Gendering German

Teamgeist

It’s not easy to be English these days. First the Brexit shock, then being kicked out of EURO 2016 by a country that previously didn’t even exist on the European football map. Now you poor lads and lasses really have to take a lot of grief from your German and Icelandic friends. But cheer up! After the match is before the match, as Sepp Herberger once remarked. So let’s keep playing and look at a particular linguistic oddity in football.

German has many words that foreigners find hard to understand. Frauenmannschaft is one of my English husband’s favourites. It refers to an all-female sports team, which seems odd, as the German word for ‘team’ (Mannschaft) is based on the word ‘man.’ How can women be men at the same time? If you’ve ever seen the Cologne Christopher Street Day Parade you wouldn’t even ask this question. If not, here’s what I think.

Unbeknownst to the average German, the German language is secretly the most sociologically advanced language. See, we don’t even consider men and women any different from one another, so women can be men any time they please.

But wait a minute, I can sense a tad of injustice manifesting itself here … What about men who want to be women? Unfortunately, our poor male national football squad don’t have the option of being a Frauschaft. But I’m sure if they took a unanimous vote the German language would be open for suggestions.

Seriously, now. The crux of German is that gendering is so bloody awkward – if not outright impossible. As a result, time and again some important officials come up with ridiculous official names for groups of people, such as Studierende instead of Studenten because the latter excludes Studentinnen.

The thing is, if you want to write correct German, you cannot be politically correct and reader-friendly at the same time. Plus there is no agreed form of gendered language. You are spoilt for choice between the rather old-fashioned slash (“Sehr geehrte/r Herr/Frau X”), the brackets (“Liebe(r) Freund(e)”), the Binnen-I (“Wir wünschen allen KundInnen ein frohes Fest!”), the asterisk (“Partner*innen”) and, of course, using the long forms of everything (“Wir bitten jede Abonnentin und jeden Abonnenten, sich mit ihrem bzw. seinem vollen Namen anzumelden.”).

So, don’t try too hard. It’s impossible to get it right. Just enjoy Schland for what it is.

And next time, we’ll take trip to a faraway land …

The Pommes Buddha says: Manu, put on your hand shoes and save us into the final!

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How to become a German

Weier, deutscher Spargel mit glatter Petersilie auf Holztisch

It’s happened! My valuable source of English quirkiness is henceforth lost. I regret to inform you, dear readers, that Mr K, formerly known as ‘My English Husband’, has now reached the ultimate stage of naturalisation. On Wednesday, 6 April 2016, at 11:49 hrs, he bought a Jack Wolfskin all-weather jacket. Meanwhile he has received a ‘welcome-to-the-club’ letter from Angie.

So, I said, ‘So now that you’re a proper German, do some German things! He came up with quite a few. Here’s a to-do list for those among you who are still practicing.

  1. Use ‘Na?’ as a universal greeting.
    Never underestimate the power of this Tardis of a word. It may only have two letters, but depending on the length and intonation of the vowel – which, believe you me, can be stretched to the duration of a cricket match – as well as the facial expression going with it, it can mean anything between Whaddup? and Wipe that cheeky smirk right off your face, you bum! You still owe me an apology for standing me up last Tuesday! Again, German is easier than you think. Some more examples of what ‘na’ may stand for:
English German
Good morning. Na?
How are you? Na?
Fancy seeing you here. Na?
Good to see you. How did your date go last night? Na?
Does that Matjesbrötchen still repeat on you? Na?
How’s work going? Na?

 

  1. Find something to moan about.
    Anything. There’s always something. The weather: it’s always too hot or too cold. Das gibt’s doch nicht!
  2. Give a stranger a hard time out of the blue.
    Preferably, yell at a child riding his bike on the pavement, ‘Das hier ist ein Bürgersteig und kein Radweg!’
  3. Confirm any piece of information saying ‘Genau!’
    The Germans’ favourite word ever.
  4. Do The Pout.

For more advice, turn to How To Be German In 20 Easy Steps.

Then again, my German husband still drinks his tea with milk and comments on our little one’s bowel movements with ‘My word, what a ripper!’ And, to be fair, he only bought the Jack Wolfskin fashion item at the recommendation of Which? magazine. Perhaps he may still be blog material after all …

See you next week, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

The Pommes Buddha says: Ich habe keine Zeit.

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