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A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Germanobeastnaming


German, the Legoblock language, can construct new words from old. For example:
Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän
is a fine example, should you ever need a single word to designate the captain of a Danube steamship for a travel company. He (or she, we hasten to add) would be a Danubicsteamshiptravelcompanycaptain. Think how this would reduce the word count in your latest manuscript!

Of particular interest are the names of beasts:

There is the appropriatelynamed skunk (Stinktier – stink-beast) and sloth (Faultier – lazy-beast) and the humourslynamed platypus (Schnabeltier – beak-beast).But what are we to make of the racoon (Waschbär – wash-bear) and the slug (Nacktschnecke – naked-snail). At least these keep genus or order straight. However, the porpoise is Schweinswal (pig-whale) and it is hard to see how pigs come into it, Linnaeus-wise.

Most puzzling of all is the squirrel: Eichhörnchen, which breaks down either as:
Eiche (oak tree) + Horn (horn) + -chen (little) or "little oak horn"
or more mysteriously as:
Eiche (oak tree) + Hörnchen (croissant) or "oak croissant"
Croissant? The Austrians, though Darwinianly challened, at least seem reaonable in calling the squirrel:
Eichkätzchen or Eichkatzerl, meaning "oak kitten"


2 comments:

  1. Back when I was in graduate school, one of my friends was a biology major. He reported reading a translation of a German article about experiments on "small porpoises." He said that puzzled him, as the animals would be hard to handle and not particularly suited for the experiments described. He said he finally realized the translator had mistranslated "guinea pigs," which of course are common animals in biology labs.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Raccoons like to run their food under some water before they eat it.

    ReplyDelete

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