Sizzling efficiency

Germans are renowned for their efficiency. We don’t ‘fart-arse around’, as my English husband would say. We get things done. The same is true for our language. Often, my husband asks something like, ‘What’s this word in English?’ (‘this word’ being anything from ‘Ausfahrt’ to ‘Zollstock’). Having got past the first obstacle (the initial reply any translator will offer, i.e. ‘It depends on the context’), he is frequently surprised to find that there is not a clear-cut, one-word English equivalent. Let’s look at another example… Read more

What a load of buzz

The other day I witnessed an incident or, shall we say, an ‘act of communication’ that made me think of a certain type of office game. I was sitting in a café in Cologne when a group of businesspeople walked in. As they had turned up late, the table they had booked had been given away. This prompted one of the ‘suits’ to ask whether it was still possible to find room for six. Only, he didn’t say ‘possible’. Read more

Berrying 101

Yes, Sir, I can berry. Well, at least if I’m a speaker of US American English. Intriguingly, the Americans can transform anything into a verb (this process is called ‘verbing’). So Yanks can breakfast, they can shower and they can berry (aka ‘pick berries’). Even though they can’t berry, the Brits, just like the Americans, love blueberry muffins. (By the way, can you ‘blueberry-muffin’? ‘What did you do during the coffee break?’ – ‘I blueberry-muffined. Yummie!’) Let’s find out what the deal is with Germans and blueberries… Read more

Who is Hermann?

We all know who Horst is by now. But who or what is Hermann? This similarly typical – I’m tempted to say ‘clichéd’ – German name holds many secrets. The most grassroots one of them shall be revealed today exclusively to you, dear faithful readers of the Pommes Buddha blog. Read more

Fucking hell

I’m terribly sorry if this title offends you, but, in my defence, it is not what you think it is. This week’s story, which is related to a subject discussed here in all seriousness before, starts in a village in Austria situated 33 kilometres north of Salzburg. Just like a considerable number of other places in Bavaria and Austria, its name ends in –ing. Can you guess what the first part is? Read more

The blandest thing on the menu

Asked to name a very traditional British dish, many Brits will say something like ‘Lamb Jalfrezi’. So entrenched is the culture of the former British colony in the United Kingdom that it has become part of its identity. Many Indian people run restaurants in Great Britain, and as there is competition all over the place, the quality of the food is mostly excellent. But where can you go for palatable Indian cuisine in Cologne? Read more

German disease

My husband and his colleagues often discuss how strange the German language is to them. They find it amusingly logical that gloves are called ‘hand shoes’, love the fact that the end of a working day is called ‘celebration night’ and wonder why women’s football teams are called Mannschaft (literally: ‘manship’ – the related matter of sexism in the German language will have to be discussed in a separate entry). Another one of those peculiar words is Krankenhaus. Read more

‘Ein’ oder nicht ‘ein’

Some things are really, really small, but they can make a huge difference. From a linguistic perspective, articles are such things. The rules for their application in various languages are often tricky, which is why many non-native speakers can be found out by their incorrect use of them. Knowing that our grammar is particularly relentless, we Germans will happily overlook any such slip, in particular as it normally won’t impair understanding. However, there are some exceptions… Read more

Out of humour

As the end of the carnival season is drawing near, Cologne is preparing for six days of celebration. Visitors from all over the world will flock in and be merry. Many foreigners think that Germans love carnival for the sole reason that it gives them permission to shed their otherwise serious face and let their hair down just for a few days a year. But is that really so? Read more

Tales of the Rhine

The other day on the bus I went past a stop called ‘Rheinsteinstraße’. That reminded me of the English word ‘rhinestone’, which is used primarily as a name for little fake gems that decorate clothing items (‘Strasssteine’), as in the (cheesy) song Rhinestone Cowboy by Glen Campbell. So what’s the connection with the big long river on which Cologne is situated? Read more