Monday, January 10, 2011

Lost in Translation

Before I spoke or understood German, I used to attribute Fritz's eccentricities to his non-native English.  For example, he called the storage bag for his sleeping bag a condom. And sometimes, he'd even use "condom" when he was talking about a lid! My goodness, how silly!

I use to smile my Mona Lisa smile and file the information in the folder marked Germanisms.  It went right between cherries-have-stones and how-does-it-look-like?  (For any English as a Second Language readers, the correct expressions are cherries-have-pits and what-does-it-look-like?)

The other day, however, I overheard one of the many conversations in German that has caused me to reconsider whether Fritz is truly language handicapped or just plain eccentric.

The conversation was in German.  Fritz was telling Noah that he was going to put Mattias in his Käfig (cage).

"What's a Käfig, Papa?"

Imagine the sounds of Fritz putting Mattias in the crib.

Hmmm... Maybe a native German speaker out there will correct me, but I'm pretty sure this IS NOT the typical use of the word Käfig.  Not even zoo animals in children's books in Germany live in Käfige these days.

And if Noah asks me, I'm not translating Käfig for him.  Thank goodness most bureaucrats don't speak German.  The Department of Youth Services would be starting a file on us.

1 comment:

Diana said...

poor girl - if I had known you before you got married, I could have warned you. what do you expect from someone who answers the phone with something like: Fleischfabrik Lindemann?
but the good thing is: he might run out of new expressions. I can tell you, because all you mentioned above sounded very familiar to me...