... a little neanderthal, I know. But no dictionary needed.

  3. Must be nice to have him back!

  4. Heh, I enjoyed that. I did 6 years of German and stopped when my German teacher told me that sometimes the verb DOESN'T go at the end. That was enough. I did teach my husband one german sentence though: Ich bin ein Plattenspieler. He hasn't worked it into a conversation yet though.

  5. LOL - I thought he may have come out with a bit of Kiwi slang for you!

  6. Isabelle, you constantly make me laugh. I just read your comment on my blog, and laughed. Now here I am laughing again :)
    Have you ever thought of trying out for a stand up comedian job? I think you'd be good at it, but the hours might be a bit challenging :)
    Purses are commonly referred to as pocketbooks over here. Now isn't that a stupid name?
    When our Kylie spent a year in Bolivia as a Rotary Exchange student I studied a little Spanish (using library books) and she would send me a spanish sentence to translate at the end of each letter. Words I could learn..sentences however, not so well :) I studied French at school and only remember a very little bit! Languages are fun, aren't they?
    I'm glad your son is home safe and sound.
    Haben Sie einen guten Tag!

  7. I hope your son enjoyed his stay in New Zealand.
    You would have been very happy to have him home again!

  8. That is Funny.

    My friend and I used to pretend we were German, and shriek "Ich bin ein schuligen bitte" at each other. Went down a treat in Austria, folks thought we were total idiots.

    Possibly not as bad as spending the first two months in Greece telling all concerned that "I am a Tiny Greek" as opposed to "i speak a little greek".

    Especially since tiny I am not.

    Nice to see the lad home, did he like NZ?

  9. Nah, you don't have to know the language if you're a reader and you've got some english context clues (thanks by the way. Would've been lost without them!) to go by. I wish I had someone like that to practice with around here, maybe then my three years of French lessons wouldn't have gone down the drain, LOL!

  10. Well, not knowing any German, I still managed to comprehend the gist of all that. lol

    Just saw your previous post and can commiserate with you re students wanting extra help at this time of year! Doesn't it just make you want to wring their little necks?!!! lol

  11. Wir sprechen auch auf Deutsche manchmal---badly enough that it would make real Germans weep, but we blather blythely on undaunted......Glad your son is home safely from his great down-under adventure!

  12. Ich sprechen Germlish. A Mixture of both! Or Deulish.

    Did your son enjoy NZ?? What does he have to say about his time there? I know....let him do a guest post!

  13. Yay, your son is back! Did he love it in NZ? My very tricky son spent a considerable amount of time talking to his grandmother at his brother's reception -- after which, said grandmother turned to me, her daughter and said, this boy MUST go to NZ before he returns home. So now, we'll be in the garden looking for that money tree so he can spend a few days in NZ before he returns for AU. It does make sense though, since he's geographically close!

  14. Just popped by to thank you for visiting my blog (tho' cannot think how you found me!) As to the dog, Sabre - he was "second hand" (rescued) and came with the name, but should really be called Mr. Softy to be in character!
    Your comments on German remind me of the passage in Jerome K Jerome's "Three Men on a Bummel", (Chapter 7) where George asks a shop assistant for a "kuss", rather than a "kissen" when he wanted to buy a cushion.
    As students we loved German "portmanteau" words - making them up to suit. Like: "Schutzengraben vernichtungsgeschwindigkeitsumschaltungshebel" - which, we presumed, could mean "the gear lever of an anti-trench tank"!

  15. You crack me up (as did Fifi's comment - off to look up schuligen).

    I once worked at a ski lodge (in Australia) owned by an elderly Austrian and his even more elderly mother. We had to talk to his dog Max, in German, as it was all he understood. Hey, and the dog was an Alsatian/German Shepherd now that I think of it. Anyway, he only understood us when we spoke German. I spoke the same sort of German you and your son do, only not as eloquently. (I can say, sit, stay, piss off stupid, and no I have no bone up my sleeve quite well though).

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