Category Archives: Humour

Danke, Duden

If you thought you were finally getting your head around the German language, I’m sorry to disappoint you – you now have 5,000 new words to remember.

Yes, the Germans, in their infinite wisdom, have added 5,000 words to the Duden, the official dictionary of the German language, first published in 1880 by Konrad Duden. Back then, there were only 27,000 lovely entries you had to remember. Fast forward to 2017, my intrepid language learners, and you will have to get your head around 145,000 of the tricky “little” blighters. Or I guess you could just go around shouting “DOCH!” at people all the time instead, something I’m considering doing.

DOCH!

For anyone still convinced that the Germans are all about simplifying processes for the sake of efficiency, the Duden is now in its 27th edition, comes in at a whopping 1,264 pages and is published in 12 volumes, which include Die Deutsche Rechtschreibung – The German Spelling Dictionary, Die Grammatik – Grammar, and Das Synonymwörterbuch – Synonym Dictionary. Yes, it’s simple alright – simple German-style.

It’s enough to make you want to throw your knickers in the toilet.

However, for native English speakers, the news isn’t all bad as a lot of the new words come from the English-speaking world. Consider, if you will, some new German verbs – facebooken, taggen, tindern and liken (to “like” or “heart” something on Facebook). What gives me some comfort, and amusement, is that Germans are just as likely to be confused by the changes as foreigners.

Jochem: So, what did you get up to last night? 

Jochen: Oh, you know, not much. I facebookt for a while. Wait, facebookt? Facegebookt? Gefacebookt? 

Jochem: DOCH! 

Duden.de reliably informs me that the correct form is “gefacebookt”, which sounds more like a horrible condition than a fun way to spend an evening. They also, helpfully, give a few examples of how to use this new horror-verb:

  • es wurde die ganze Nacht gefacebookt
  • sie facebookt und twittert über das Leben in Japan
  • facebookst du?

In a weird way, this actually makes life easier as you no longer have to worry about pesky prepositions. Am I bei Facebook? Auf Facebook? Who cares!? Now you can just say, “ich facebooke” – genius.

German spelling also just got easier with the disposal of, well, the German spelling of certain words. “Majonäse,” “Ketschup” and “Anschovis” are now simply mayonnaise, ketchup and anchovies.

Laptop, Selfie, Tablet, Emoji and Hashtag have all made the cut – a sad day for fans of the word “Klapprechner”. The official German word for Brexit is… Brexit. Post-truth is post-faktisch, cyber war is Cyberkrieg. It’s all starting to sound a bit Denglish, right?

Still, some German German words are also in. Here are a few of my favourites:

Kopfkino – (literally “head cinema”) meaning to daydream. 

Die Wutbürgerin – An angry female citizen. The male version, der Wutbürger, had already been added but I guess now women can officially be angry citizens too. 

rumeiern –  (literally “to egg about”) meaning to amble aimlessly around and not really get anything done

ick – how Berliners pronounce “ich” (I). I have, in the past, been lectured for saying “ick” but now it’s official; ick can ick away to my heart’s content. 

So, what do you think? Likst du the new additions or do they make you want to be a Wutbürger(in). Ick just can’t decide…

 

 

 

I speed-dated a European

With most of Germany being on holiday, my work schedule is pretty light at the moment. As a result, I’m spending much more time than I should scrolling through my Facebook feed. Still, every now and then, a little gem pops up that makes a bored blogger’s heart skip a beat. In this case, it was a post by Pulse of Europe called Speed-date a European.

Having read that it wasn’t a romantic thing, and assuming that there would be no touching involved – I’m still scarred from the Cuddle Party – I decided to ask my Irish friend, Gay, along for the ride.

Gay: What is it? 

Me: I have no idea.

Gay: It sounds a bit mad. In. 

Everybody needs a friend like this.

With the event kicking off at 2 p.m., we decided to meet at 1 for a confidence-boosting glass of wine. Well, come on, we are Irish…

Despite being billed as a “meetup with a twist, a fun way for Europeans from various countries to meet, ask questions, fight bias and smash boundaries”, we still didn’t really know what to expect. But, brave souls that we are, we sat down on the steps of the Konzerthaus, making our Popos comfortable on “I speed-dated a European” cushions.

Happy Popo

If the first surprise was how many people were there, the second was the average age. In my cynical way, I had anticipated the place being overrun with irritating hipsters in their 20s, but no, it was pretty much a sea of grey hair. I actually felt young.

(Photo by Piotr Spierewka)

In light of recent events – Brexit (BOOO!), Trump (BOOOOOOOOOOO!) and Marine le Pen (phew!) – it seemed like the perfect time to get people from different cultures together. The atmosphere was jolly, people waved various flags around and the organisers took to the stage. The opening, by a German girl and a French man, in German and English, was a little Eurovision-y for my taste but that’s why bringing a friend to these things is always a bonus. Eye-rolling and chuckling done with, we settled in for an intro to what Pulse of Europe is about and how the event would work.

Ms Eurovision: By now, you’ll all have red or blue sheets of paper.

Gay and I exchanged confused glances and looked around to see that everyone else had, in fact, got red or blue sheets of paper. He hastily got up and went to remedy the situation. Red sheets were for non-Berliners and blue were for Berliners. The idea was that you had to talk to someone with the opposite colour for five minutes, with three switches taking place during the hour. The words to Ode to Joy were printed on the sheets (in German) but I didn’t give that much thought at the time.

Mr and Ms Eurovision called out various “get the conversation going” questions for each round, but I’ve never needed much help in talking the ear off someone so they were largely ignored. My first victim was a German lady in her sixties and we chatted away happily for the first five minutes. The gong rang and we were supposed to move but, well, sitting… so we chatted away for the next five minutes, too. I could now add “speed-dating a sexagenarian” to my ever-growing list of odd things I’ve done in Berlin.

For the third round, a German man in his sixties sat on the other side of me – next victim ensnared. After a little political stuff from the stage, I spend round four in a sexagenarian threesome. The “prompt question” this time round was “what are your cliches about my country?” I’ve always thought that Ireland was pretty easy to stereotype so I was a bit surprised when my new man date came out with “sheep”.

Me: Sheep?

Thoralf: Yep, sheep.

Me: Anything else? 

Thoralf: Umm… 

Me: Wow. OK. 

Frauke: Wait, it’s green. 

Me: Yes.

Frauke: Oh, oh, RED HAIR! 

Thoralf: (looking at me a bit suspiciously) You don’t look very Irish. 

Me: Nope, I guess I was just born lucky. 

Thoralf: So, what are your cliches about the Germans?

Me: Socks and sandals, putting beach towels on sun loungers on their way home from the pub, beer, sausage, Lederhosen…

Thoralf and Frauke: THAT’S NOT US! THAT’S THE BAVARIANS!

Me: Yes, yes, I know. (I glanced down at my sheet of paper) Um, do we have to sing at the end of this? 

Thoralf: Oh yes, it’s wonderful. 

Me: It might not be so wonderful for you with me singing in your ear but OK. 

And so we did. With Bernd playing Beethoven on a banjo, hundreds of voices filled Gendarmenmarkt square as Beethoven probably spun in his grave. It was great.

Bernd plays the banjo

All that was left to do was for everyone to hold hands and dance around the square but with my “no touch” policy still firmly in place, this was my cue to leave.

No hand-holding, please. I’m Irish.

Taking our free cushions with us, Gay and I made good our escape. Still, I have to say, it was a lot of fun and a very well-organised afternoon. Pulse of Europe runs similar events in cities all over Europe on the first Sunday of every month so if you fancy some talking, singing and maybe even a little dance, I suggest you check them out.

Now, once more for Europe, all together please, with feeling:

Freude, schöner Götterfunken,

Tochter aus Elysium,

Wir betreten feuertrunken,

Himmlische, den Heiligtum…

 

 

 

 

Today was quite the day

I’m not normally one to complain (ahem) but today really took the piss. It actually started yesterday with monsoon-like rain all day, which instantly flooded the city causing major traffic delays, flooded U-Bahn stations, knee-deep water in some buses, building evacuations and, because it’s Berlin, people swimming down major streets and being pulled along in dinghies while drinking beer.

I’m not exaggerating

A storm in German is “Sturm” or “Gewitter” – a really bad storm is called “Unwetter” which, in English, would be unweather. Obviously this makes no sense at all as it’s actually ALL the weather in one go and not even remotely unweather. But hey, German…

This morning, expecting delays, I set off for my lesson a bit earlier than usual, grimly plodding through the drizzle. The bus showed up and dropped me off at the U-Bahn station. What should have been a simple ten-minute ride was made impossible by the fact that around six stations along the way were closed due to flooding. This was one of them.

So I travelled two stops, got off, got on the replacement bus and waited while another 100 people squeezed their soggy selves in. The problem with that is that the doors don’t close when people are in the way of the sensors so other passengers were yelling at people to get off at each stop; one man’s beer belly held us up for a good five minutes.

The BVG (Berlin Transport Company) representative had “reliably” informed me that the bus was going all the way to Zoo, one stop past where I had to go. But no, the driver stopped at another U-Bahn station along the way claiming that the U-Bahn was running again. She kicked us all off, down we went and no, stupid cow, the U-Bahn was not running.

By this time, I was already half an hour late so I had no choice but to cancel my lesson. I waded across the road and actually managed to squeeze into a replacement taxi. Yes, things were so bad that the BVG were transporting people using TAXIS. Then it was back on the U-Bahn, back on the bus and, finally, home. It had taken me almost 2.5 hours to achieve absolutely nothing and end up back where I started.

I wrote a scathing email to the BVG and consoled myself with the thought that I had a nice evening with my friend to look forward to – preferably with excess amounts of whiskey. Shortly afterwards, he messaged to say that he wasn’t feeling well and had to cancel. My opera singing neighbour started up and I contemplated justifiable homicide.

Still, I had to calm myself down as I had another lesson to go to this afternoon. I had carefully checked to make sure that the S-Bahn was running normally and set off. I got to the station right on time only to see the three words that every German dreads – Zug fällt aus. My train had “fallen out” and the next one wasn’t until 11 minutes later.

Argh!

A torrent of swear words, a bit like the torrents of rain, ensued. I sent my student a message telling her I’d be a few minutes late. She was actually happy enough as she’d ordered cake and would now have time to eat it. Nothing makes a German happier than coffee and cake.

After walking up the stairs (because of a broken escalator) and being accosted by a rude beggar, I eventually made it to the lesson. While I spoke flawless German, the barista insisted on answering in English – which resulted in him receiving a von Grady growl. It started raining halfway through the lesson and by the time I left, it was more unweather.

The town that I’d left just a couple of hours earlier was now a swimming pool. My boots weren’t quite up to the challenge and I squelched my way home, as engulfed in misery and self-pity as my feet were in water.

How it looked when I was swimming home
How it looked 30 minutes after I’d got home…

Grrr.

Manfredas: Hey, do you fancy dinner at the Surf Inn? 

Me: Yeah, sure. 

Manfredas: As long as it isn’t flooded. But I guess then we could “surf in”.

Me: Too soon…

A bum deal

I’ve been having a problem with very dry, itchy skin on my bum for a while now. When my self-thought-up treatment plan – scratching and hoping – didn’t seem to be yielding any results, I knew it was time to see a doctor.

While I’m a fan of men looking at my bottom in general, in this case, I thought a lady doctor would be infinitely better so I emailed a couple of Frauenärztin. Boom – I managed to get an appointment only a week and a half later. That’s practically five minutes in German time. I filled the nine days by scratching and sitting on one butt cheek – time well spent.

On the morning in question, I walked into the surgery where the jolly receptionist handed me a form to fill in. I took a seat in the waiting room beside a couple of terrified-looking dads-to-be and examined the form. Name, address, date of birth, how often and how long my period is – no problems there.

Height in metres: 

Um. No idea. I wasn’t sure that “the same height as Kylie Minogue” would be exact enough for a German doctor so I took a stab at it.

Weight in kilograms: 

Even less idea. 85? Sounds reasonable. Yeah, let’s put that down.

Why you’re here today: 

“Problem mit…” Was “Arsch” an appropriate word to use on a German form? Deciding it probably wasn’t, I hit up Google for some options – “Hintern” seemed to tick the boxes. In it went. I handed the form back to the receptionist and waited to be called. A diminutive woman in her late fifties or early sixties announced “Frau Ogg-rah-dee” and in I went.

She took one look at me and started chuckling. Could she see my Arschproblem just from the way I was walking?

Doc: Bah haha! I expected you to be a little bigger! Why did you write 85 kilos? You’d be like this… (imitates a fat person waddling around the room)

Me: ‘Cos I’m Irish and have no idea about the metric system?

Doc: Hee hee hee. What part of Ireland? 

Me: Dublin. 

Doc: My daughter went to university there – I love Ireland. 

Me: Great! 

Doc: So, I see you have a problem with your Popo. 

Me: Popo…! (keels over laughing) 

So, it seemed that Popo was the term favoured by German doctors. Fine by me.

She directed me towards an examination chair in the corner and I took off my jeans and knickers. Feeling a bit like a half-plucked chicken, I hopped up onto the chair, spread my legs and put my feet on the pads. The height of elegance. The doctor proceeded to poke around in my bumly quarters.

Doc: Oh, ganz schlimm, ganz schlimm… (Very bad, very bad…)

Me: Ganz schlimm? 

Doc: Oh ja. Ganz schlimm. 

Me: I wish you’d stop saying that. 

Doc: Aber es ist wirklich ganz schlimm. 

Me: Am I going to lose my Popo? 

Doc: Ha haha! NEIN! Aber es ist wirklich ganz schlimm. 

Me: Please stop saying that. 

Doc: Have you had any other medical problems lately?

Me: Well, I had very dry skin on my hands during the winter…

Doc: Could be related. (Does this woman think I sit around tickling my bum in my free time?) Do you eat a lot of oranges? 

Me: No. Oh, but I am having a love affair with blood orange juice.

Doc: Could also be related. 

Me: Huh, I thought that would be healthy? You know, Vitamin C and all? 

Doc: Yes. 

Me: Erm…

After examining whatever she had scraped from my Popo under a microscope and pronouncing it to be “ganz schlimm” and some sort of bacterial infection, she gave me a prescription for two creams – one to be used twice a day and the other whenever I felt like it.

Me: But is there a particular number of times a day I should use it? 

Doc: NEIN. Schmieren, schmieren, schmieren (smear, smear, smear), whenever and wherever you like. 

Me: So, maybe in the U-Bahn? 

Doc: Ha ha ha! Well, maybe not in the U-Bahn. 

Me: “Don’t mind me, fellow passengers. I’m just schmieren my Popo. Schmieren, schmieren, schmieren. Doctor’s orders.”

Doc: Ha haha! 

I was probably the most fun the woman had that day.

Anyway, you’ll be glad to hear that I’ve been schmieren away like a demon and my poor Popo is finally on the mend. And if I could give you a word of advice, remember that when it comes to your bum, schmieren is carin’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking shit. Literally.

On Monday, I got rained into a bar – my worst nightmare, as you can imagine. However, I really did mean to stay for just one but then the heavens opened. Google had (oh so reliably) informed me that there was a 0% chance of precipitation that day, so I’d set off in a summer dress and flip-flops, without any of the all-weather paraphernalia the Germans are famous for.

While a lot of people might look at this as a fail on my part, these people clearly do not know me very well. First of all, it was a chance to confuse a whole new set of Berlin pub regulars with my intoxicating Irish accent. Second of all, a trip to the bathroom provided unexpected gold. (“Really, Linda? Toilets again?” I hear you groan.)

Gold.

Now, I’m all for “WC” signs throughout the establishment directing me towards the floodgate unleasher, but never have I seen a “WC” sign directly above the loo. Maybe this was the kind of pub where people got so drunk there was a chance they might mistake the sink/floor for the toilet? Or maybe the local clientele just weren’t that bright to begin with? There were no signs over the bin or the sink but I guess it’s not so important if you miss those…

Anyway, I figured out from the clever signage that the WC was, in fact, the toilet. I’m a smart cookie…

As I approached, I noticed the little picture on the toilet lid. I rubbed my eyes. Nope, the glass of wine hadn’t gone to my head – it really was a poo in a speech bubble. But what could it mean? I started coming up with some ideas:

  • Feel free to talk shit here?
  • Let your poo do the talking?
  • If I were a turd, what would I say…?
  • Poo has the right to freedom of speech?
  • A poo is worth a thousand words?

The only talking poo I’d ever seen was on South Park so this was a bit of a mystery to me. I’m shit out of ideas so does anybody else have any? Is this some kind of German thing I’ve never heard of? Answers on a postcard (i.e. in the comments below).

 

Pee-Pal

One night, Manfredas and I were sitting in the local bar. (I must stop starting posts like this…) Anyway, after a while, Ulf showed up and the three of us started chatting.

Me: (Something absolutely hilarious and witty)

Manfredas: I need to pee.

Ulf: Oh, so do I. You go first.

Manfredas: No, you go first.

Ulf: No, you. 

Manfredas: No, you.

Me: For the love of all that’s holy – why don’t you just go together??

Manfredas & Ulf: NEIN!

Me: Why not? 

Ulf: Because we know each other. 

Me: But that’s just stupid. So, what, just because you know each other’s names, you can never go to the toilet together? 

Manfredas & Ulf: JA! 

Ulf: It might be OK for women to go to the bathroom together but not for men.

Me: I never go to the toilet with other women but whatever. So, if you don’t know the other guy’s name, it’s OK? 

Manfredas: Exactly. You know my brother-in-law, Lamprecht?

Me: Yes…

Manfredas: Well, we could never, EVER, go to the toilet together. 

Me: And your dad?

Manfredas: NIEMALS! 

Me: But I just don’t get it. I mean, you shower with your hockey or football team and everyone has their dangly bits on display.

Manfredas: Totally different. 

Me: Erm… Because there’s nothing coming out of the willies at the time? Is that the rule?

Manfredas: (looking like he wants the earth to open up and swallow him)

Me: So, every guy in this bar is just looking at who’s going into the toilet so that they don’t accidentally end up in there with someone whose name they know? 

Ulf: Pretty much. Crap, Werner has just gone in. We’ll both have to wait. 

Me: Germans…

 

 

 

 

Do you give up or are you Hungary for more?

Eight Hungarian men have moved into my apartment block. Thankfully, the only hot one moved into the apartment opposite mine. He has a propensity for walking around half-naked which I find pleasing. We have mildly flirtatious conversations that I can barely understand as he only speaks Hungariman. They don’t seem to go to bars but, instead, enjoy knacker-drinking on the roof of the parking garage which is just below my balcony. I feel like a bit like Juliet some nights, if Juliet had had eight Hungarian Romeos, that is.

On one such occasion, they offered me some Hungarian moonshine. (If you want to know what that tastes like, go and swig some petrol.) We all ended up at a party in one of their flats and I immediately impressed with my one word of Hungarian – “egészségedre!” Where I could have picked up the word for “cheers!” in Hungarian (and around 15 other languages) is a mystery…

Anyway, on Sunday, I decided that a major blitz of my flat was necessary. I had amassed enough paper over the last year and a half to start my own recycling plant. Five sacks of paper and general rubbish (separated, of course) sat in the hall and I proceeded to lug them down to the bins one by one. On my fourth trip, I bumped into the Hungarian who acts as an interpreter for the rest of them. He looks a bit like Chris Evans, unfortunately not the hot Hollywood one.

This one. But less smiley.
(image taken from imdb.com)

He also likes wearing socks and sandals.

He kindly unlocked the front door for me and I trudged back upstairs. I was hoping he’d have finished his cigarette by the time I went back down with bag number five but no, he was still there.

András: Wow, so much rubbish. 

Me: Ja, heute ist Putztag. 

Luckily, he hadn’t seen me schlepping down with the first three bags. He opened the door for me again and then paused on the steps.

András: Em, Linda, can I ask you something? 

Me: Sure, (whatever your name is).

András: I’m looking for someone to practise my German with and I was wondering if you’d be interested.

Me: I’m not sure I’m the right person for that job. I’m pretty sure your German is better than mine. (Educating someone on the art of the Sitzpinkel does not make you an expert on the German language; it merely means that you have a rather unhealthy fascination with the peeing habits of German men and like talking about it when you’ve been drinking Hungarian moonshine.)

András: (peering at me intensely through his black-rimmed glasses) I’d like to try though. I can cook dinner for us. Monday? 

Me: Erm, no, I can’t tomorrow. I have a pub quiz. 

András: Tuesday? 

Me: Erm, erm… Maybe. I have a late lesson though so… we’ll see. Maybe. Byeeeeeee!

On Tuesday, I arrived home, put on my slippers, spooned some beans into a saucepan and started up my laptop. I hadn’t even had time to enter the password when there was a ring at the bell. Scheiße.

Me: Oh. Hi.

András: Are you coming? 

Me: Well, I’m really tired and I’ve just got in the door. (He lives directly under me so he had obviously heard me coming home.) Would you mind if we left it for another night? 

His face fell. More.

András: But I’ve already cooked. 

Me: I’m…

András: It’s 20 minutes out of your life and I’ve already prepared everything. 

Me: (Sigh.) OK, then. 

I then flopped around the flat, sighing loudly, sulkily taking off my slippers again and angrily bunging my poor beans into the fridge. I gave the bottle of wine in there a last wistful glance and walked wearily downstairs.

When I stepped into the living room, I was comforted to see that András had his laptop on and was currently browsing a website full of terrifying-looking knives.

Me: Em, what’s that? 

András: Oh, it’s a hobby of mine. I make knives. 

Me: … Cool? 

He then opened a cupboard and proceeded to show me his collection. Just in case I wasn’t convinced by the glinting blades, he then shaved a chunk of hair off his arm to demonstrate how sharp they were. Tufts of ginger hair floated lazily to the floor.

Me: (Hmm, I wonder if I should throw myself through the window or try to make an attempt for the door…) Um, wow, impressive. Oh, is that a photo of your family?

Immediate crisis averted, we sat down to eat. To be fair, he had gone to quite a bit of effort. He’d even bought wine. I tucked into the goulash while making what I felt were appropriately appreciative noises. We chatted a bit about his family in Hungary, his work here and the joys of learning German. He pulled out the book he was using. It was quite possibly the most boring book I’d ever seen.

András: I’m using this book. 

Me: (Say something positive, say something positive) Bah hahaha! That’s probably the worst book I’ve ever seen! It’s just table after table of conjugated verbs! It’s so dry! 

András: (Peering at me over his goulash) You think your books are better than my books? 

Me: (Say no, say no) Yes, for sure. They have pictures and dialogues and useful everyday German. I can lend you a couple if you like? 

András: OK.

I polished off my goulash and got ready to make good my escape.

András: I’ll get the main course.

Crap.

He set down a plate of grilled chicken and a pot of vegetables. I refilled my glass.

Me: Mmm, this is really good, thanks. 

András: You know, I don’t want to be… wait, I don’t know the word. 

He started typing the Hungarian word into the translator app on his phone. The German word appeared letter by letter:

g-e-w-a-l-t-t-ä-t-i-g

Me: (Gulp) Violent? You don’t want to be violent? 

András: No.

Me: And are you? 

András: I don’t want to be. But when you said you didn’t want to come tonight after I’d prepared everything…

At that moment, I knew exactly how Julia Roberts had felt in “Sleeping with the Enemy”. Door it was.

Me: Well, that was delicious but I really must be going now. Thank you for dinner! 

András: Next Tuesday? 

Me: Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! 

I scarpered back upstairs and gave Manfredas the abridged version over Messenger.

Manfredas: Double lock your door.

Me: Done:

Manfredas: And your balcony door.

Me: Also done. I mean, he has a wife and kids, but then, so did Fred West.

The real tragedy of the story is that I never did get around to eating the beans.

Forlorn-looking beans