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…

Here’s what a German may ask you these days, ‘Hast du schon angegrillt?’ ‘Angrillen’. What a cool word! Nine letters. And what does it mean? It means ‘to have the first barbecue of the year’. ‘Grillen’ means ‘to barbecue’, and ‘an‑’ is a prefix stating (in this particular context) that something is just beginning. Accordingly, ‘abgrillen’ refers to the last barbecue of the year. So by changing one letter, you can change the meaning from ‘first’ to ‘last’. Now, that’s what we call efficient.

Some Germans take efficiency to a completely different level, though. I once saw a documentary on a bunch of guys who had a BBQ every single day of the year, eating outdoors even in the snow. ‘Wir grillen am 1. Januar an und am 31. Dezember ab’, they said. That’s one whopper of a Grillsaison!

In Cologne, like in many German cities, people like to meet friends in parks and have a barbie (Australian abbreviation). Unlike in Australia and the USA, there are not many designated BBQ areas (US-American abbreviation, always pronounced as the full word [ˈbɑrbɪˌkjuː]), let alone permanent BBQs for anyone’s use. So we bring along our own little barbecues and coal. This type of public food-preparation is not officially allowed, but most municipalities will tolerate it. In some very big parks or hiking areas, you may even stumble upon a Grillhütte, a wooden hut with a permanent barbecue inside. Those normally need to be officially rented from the local council, though. In the UK, most barbecuing is done in private gardens, as it’s not allowed in parks.

Next week, we’ll come back to the epitome of Englishness.

The Pommes Buddha says: Every Ken likes a barbie.

Listen to this text as a podcast episode:

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