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    Appendix D

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    Chapter 54
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    The Awful German Language

    A little learning makes the whole world kin.
    --Proverbs xxxii, 7.

    I went often to look at the collection of curiosities in Heidelberg
    Castle, and one day I surprised the keeper of it with my German. I spoke
    entirely in that language. He was greatly interested; and after I had
    talked a while he said my German was very rare, possibly a "unique"; and
    wanted to add it to his museum.

    If he had known what it had cost me to acquire my art, he would also
    have known that it would break any collector to buy it. Harris and I had
    been hard at work on our German during several weeks at that time, and
    although we had made good progress, it had been accomplished under great
    difficulty and annoyance, for three of our teachers had died in the mean
    time. A person who has not studied German can form no idea of what a
    perplexing language it is.

    Surely there is not another language that is so slipshod and systemless,
    and so slippery and elusive to the grasp. One is washed about in it,
    hither and thither, in the most helpless way; and when at last he thinks
    he has captured a rule which offers firm ground to take a rest on amid
    the general rage and turmoil of the ten parts of speech, he turns over
    the page and reads, "Let the pupil make careful note of the following
    EXCEPTIONS." He runs his eye down and finds that there are more
    exceptions to the rule than instances of it. So overboard he goes again,
    to hunt for another Ararat and find another quicksand. Such has been,
    and continues to be, my experience. Every time I think I have got one
    of these four confusing "cases" where I am master of it, a seemingly
    insignificant preposition intrudes itself into my sentence, clothed with
    an awful and unsuspected power, and crumbles the ground from under
    me. For instance, my book inquires after a certain bird--(it is always
    inquiring after things which are of no sort of no consequence
    to anybody): "Where is the bird?" Now the answer to this
    question--according to the book--is that the bird is waiting in the
    blacksmith shop on account of the rain. Of course no bird would do that,
    but then you must stick to the book. Very well, I begin to cipher out
    the German for that answer. I begin at the wrong end, necessarily, for
    that is the German idea. I say to myself, "REGEN (rain) is masculine--or
    maybe it is feminine--or possibly neuter--it is too much trouble to look
    now. Therefore, it is either DER (the) Regen, or DIE (the) Regen, or
    DAS (the) Regen, according to which gender it may turn out to be when I
    look. In the interest of science, I will cipher it out on the hypothesis
    that it is masculine. Very well--then THE rain is DER Regen, if it is
    simply in the quiescent state of being MENTIONED, without enlargement or
    discussion--Nominative case; but if this rain is lying around, in a kind
    of a general way on the ground, it is then definitely located, it is
    DOING SOMETHING--that is, RESTING (which is one of the German grammar's
    ideas of doing something), and this throws the rain into the Dative
    case, and makes it DEM Regen. However, this rain is not resting, but is
    doing something ACTIVELY,--it is falling--to interfere with the bird,
    likely--and this indicates MOVEMENT, which has the effect of sliding it
    into the Accusative case and changing DEM Regen into DEN Regen."
    Having completed the grammatical horoscope of this matter, I answer
    up confidently and state in German that the bird is staying in the
    blacksmith shop "wegen (on account of) DEN Regen." Then the teacher lets
    me softly down with the remark that whenever the word "wegen" drops
    into a sentence, it ALWAYS throws that subject into the GENITIVE case,
    regardless of consequences--and therefore this bird stayed in the
    blacksmith shop "wegen DES Regens."

    N.B.--I was informed, later, by a higher authority, that there was
    an "exception" which permits one to say "wegen DEN Regen" in certain
    peculiar and complex circumstances, but that this exception is not
    extended to anything BUT rain.

    There are ten parts of speech, and they are all troublesome. An average
    sentence, in a German newspaper, is a sublime and impressive curiosity;
    it occupies a quarter of a column; it contains all the ten parts of
    speech--not in regular order, but mixed; it is built mainly of compound
    words constructed by the writer on the spot, and not to be found in
    any dictionary--six or seven words compacted into one, without joint
    or seam--that is, without hyphens; it treats of fourteen or fifteen
    different subjects, each enclosed in a parenthesis of its own, with here
    and there extra parentheses, making pens with pens: finally, all the
    parentheses and reparentheses are massed together between a couple
    of king-parentheses, one of which is placed in the first line of the
    majestic sentence and the other in the middle of the last line of
    it--AFTER WHICH COMES THE VERB, and you find out for the first time what
    the man has been talking about; and after the verb--merely by way of
    ornament, as far as I can make out--the writer shovels in "HABEN SIND
    GEWESEN GEHABT HAVEN GEWORDEN SEIN," or words to that effect, and the
    monument is finished. I suppose that this closing hurrah is in the
    nature of the flourish to a man's signature--not necessary, but pretty.
    German books are easy enough to read when you hold them before
    the looking-glass or stand on your head--so as to reverse the
    construction--but I think that to learn to read and understand a German
    newspaper is a thing which must always remain an impossibility to a

    Yet even the German books are not entirely free from attacks of the
    Parenthesis distemper--though they are usually so mild as to cover only
    a few lines, and therefore when you at last get down to the verb it
    carries some meaning to your mind because you are able to remember a
    good deal of what has gone before. Now here is a sentence from a popular
    and excellent German novel--which a slight parenthesis in it. I will
    make a perfectly literal translation, and throw in the parenthesis-marks
    and some hyphens for the assistance of the reader--though in the
    original there are no parenthesis-marks or hyphens, and the reader is
    left to flounder through to the remote verb the best way he can:

    "But when he, upon the street, the (in-satin-and-silk-covered-
    now-very-unconstrained-after-the-newest-fashioned-dressed) government
    counselor's wife MET," etc., etc. [1]

    1. Wenn er aber auf der Strasse der in Sammt und Seide
    gehuellten jetz sehr ungenirt nach der neusten mode
    gekleideten Regierungsrathin begegnet.

    That is from THE OLD MAMSELLE'S SECRET, by Mrs. Marlitt. And that
    sentence is constructed upon the most approved German model. You observe
    how far that verb is from the reader's base of operations; well, in a
    German newspaper they put their verb away over on the next page; and
    I have heard that sometimes after stringing along the exciting
    preliminaries and parentheses for a column or two, they get in a hurry
    and have to go to press without getting to the verb at all. Of course,
    then, the reader is left in a very exhausted and ignorant state.

    We have the Parenthesis disease in our literature, too; and one may see
    cases of it every day in our books and newspapers: but with us it is the
    mark and sign of an unpracticed writer or a cloudy intellect, whereas
    with the Germans it is doubtless the mark and sign of a practiced pen
    and of the presence of that sort of luminous intellectual fog
    which stands for clearness among these people. For surely it is NOT
    clearness--it necessarily can't be clearness. Even a jury would have
    penetration enough to discover that. A writer's ideas must be a good
    deal confused, a good deal out of line and sequence, when he starts out
    to say that a man met a counselor's wife in the street, and then right
    in the midst of this so simple undertaking halts these approaching
    people and makes them stand still until he jots down an inventory of the
    woman's dress. That is manifestly absurd. It reminds a person of those
    dentists who secure your instant and breathless interest in a tooth by
    taking a grip on it with the forceps, and then stand there and
    drawl through a tedious anecdote before they give the dreaded jerk.
    Parentheses in literature and dentistry are in bad taste.

    The Germans have another kind of parenthesis, which they make by
    splitting a verb in two and putting half of it at the beginning of
    an exciting chapter and the OTHER HALF at the end of it. Can any one
    conceive of anything more confusing than that? These things are called
    "separable verbs." The German grammar is blistered all over with
    separable verbs; and the wider the two portions of one of them are
    spread apart, the better the author of the crime is pleased with his
    performance. A favorite one is REISTE AB--which means departed. Here is
    an example which I culled from a novel and reduced to English:

    "The trunks being now ready, he DE--after kissing his mother and
    sisters, and once more pressing to his bosom his adored Gretchen, who,
    dressed in simple white muslin, with a single tuberose in the ample
    folds of her rich brown hair, had tottered feebly down the stairs, still
    pale from the terror and excitement of the past evening, but longing to
    lay her poor aching head yet once again upon the breast of him whom she
    loved more dearly than life itself, PARTED."

    However, it is not well to dwell too much on the separable verbs. One is
    sure to lose his temper early; and if he sticks to the subject, and will
    not be warned, it will at last either soften his brain or petrify
    it. Personal pronouns and adjectives are a fruitful nuisance in this
    language, and should have been left out. For instance, the same sound,
    SIE, means YOU, and it means SHE, and it means HER, and it means IT,
    and it means THEY, and it means THEM. Think of the ragged poverty of
    a language which has to make one word do the work of six--and a poor
    little weak thing of only three letters at that. But mainly, think of
    the exasperation of never knowing which of these meanings the speaker is
    trying to convey. This explains why, whenever a person says SIE to me, I
    generally try to kill him, if a stranger.

    Now observe the Adjective. Here was a case where simplicity would have
    been an advantage; therefore, for no other reason, the inventor of this
    language complicated it all he could. When we wish to speak of our "good
    friend or friends," in our enlightened tongue, we stick to the one form
    and have no trouble or hard feeling about it; but with the German
    tongue it is different. When a German gets his hands on an adjective,
    he declines it, and keeps on declining it until the common sense is all
    declined out of it. It is as bad as Latin. He says, for instance:


    Nominative--Mein gutER Freund, my good friend. Genitives--MeinES GutEN
    FreundES, of my good friend. Dative--MeinEM gutEN Freund, to my good
    friend. Accusative--MeinEN gutEN Freund, my good friend.


    N.--MeinE gutEN FreundE, my good friends. G.--MeinER gutEN FreundE,
    of my good friends. D.--MeinEN gutEN FreundEN, to my good friends.
    A.--MeinE gutEN FreundE, my good friends.

    Now let the candidate for the asylum try to memorize those variations,
    and see how soon he will be elected. One might better go without friends
    in Germany than take all this trouble about them. I have shown what a
    bother it is to decline a good (male) friend; well this is only a third
    of the work, for there is a variety of new distortions of the adjective
    to be learned when the object is feminine, and still another when the
    object is neuter. Now there are more adjectives in this language than
    there are black cats in Switzerland, and they must all be as
    elaborately declined as the examples above suggested.

    Difficult?--troublesome?--these words cannot describe it. I heard a
    Californian student in Heidelberg say, in one of his calmest moods, that
    he would rather decline two drinks than one German adjective.

    The inventor of the language seems to have taken pleasure in
    complicating it in every way he could think of. For instance, if one is
    casually referring to a house, HAUS, or a horse, PFERD, or a dog, HUND,
    he spells these words as I have indicated; but if he is referring to
    them in the Dative case, he sticks on a foolish and unnecessary E and
    spells them HAUSE, PFERDE, HUNDE. So, as an added E often signifies the
    plural, as the S does with us, the new student is likely to go on for a
    month making twins out of a Dative dog before he discovers his mistake;
    and on the other hand, many a new student who could ill afford loss,
    has bought and paid for two dogs and only got one of them, because
    he ignorantly bought that dog in the Dative singular when he really
    supposed he was talking plural--which left the law on the seller's side,
    of course, by the strict rules of grammar, and therefore a suit for
    recovery could not lie.

    In German, all the Nouns begin with a capital letter. Now that is a good
    idea; and a good idea, in this language, is necessarily conspicuous from
    its lonesomeness. I consider this capitalizing of nouns a good idea,
    because by reason of it you are almost always able to tell a noun the
    minute you see it. You fall into error occasionally, because you mistake
    the name of a person for the name of a thing, and waste a good deal of
    time trying to dig a meaning out of it. German names almost always do
    mean something, and this helps to deceive the student. I translated a
    passage one day, which said that "the infuriated tigress broke loose
    and utterly ate up the unfortunate fir forest" (Tannenwald). When I was
    girding up my loins to doubt this, I found out that Tannenwald in this
    instance was a man's name.

    Every noun has a gender, and there is no sense or system in the
    distribution; so the gender of each must be learned separately and by
    heart. There is no other way. To do this one has to have a memory like a
    memorandum-book. In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has.
    Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what
    callous disrespect for the girl. See how it looks in print--I translate
    this from a conversation in one of the best of the German Sunday-school

    "Gretchen. Wilhelm, where is the turnip?

    "Wilhelm. She has gone to the kitchen.

    "Gretchen. Where is the accomplished and beautiful English maiden?

    "Wilhelm. It has gone to the opera."

    To continue with the German genders: a tree is male, its buds are
    female, its leaves are neuter; horses are sexless, dogs are male, cats
    are female--tomcats included, of course; a person's mouth, neck, bosom,
    elbows, fingers, nails, feet, and body are of the male sex, and his head
    is male or neuter according to the word selected to signify it, and NOT
    according to the sex of the individual who wears it--for in Germany
    all the women either male heads or sexless ones; a person's nose, lips,
    shoulders, breast, hands, and toes are of the female sex; and his hair,
    ears, eyes, chin, legs, knees, heart, and conscience haven't any sex
    at all. The inventor of the language probably got what he knew about a
    conscience from hearsay.

    Now, by the above dissection, the reader will see that in Germany a
    man may THINK he is a man, but when he comes to look into the matter
    closely, he is bound to have his doubts; he finds that in sober truth
    he is a most ridiculous mixture; and if he ends by trying to comfort
    himself with the thought that he can at least depend on a third of this
    mess as being manly and masculine, the humiliating second thought will
    quickly remind him that in this respect he is no better off than any
    woman or cow in the land.

    In the German it is true that by some oversight of the inventor of
    the language, a Woman is a female; but a Wife (Weib) is not--which is
    unfortunate. A Wife, here, has no sex; she is neuter; so, according
    to the grammar, a fish is HE, his scales are SHE, but a fishwife is
    neither. To describe a wife as sexless may be called under-description;
    that is bad enough, but over-description is surely worse. A German
    speaks of an Englishman as the ENGLAENDER; to change the sex, he adds
    INN, and that stands for Englishwoman--ENGLAENDERINN. That seems
    descriptive enough, but still it is not exact enough for a German; so he
    precedes the word with that article which indicates that the creature to
    follow is feminine, and writes it down thus: "die Englaenderinn,"--which
    means "the she-Englishwoman." I consider that that person is

    Well, after the student has learned the sex of a great number of nouns,
    he is still in a difficulty, because he finds it impossible to persuade
    his tongue to refer to things as "he" and "she," and "him" and "her,"
    which it has been always accustomed to refer to it as "it." When he
    even frames a German sentence in his mind, with the hims and hers in the
    right places, and then works up his courage to the utterance-point, it
    is no use--the moment he begins to speak his tongue files the track and
    all those labored males and females come out as "its." And even when he
    is reading German to himself, he always calls those things "it," where
    as he ought to read in this way:


    2. I capitalize the nouns, in the German (and
    ancient English) fashion.

    It is a bleak Day. Hear the Rain, how he pours, and the Hail, how he
    rattles; and see the Snow, how he drifts along, and of the Mud, how
    deep he is! Ah the poor Fishwife, it is stuck fast in the Mire; it has
    dropped its Basket of Fishes; and its Hands have been cut by the Scales
    as it seized some of the falling Creatures; and one Scale has even got
    into its Eye, and it cannot get her out. It opens its Mouth to cry
    for Help; but if any Sound comes out of him, alas he is drowned by the
    raging of the Storm. And now a Tomcat has got one of the Fishes and she
    will surely escape with him. No, she bites off a Fin, she holds her in
    her Mouth--will she swallow her? No, the Fishwife's brave Mother-dog
    deserts his Puppies and rescues the Fin--which he eats, himself, as his
    Reward. O, horror, the Lightning has struck the Fish-basket; he sets him
    on Fire; see the Flame, how she licks the doomed Utensil with her red
    and angry Tongue; now she attacks the helpless Fishwife's Foot--she
    burns him up, all but the big Toe, and even SHE is partly consumed; and
    still she spreads, still she waves her fiery Tongues; she attacks the
    Fishwife's Leg and destroys IT; she attacks its Hand and destroys HER
    also; she attacks the Fishwife's Leg and destroys HER also; she attacks
    its Body and consumes HIM; she wreathes herself about its Heart and IT
    is consumed; next about its Breast, and in a Moment SHE is a Cinder; now
    she reaches its Neck--He goes; now its Chin--IT goes; now its Nose--SHE
    goes. In another Moment, except Help come, the Fishwife will be no more.
    Time presses--is there none to succor and save? Yes! Joy, joy,
    with flying Feet the she-Englishwoman comes! But alas, the generous
    she-Female is too late: where now is the fated Fishwife? It has ceased
    from its Sufferings, it has gone to a better Land; all that is left of
    it for its loved Ones to lament over, is this poor smoldering Ash-heap.
    Ah, woeful, woeful Ash-heap! Let us take him up tenderly, reverently,
    upon the lowly Shovel, and bear him to his long Rest, with the Prayer
    that when he rises again it will be a Realm where he will have one good
    square responsible Sex, and have it all to himself, instead of having a
    mangy lot of assorted Sexes scattered all over him in Spots.


    There, now, the reader can see for himself that this pronoun business is
    a very awkward thing for the unaccustomed tongue. I suppose that in all
    languages the similarities of look and sound between words which have
    no similarity in meaning are a fruitful source of perplexity to the
    foreigner. It is so in our tongue, and it is notably the case in the
    German. Now there is that troublesome word VERMAEHLT: to me it has so
    close a resemblance--either real or fancied--to three or four other
    words, that I never know whether it means despised, painted, suspected,
    or married; until I look in the dictionary, and then I find it means the
    latter. There are lots of such words and they are a great torment. To
    increase the difficulty there are words which SEEM to resemble each
    other, and yet do not; but they make just as much trouble as if they
    did. For instance, there is the word VERMIETHEN (to let, to lease, to
    hire); and the word VERHEIRATHEN (another way of saying to marry). I
    heard of an Englishman who knocked at a man's door in Heidelberg and
    proposed, in the best German he could command, to "verheirathen" that
    house. Then there are some words which mean one thing when you emphasize
    the first syllable, but mean something very different if you throw the
    emphasis on the last syllable. For instance, there is a word which
    means a runaway, or the act of glancing through a book, according to the
    placing of the emphasis; and another word which signifies to
    ASSOCIATE with a man, or to AVOID him, according to where you put the
    emphasis--and you can generally depend on putting it in the wrong place
    and getting into trouble.

    There are some exceedingly useful words in this language. SCHLAG, for
    example; and ZUG. There are three-quarters of a column of SCHLAGS in the
    dictionary, and a column and a half of ZUGS. The word SCHLAG means Blow,
    Stroke, Dash, Hit, Shock, Clap, Slap, Time, Bar, Coin, Stamp,
    Kind, Sort, Manner, Way, Apoplexy, Wood-cutting, Enclosure, Field,
    Forest-clearing. This is its simple and EXACT meaning--that is to say,
    its restricted, its fettered meaning; but there are ways by which
    you can set it free, so that it can soar away, as on the wings of the
    morning, and never be at rest. You can hang any word you please to
    its tail, and make it mean anything you want to. You can begin
    with SCHLAG-ADER, which means artery, and you can hang on the whole
    dictionary, word by word, clear through the alphabet to SCHLAG-WASSER,
    which means bilge-water--and including SCHLAG-MUTTER, which means

    Just the same with ZUG. Strictly speaking, ZUG means Pull, Tug, Draught,
    Procession, March, Progress, Flight, Direction, Expedition, Train,
    Caravan, Passage, Stroke, Touch, Line, Flourish, Trait of Character,
    Feature, Lineament, Chess-move, Organ-stop, Team, Whiff, Bias, Drawer,
    Propensity, Inhalation, Disposition: but that thing which it does NOT
    mean--when all its legitimate pennants have been hung on, has not been
    discovered yet.

    One cannot overestimate the usefulness of SCHLAG and ZUG. Armed just
    with these two, and the word ALSO, what cannot the foreigner on German
    soil accomplish? The German word ALSO is the equivalent of the English
    phrase "You know," and does not mean anything at all--in TALK, though
    it sometimes does in print. Every time a German opens his mouth an
    ALSO falls out; and every time he shuts it he bites one in two that was
    trying to GET out.

    Now, the foreigner, equipped with these three noble words, is master of
    the situation. Let him talk right along, fearlessly; let him pour his
    indifferent German forth, and when he lacks for a word, let him heave a
    SCHLAG into the vacuum; all the chances are that it fits it like a
    plug, but if it doesn't let him promptly heave a ZUG after it; the two
    together can hardly fail to bung the hole; but if, by a miracle, they
    SHOULD fail, let him simply say ALSO! and this will give him a moment's
    chance to think of the needful word. In Germany, when you load your
    conversational gun it is always best to throw in a SCHLAG or two and a
    ZUG or two, because it doesn't make any difference how much the rest of
    the charge may scatter, you are bound to bag something with THEM. Then
    you blandly say ALSO, and load up again. Nothing gives such an air
    of grace and elegance and unconstraint to a German or an English
    conversation as to scatter it full of "Also's" or "You knows."

    In my note-book I find this entry:

    July 1.--In the hospital yesterday, a word of thirteen syllables was
    successfully removed from a patient--a North German from near Hamburg;
    but as most unfortunately the surgeons had opened him in the wrong
    place, under the impression that he contained a panorama, he died. The
    sad event has cast a gloom over the whole community.

    That paragraph furnishes a text for a few remarks about one of the most
    curious and notable features of my subject--the length of German words.
    Some German words are so long that they have a perspective. Observe
    these examples:




    These things are not words, they are alphabetical processions. And they
    are not rare; one can open a German newspaper at any time and see them
    marching majestically across the page--and if he has any imagination
    he can see the banners and hear the music, too. They impart a martial
    thrill to the meekest subject. I take a great interest in these
    curiosities. Whenever I come across a good one, I stuff it and put it in
    my museum. In this way I have made quite a valuable collection. When I
    get duplicates, I exchange with other collectors, and thus increase the
    variety of my stock. Here rare some specimens which I lately bought at
    an auction sale of the effects of a bankrupt bric-a-brac hunter:







    Of course when one of these grand mountain ranges goes stretching across
    the printed page, it adorns and ennobles that literary landscape--but at
    the same time it is a great distress to the new student, for it blocks
    up his way; he cannot crawl under it, or climb over it, or tunnel
    through it. So he resorts to the dictionary for help, but there is no
    help there. The dictionary must draw the line somewhere--so it leaves
    this sort of words out. And it is right, because these long things are
    hardly legitimate words, but are rather combinations of words, and the
    inventor of them ought to have been killed. They are compound words with
    the hyphens left out. The various words used in building them are in
    the dictionary, but in a very scattered condition; so you can hunt the
    materials out, one by one, and get at the meaning at last, but it is a
    tedious and harassing business. I have tried this process upon some of
    the above examples. "Freundshaftsbezeigungen" seems to be "Friendship
    demonstrations," which is only a foolish and clumsy way of saying
    "demonstrations of friendship." "Unabhaengigkeitserklaerungen" seems
    to be "Independencedeclarations," which is no improvement
    upon "Declarations of Independence," so far as I can
    see. "Generalstaatsverordnetenversammlungen" seems to be
    "General-statesrepresentativesmeetings," as nearly as I can get at it--a
    mere rhythmical, gushy euphemism for "meetings of the legislature,"
    I judge. We used to have a good deal of this sort of crime in our
    literature, but it has gone out now. We used to speak of a things as a
    "never-to-be-forgotten" circumstance, instead of cramping it into the
    simple and sufficient word "memorable" and then going calmly about our
    business as if nothing had happened. In those days we were not content
    to embalm the thing and bury it decently, we wanted to build a monument
    over it.

    But in our newspapers the compounding-disease lingers a little to the
    present day, but with the hyphens left out, in the German fashion. This
    is the shape it takes: instead of saying "Mr. Simmons, clerk of the
    county and district courts, was in town yesterday," the new form put
    it thus: "Clerk of the County and District Courts Simmons was in town
    yesterday." This saves neither time nor ink, and has an awkward
    sound besides. One often sees a remark like this in our papers: "MRS.
    Assistant District Attorney Johnson returned to her city residence
    yesterday for the season." That is a case of really unjustifiable
    compounding; because it not only saves no time or trouble, but confers
    a title on Mrs. Johnson which she has no right to. But these little
    instances are trifles indeed, contrasted with the ponderous and dismal
    German system of piling jumbled compounds together. I wish to submit the
    following local item, from a Mannheim journal, by way of illustration:

    "In the daybeforeyesterdayshortlyaftereleveno'clock Night, the
    inthistownstandingtavern called 'The Wagoner' was downburnt. When the
    fire to the onthedownburninghouseresting Stork's Nest reached, flew the
    parent Storks away. But when the bytheraging, firesurrounded Nest ITSELF
    caught Fire, straightway plunged the quickreturning Mother-Stork into
    the Flames and died, her Wings over her young ones outspread."

    Even the cumbersome German construction is not able to take the pathos
    out of that picture--indeed, it somehow seems to strengthen it. This
    item is dated away back yonder months ago. I could have used it sooner,
    but I was waiting to hear from the Father-stork. I am still waiting.

    "ALSO!" If I had not shown that the German is a difficult language, I
    have at least intended to do so. I have heard of an American student
    who was asked how he was getting along with his German, and who answered
    promptly: "I am not getting along at all. I have worked at it hard for
    three level months, and all I have got to show for it is one solitary
    German phrase--'ZWEI GLAS'" (two glasses of beer). He paused for a
    moment, reflectively; then added with feeling: "But I've got that

    And if I have not also shown that German is a harassing and infuriating
    study, my execution has been at fault, and not my intent. I heard lately
    of a worn and sorely tried American student who used to fly to a certain
    German word for relief when he could bear up under his aggravations no
    longer--the only word whose sound was sweet and precious to his ear and
    healing to his lacerated spirit. This was the word DAMIT. It was only
    the SOUND that helped him, not the meaning; [3] and so, at last, when he
    learned that the emphasis was not on the first syllable, his only stay
    and support was gone, and he faded away and died.

    3. It merely means, in its general sense, "herewith."

    I think that a description of any loud, stirring, tumultuous episode
    must be tamer in German than in English. Our descriptive words of this
    character have such a deep, strong, resonant sound, while their German
    equivalents do seem so thin and mild and energyless. Boom, burst, crash,
    roar, storm, bellow, blow, thunder, explosion; howl, cry, shout, yell,
    groan; battle, hell. These are magnificent words; the have a force and
    magnitude of sound befitting the things which they describe. But their
    German equivalents would be ever so nice to sing the children to sleep
    with, or else my awe-inspiring ears were made for display and not for
    superior usefulness in analyzing sounds. Would any man want to die in a
    battle which was called by so tame a term as a SCHLACHT? Or would not
    a consumptive feel too much bundled up, who was about to go out, in
    a shirt-collar and a seal-ring, into a storm which the bird-song word
    GEWITTER was employed to describe? And observe the strongest of the
    several German equivalents for explosion--AUSBRUCH. Our word Toothbrush
    is more powerful than that. It seems to me that the Germans could
    do worse than import it into their language to describe particularly
    tremendous explosions with. The German word for hell--Hoelle--sounds
    more like HELLY than anything else; therefore, how necessary chipper,
    frivolous, and unimpressive it is. If a man were told in German to go
    there, could he really rise to thee dignity of feeling insulted?

    Having pointed out, in detail, the several vices of this language, I
    now come to the brief and pleasant task of pointing out its virtues. The
    capitalizing of the nouns I have already mentioned. But far before this
    virtue stands another--that of spelling a word according to the sound of
    it. After one short lesson in the alphabet, the student can tell how any
    German word is pronounced without having to ask; whereas in our language
    if a student should inquire of us, "What does B, O, W, spell?" we should
    be obliged to reply, "Nobody can tell what it spells when you set if off
    by itself; you can only tell by referring to the context and finding out
    what it signifies--whether it is a thing to shoot arrows with, or a nod
    of one's head, or the forward end of a boat."

    There are some German words which are singularly and powerfully
    effective. For instance, those which describe lowly, peaceful, and
    affectionate home life; those which deal with love, in any and all
    forms, from mere kindly feeling and honest good will toward the passing
    stranger, clear up to courtship; those which deal with outdoor Nature,
    in its softest and loveliest aspects--with meadows and forests, and
    birds and flowers, the fragrance and sunshine of summer, and the
    moonlight of peaceful winter nights; in a word, those which deal with
    any and all forms of rest, repose, and peace; those also which deal with
    the creatures and marvels of fairyland; and lastly and chiefly, in
    those words which express pathos, is the language surpassingly rich
    and affective. There are German songs which can make a stranger to the
    language cry. That shows that the SOUND of the words is correct--it
    interprets the meanings with truth and with exactness; and so the ear is
    informed, and through the ear, the heart.

    The Germans do not seem to be afraid to repeat a word when it is the
    right one. They repeat it several times, if they choose. That is
    wise. But in English, when we have used a word a couple of times in a
    paragraph, we imagine we are growing tautological, and so we are weak
    enough to exchange it for some other word which only approximates
    exactness, to escape what we wrongly fancy is a greater blemish.
    Repetition may be bad, but surely inexactness is worse.


    There are people in the world who will take a great deal of trouble to
    point out the faults in a religion or a language, and then go blandly
    about their business without suggesting any remedy. I am not that kind
    of person. I have shown that the German language needs reforming. Very
    well, I am ready to reform it. At least I am ready to make the proper
    suggestions. Such a course as this might be immodest in another; but I
    have devoted upward of nine full weeks, first and last, to a careful and
    critical study of this tongue, and thus have acquired a confidence in
    my ability to reform it which no mere superficial culture could have
    conferred upon me.

    In the first place, I would leave out the Dative case. It confuses the
    plurals; and, besides, nobody ever knows when he is in the Dative case,
    except he discover it by accident--and then he does not know when or
    where it was that he got into it, or how long he has been in it, or how
    he is going to get out of it again. The Dative case is but an ornamental
    folly--it is better to discard it.

    In the next place, I would move the Verb further up to the front. You
    may load up with ever so good a Verb, but I notice that you never really
    bring down a subject with it at the present German range--you only
    cripple it. So I insist that this important part of speech should be
    brought forward to a position where it may be easily seen with the naked

    Thirdly, I would import some strong words from the English tongue--to
    swear with, and also to use in describing all sorts of vigorous things
    in a vigorous ways. [4]

    4. "Verdammt," and its variations and enlargements,
    are words which have plenty of meaning, but the SOUNDS
    are so mild and ineffectual that German ladies can use
    them without sin. German ladies who could not be induced
    to commit a sin by any persuasion or compulsion, promptly rip
    out one of these harmless little words when they tear their
    dresses or don't like the soup. It sounds about as wicked
    as our "My gracious." German ladies are constantly saying,
    "Ach! Gott!" "Mein Gott!" "Gott in Himmel!" "Herr Gott"
    "Der Herr Jesus!" etc. They think our ladies have the
    same custom, perhaps; for I once heard a gentle and lovely
    old German lady say to a sweet young American girl:
    "The two languages are so alike--how pleasant that is;
    we say 'Ach! Gott!' you say 'Goddamn.'"

    Fourthly, I would reorganizes the sexes, and distribute them accordingly
    to the will of the creator. This as a tribute of respect, if nothing

    Fifthly, I would do away with those great long compounded words; or
    require the speaker to deliver them in sections, with intermissions for
    refreshments. To wholly do away with them would be best, for ideas are
    more easily received and digested when they come one at a time than when
    they come in bulk. Intellectual food is like any other; it is pleasanter
    and more beneficial to take it with a spoon than with a shovel.

    Sixthly, I would require a speaker to stop when he is done, and not
    hang a string of those useless "haven sind gewesen gehabt haben geworden
    seins" to the end of his oration. This sort of gewgaws undignify a
    speech, instead of adding a grace. They are, therefore, an offense, and
    should be discarded.

    Seventhly, I would discard the Parenthesis. Also the reparenthesis, the
    re-reparenthesis, and the re-re-re-re-re-reparentheses, and likewise
    the final wide-reaching all-enclosing king-parenthesis. I would require
    every individual, be he high or low, to unfold a plain straightforward
    tale, or else coil it and sit on it and hold his peace. Infractions of
    this law should be punishable with death.

    And eighthly, and last, I would retain ZUG and SCHLAG, with their
    pendants, and discard the rest of the vocabulary. This would simplify
    the language.

    I have now named what I regard as the most necessary and important
    changes. These are perhaps all I could be expected to name for nothing;
    but there are other suggestions which I can and will make in case my
    proposed application shall result in my being formally employed by the
    government in the work of reforming the language.

    My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to
    learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French
    in thirty days, and German in thirty years. It seems manifest, then,
    that the latter tongue ought to be trimmed down and repaired. If it is
    to remain as it is, it ought to be gently and reverently set aside among
    the dead languages, for only the dead have time to learn it.


    Gentlemen: Since I arrived, a month ago, in this old wonderland, this
    vast garden of Germany, my English tongue has so often proved a useless
    piece of baggage to me, and so troublesome to carry around, in a country
    where they haven't the checking system for luggage, that I finally set
    to work, and learned the German language. Also! Es freut mich dass dies
    so ist, denn es muss, in ein hauptsaechlich degree, hoeflich sein, dass
    man auf ein occasion like this, sein Rede in die Sprache des Landes
    worin he boards, aussprechen soll. Dafuer habe ich, aus reinische
    Verlegenheit--no, Vergangenheit--no, I mean Hoflichkeit--aus reinishe
    Hoflichkeit habe ich resolved to tackle this business in the German
    language, um Gottes willen! Also! Sie muessen so freundlich sein, und
    verzeih mich die interlarding von ein oder zwei Englischer Worte, hie
    und da, denn ich finde dass die deutsche is not a very copious language,
    and so when you've really got anything to say, you've got to draw on a
    language that can stand the strain.

    Wenn haber man kann nicht meinem Rede Verstehen, so werde ich ihm
    spaeter dasselbe uebersetz, wenn er solche Dienst verlangen wollen haben
    werden sollen sein haette. (I don't know what wollen haben werden sollen
    sein haette means, but I notice they always put it at the end of a
    German sentence--merely for general literary gorgeousness, I suppose.)

    This is a great and justly honored day--a day which is worthy of the
    veneration in which it is held by the true patriots of all climes and
    nationalities--a day which offers a fruitful theme for thought and
    speech; und meinem Freunde--no, meinEN FreundEN--meinES FreundES--well,
    take your choice, they're all the same price; I don't know which one is
    right--also! ich habe gehabt haben worden gewesen sein, as Goethe says
    in his Paradise Lost--ich--ich--that is to say--ich--but let us change

    Also! Die Anblich so viele Grossbrittanischer und Amerikanischer
    hier zusammengetroffen in Bruderliche concord, ist zwar a welcome and
    inspiriting spectacle. And what has moved you to it? Can the
    terse German tongue rise to the expression of this impulse? Is
    it Freundschaftsbezeigungenstadtverordneten-
    versammlungenfamilieneigenthuemlichkeiten? Nein, o nein! This is a crisp
    and noble word, but it fails to pierce the marrow of the impulse which
    has gathered this friendly meeting and produced diese Anblick--eine
    Anblich welche ist gut zu sehen--gut fuer die Augen in a foreign
    land and a far country--eine Anblick solche als in die gewoehnliche
    Heidelberger phrase nennt man ein "schoenes Aussicht!" Ja, freilich
    natuerlich wahrscheinlich ebensowohl! Also! Die Aussicht auf dem
    Koenigsstuhl mehr groesser ist, aber geistlische sprechend nicht
    so schoen, lob' Gott! Because sie sind hier zusammengetroffen, in
    Bruderlichem concord, ein grossen Tag zu feirn, whose high benefits were
    not for one land and one locality, but have conferred a measure of
    good upon all lands that know liberty today, and love it. Hundert Jahre
    vorueber, waren die Englaender und die Amerikaner Feinde; aber heut sind
    sie herzlichen Freunde, Gott sei Dank! May this good-fellowship endure;
    may these banners here blended in amity so remain; may they never
    any more wave over opposing hosts, or be stained with blood which was
    kindred, is kindred, and always will be kindred, until a line drawn upon
    a map shall be able to say: "THIS bars the ancestral blood from flowing
    in the veins of the descendant!"
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