Help me find this funny story about the German language?
August 15, 2008 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me find a particular funny story about the German language?

Several years ago (maybe as many as ten) I stumbled across a web page that was lightly making fun of the way the German language makes very long compound words. My google-fu is failing me.

The story involved a German soldier, his lieutenant, a small velvet lined box (or cage?) and a small animal. (It doesn't make sense, but I think the animal was a kangaroo.)

The story started simply, in English, and would show the German translation of a sentence every so often. It would explain that the word for cage is "something", but a small velvet-lined cage is a "somereallyreallyreallylongword" Likewise, the soldier and his lieutenant would be similarly described, and then strung together into a really long sentence with just a few words in it.
posted by dalesd to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Iconomy must be off duty today, because she'd have found this seconds after you posted it.
For those who want to learn another language, that's easy to learn German !

the German language is relatively easy. This says the professors of German in the first First lesson.

Let's, for example, get a book in German... this in case, a magnificent volume, with hard layer, published in Dortmund and that tells us the uses and customs of the Australian indians Hotentotes (in German "Hottentotten"). The book says that the kangaroos (Beutelratten) are captured and placed in cages (Kotter), covers with a screen (Lattengitter) to protect them of

These cages, in German, are call "cages covered with screen" (Lattengitterkotter) and if when they possess in its interior a kangaroo (beutelratten), could be called Lattengitterkotterbeutelratten.

One day, a Hotentotes had arrested an assassin (Attenteter), defendant to have killed a mother (Mutter) hotentote (Hottentottermutter), mother of a deaf and dumb boy (Stottertrottel).

This woman, thus, in German, calls Hottentottenstottertrottelmutter and its assassin we call, easily, Hottentottenstottertrottelmutterattenteter.

They put him in a cage of kangaroo (Beutelrattenlattengitterkotter).

But, accidentally, the prisoner escaped. After a search, quickly comes a Hotentote Warrior crying out:

- We capture an assassin (Attenteter).

- Which one? - asks the aboriginal head

- The Lattengitterkotterbeutelrattenattenteter - comments the warrior

- What? The assassin who was in the cage of kangaroos covered of screen? - says head of the Hotentotes.

- Yes, - the Hottentottenstottertrottelmutteratenteter - answers the aboriginal - (murderous of the mother of the boy that he was deaf and dumb).

- Dam!! - the head says. - You could have said since the beginning that had captured Hottentottenstottertrottelmutterlattengitterkottertobeutelrattenattenteter
(murderous of the mother of deaf and dumb the boy that was in the cage of kangaroos covered of screen).

Thus, through this example, we can see that the German is easy and simplifies the things very. You just need a little interest to learn.

Auf wiedersehen.
Found via.
posted by cashman at 1:50 PM on August 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

Thus, through this example, we can see that the German is easy and simplifies the things very.

Shit holy.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:55 PM on August 15, 2008

cashman's "google-fu" (thank you dalesd =p) is strong.
posted by alcoth at 2:15 PM on August 15, 2008

I thought a Beutelratte was a possum, and a Kängaru is a kangaroo...
posted by kosmonaut at 3:34 PM on August 15, 2008

The classic is Mark Twain's The Awful German Language that was Appendix D in A Tramp Abroad.
posted by plastic_animals at 4:58 PM on August 15, 2008

It seems that way to me too, kosmonaut, my dictionary lists "Känguruh" for "Kangaroo" and "Opossum" for "Possum", but Kangaroos don't seem that rat like to me, Beutelratte is itself a compound "Bag-rat" so it makes sense for Possum.

Oh and Hotentotes aren't Australian natives, they're an African tribe... See Merriam Webster and Wikipedia (auf Deutsch).
posted by Jahaza at 5:17 PM on August 15, 2008

This doesn't answer the important questions of what makes the Hottentots so hot and who put the ape in apricot.

So anyway I second the Mark Twain piece - it's very good.

There was also an insanely good article in the collected Journal of Irreproducible Results, called "Sexual Behavior in Human Language" or something similar, which makes fun of romance language particularly German's inexplicable noun gender which makes walls female and unmarried women neuter, so a single man has no choice except to date a married woman or go to the wall.
posted by w0mbat at 6:01 PM on August 15, 2008

I recall a family friend (an internationally known endocrinologist, so he knows German) making fun of an old German textbook of gastroenterology. Apparently German medical jargon is bizarre, because they don't always adapt the Latin- and Greek-based terms used in English.

The next time I visit his house I'll try to copy a sample of the text.
posted by bad grammar at 6:52 PM on August 15, 2008

I first heard the piece of string joke in German. The situation was funny, but I assure you that the joke was knot.
posted by workerant at 6:55 PM on August 15, 2008

The German in the story isn't necessarily correct. Beuteratte is an opposum. Deaf-mutes are called "Taubstumm" -- "Stottertrottel" translates roughly to "stutter-idiot", and if you google it the only hits are for this story. I've never heard cages called "Kotter", to me they're "Käfige". A screen is really "Gitter", not "Lattengitter" -- I think "Lattengitter" would be a meshwork of wooden slats.
posted by creasy boy at 12:58 AM on August 16, 2008

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