A company that I teach at has recently moved offices. Unfortunately, their new conference room is a bit like a fishbowl, surrounded by around 50 other people who waste no time in gawking in at my highly entertaining lessons whenever they happen by. While I have no problems with having an audience, my Germans (believe it or not) are a little on the shy side.
As a result, they’ve decided to have their lessons in one of their offices. This would be fine but for the fact that desks, shelving units and files take up most of the space. Being the short-arse that I am, I also can’t see my students’ faces over their computer monitors. In short (ha ha), it’s not ideal but I persevere.
On Friday morning, the usual dance of manoeuvering chairs around the desks and wheeling extra chairs in from another office began.
Me: Jesus, it’s like musical chairs in here.
Bertha: What is “musical chairs”?
Me: Oh, you know that game that kids play. If there are six kids, there are five chairs. When the music stops, they have to stomp on each other to get a seat.
Bertha: Oh! Yes, Germans play that, too!
Me: What’s it called in German?
Betlinde: Stuhltanz (chair dance).
Bertha and Bertilda: NEIN! It’s “Reise nach Jerusalem”.
Me: What? Journey to Jerusalem?
Me: But why? What does Jerusalem have to do with anything?
Bertilda: I know not.
Me: Don’t know.
Bertha: Maybe they have not enough chairs in Jerusalem?
Me: Don’t have. Hmm, it seems unlikely. Jerusalem has been in the news quite a bit recently but I don’t think I’ve seen any mention of a shortage of chairs…
Curiosity sufficiently aroused, I did a Google search when I got home. It turns out that nobody really knows where the name “Journey to Jerusalem” originated but there are a few educated guesses. It could date back to the mass migration to Jerusalem during the Crusades when space on the ships was limited. It could also refer to a military manual from Byzantine times when (yawn) Emperor Maurikios devised a method to (yaaaawn) identify enemy spies…
Curiosity sufficiently dampened, I was about to close the window when things got interesting again. Seemingly, “Stuhltanz” is the East German term, and “Reise nach Jerusalem” is what the West Germans call it. They also call it “Journey to Jerusalem” in the Philippines, probably because the Philippines are so similar to Germany in every possible way…
I’m not sure how accurate the following translations are (I found them on a website called grandparents.com) but they tickled me so here you go – a short list of what “musical chairs” is called in other languages:
Japanese:”Isu tori game”(The game of stolen chairs)
Romanian: “Pǎsǎricǎ mutǎ-ţi cuibul” (Birdie, move your nest)
Swedish: “Hela havet stormar” (The whole sea is storming)
And my personal favourite:
Russian: “Скучно так сидеть” (It’s boring sitting like this)
If anyone has any more to add to the list, I’d love to hear them. My thirst for largely useless information really does know no bounds!