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AWADmail Issue 453A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language
This week's Email of the Week is from Rudy Rosenberg Sr (see below), who will look 10% smarter in the Uppityshirt of his choice, and there's a heck of a coolection.
From: M Henri Day (mhenriday gmail.com)
Under the course of my doctoral studies I had occasion to be reminded several times by my professor that the one indispensable quality required of a researcher was not brilliance nor even intelligence, but Sitzfleisch.
M Henri Day, Stockholm, Sweden
From: Gene Racicot (gene.racicot shaw.ca)
As students at university we had a quip "The mind will not absorb what the seat will not endure."
Gene Racicot, Victoria, Canada
From: Venkataraman Balakrishnan (venkataraman.balakrishnan gmail.com)
Venkataraman Balakrishnan, Chennai, India
From: Susan Coe (cinco_00 yahoo.com)
Such an appropriate word to come up on my first day of jury duty!
Susan Coe, Bryson City, North Carolina
From: Eva-Maria von Hauff (woozel fachverwalter.de)
A sitzfleischorden is a promotion or decoration someone receives not because of personal merit but due to seniority.
Eva-Maria von Hauff, Waldsee, Germany
From: Frances Wade (franwade gcom.net.au)
Re sitzfleisch: My mother and her mother before her had an expression that applied to any old crony of her husband who dropped in of an evening for a chat with him and looked as if he'd settled in for a good few hours: He's got his sticking-breeches on.
Frances Wade, Maldon, Victoria, Australia
From: Claudine Voelcker (claudine.voelcker googlemail.com)
Sitzfleisch is, like so many German words, a wonderfully concrete word: the flesh you sit on. Chancellor Merkel is described by many Germans as a person with a lot of it. Someone who will sit out anything without actually doing anything about the task at hand -- just sitting through her term.
Claudine Voelcker, Munich, Germany
From: Edith Slembek (ruebezahl bluewin.ch)
A very common understanding in Germany is: you have guests and politeness wants that the guest has to decide when he wants to leave. Sometimes there are guests who stay and stay, you want to go to bed but guest sits and sits, we say 'He has sitzfleisch.'
Edith Slembek, Switzerland
From: Faith Puleston (faith1110 gmx.net)
What the German language sports in joined-up words, it lacks in verbal variety. There is no continuous tense at all, but the Germans are working on that. They do have gerunds (verb infinitives with a capital letter) and have taken to putting "am" in front to make grammatical coinages such as "am Arbeiten" (am working). But in English the "am" is a verb and in German it's a preposition. This last-ditch attempt at modernizing German is considered uncouth (and incorrect), but everyone uses it.
Faith Puleston, Herdecke, Germany
From: BranShea (via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Germans are clever with word glue. Besides Sitzfleisch they also have the word Fleischersatz, meaning the whole magical world of tempeh, tofu, breadcrumbs, mashed beans, and Analogkäse.
Cécile Hessels, The Hague, Netherlands
From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr (RRosenbergSr accuratechemical.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ersatz
Def: Serving as a substitute, especially of inferior quality; artificial.
During WWII in occupied Europe everything became ersatz. There were ersatz ladies' stockings, ersatz butter, but mostly ersatz coffee (basically malt).
When my mother Frieda and I went into hiding (for 27 months), we took along a small test tube filled with about a dozen real coffee beans and settled to drinking ersatz coffee until the liberation in 1944. Mother had saved the dozen coffee beans to offer a real cup of coffee to our eventual liberators.
When I talk to groups about our diet of herring, turnips, black bread, and ersatz coffee, I am always greeted with puzzled looks from the audience. It had never occurred to me that this was a word not known in the USA.
Thank you for resuscitating Ersatz. Incidentally, we were liberated by the British and they drank tea!
Rudy Rosenberg Sr., Westbury, New York
From: Bob Carleton (carletonrb msn.com)
In Turkey this past autumn, a guide told us there was a ranking... Genuine Fake, Fake, and 'take your chances'. All, of course, referred to ersatz goods.
Bob Carleton, Albuquerque, New Mexico
From: Paul Hambruch (hambruch telus.net)
Paul Hambruch, Golden, Canada
From: Richard Platt (richard.platt.sm.55 aya.yale.edu)
The ersatz they served in Berlin,
Richard Platt, Milford, Connecticut
From: Robert Payne (dziga68 sbcglobal.net)
I remember my first exposure to the word ersatz. As I have learned since that time, a common American expression is "ersatz brothers", meaning close friends who behave like brothers -- or a not-so-close pair of guys who are treated like brothers -- but who aren't really brothers. So, at the time, the joke was lost on me when the album "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers" by the comedy team the Firesign Theatre included a mock advertisement for Ersatz Brothers Coffee, the joke being that the brothers' surname was actually Ersatz.
Robert Payne, Los Angeles, California
From: Oliver Grimm (ogeg2000de gmx.de)
As a German, I can assure you that the term Lebensraum these days also refers to the Lebensraum for certain animal species, to your apartment which offers exceptionally bright and lofty Lebensraum, and also for cities which may offer a relaxing Lebensraum. Many Germans will not be able to tell you the etymological heritage of the term and the connotation of the word has completely changed as described above. It would have been nice to also see the modern day uses of the term and not only the standard Hitler era reference.
Oliver Grimm, Barcelona, Spain
Thanks for sharing the current meaning of the term in German. A.Word.A.Day discusses words as they are used in English though. Also, some readers questioned the pronunciations this week. Again, we include a word's pronunciation in English, which may sometimes be different from how it is pronounced in its native language.
From: Jens Kaiser (voodoodoll t-online.de)
In Germany, a Diktat also describes a test of students' grammar skills, usually conducted in elementary school. The teacher will read out a text and the students will have to write it down as accurately as possible. Since even missing a colon counts as a mistake and missing only a few of those would earn you the equivalent of an F, many of my classmates always dreaded the day of the Diktat, which would occur at least once a semester. One could say that a Diktat truly was "an order or decree imposed without popular consent"!
Jens Kaiser, Rudolstadt, Germany
From: Silvia Resch (silviaresch hotmail.com)
When I grew up in Austria, the word Diktat meant something completely different. As an 11-year-old girl I dreaded every Monday morning because it meant that during our first class at school we would have a Diktat, meaning a dictated test of the spelling rules we had been going through the week before with our German professor. It normally consisted of about 20 sentences FULL of spelling traps but the worst thing was that at the end of the school day our professor would come into our classroom, although he had no business in doing so, handing out the corrected Diktate! He was really dedicated and a teacher I will never forget ... just as I will never forget all the spelling rules, and there are plenty of those in the German language!
Silvia Resch, Washington DC
From: Peter C. Rotter (petercrotter gmail.com)
This link (YouTube) was in an email I received today, the very email immediately before I opened today's A.Word.A.Day. I think it will help me remember schwarmerei.
From: Anke Kapels (akapels gmx.net)
As with many German words, it is quite impossible to translate the meaning of Schwärmerei. It means a sort of romantic and innocent love for somebody or something, it's affectionate rather than passionate.
Anke Kapels, Hamburg, Germany
From: Betty Waddoups (betty.waddoups christushealth.org)
I don't speak German but I have a German friend who delights me with his examples of how "German has a word for everything." This one hasn't made it to the English language yet, but it should: Drachenfutter; literally "dragon fodder". The word is used to refer to a gift of candy or flowers to placate an angry wife (presumably after the gift-bearer has done something deserving of her anger).
Betty Waddoups, Shreveport, Louisiana
From: Richard Stallman (rms gnu.org)
After reading the link in last week's AWADmail it seems to me that the article presumes it is a given that we will all switch to e-books. In other words, it is marketing.
We should not do what they have in mind for us. E-books today deny the reader some of the legal rights and options that readers traditionally have:
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:The great men in literature have usually tried to bring the written word into harmony with the spoken, instead of encouraging an exclusive language to write in. -John Erskine, novelist, poet, and essayist (1879-1951)