Transcript: Series 1 extra bits

Here is the transcript of Series 1 extra bits. You can read more about this episode on the episode web page.

This transcript has been edited for readability.


Luke: Hello everyone and welcome to a bonus episode of Yellow of the Egg. We are not back, not just yet, but I thought it would be nice, before we dive into series two, to have a little bonus episode of some of the extra bits that didn’t make it into the episodes of series 1. And at the end of this episode, I’ll be revealing the launch date of series 2. Yes, it’s finally happening!

So with all that being said, let’s crack on with this extra bonus show.

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This is Yellow of the Egg, the podcast where we piece together the German language, bit by bit. I’m Luke Green, and this is the extra bits of series 1.

[Theme music]

Luke: Episode 2 with Barbara Soukup and Frauke Rüdebusch, and we’re talking about language and the coronavirus. Because it’s still dominating our lives, it’s the one big health crisis that’s affecting everyone and is on everyone’s minds, we just assume everything is about corona now.

Barbara Soukup: Like “the virus”, and Impfung, all these things now being in a specific context and we know, you know, “disease” could be generally anything, basically, but now we know what we’re talking about when we’re asking somebody, “will you get the shot?”. I mean, it could be the flu shot, but we’re kind of past that. So, to some extent, it’s maybe just a narrowing of meanings to that specific context now. When you use certain words, you just, you might just immediately limit them to this context or like narrow it down. You might be surprised if someone talked about “the virus” and it’s a different one. Like, if somebody talks about ebola now, you’d kind of, you know, be surprised, not expecting that.

Luke: There’s a very specific way that Vienna reflects what is happening right now. You know something has become so big and so all-pervasive and so important when you start seeing references to it on the rubbish bins and rubbish collection trucks in Vienna.

Barbara: One of the things that is definitely, I think, Viennese is the way the linguistic landscape of trash collection has reacted because that is a very specific Viennese thing where trash, you know, trash collection have these ad campaigns where, sort of, they’re sort of in a funny way trying to get us to collect more trash and not be messy, you know? And not litter.

Luke: There are lots of great examples. I’ll put some on Instagram and the podcast website.

Barbara: One of the first really conspicuous ones that I saw there was a trash can that said “Alte Masken g’hören kübelt”. So it had this slogan. And it was like- Again, a year ago, “what are they talking about?”, right? I mean, what, like, are you talking about carnival or what? Fasching? But now we know what it all means- and of course it has a picture on it too, so it’s kinda evident what it does. But in Vienna, in particular, we have this interaction with our trash collecting service that somehow speaks to us via trash cans. And now they’re telling us how to do- you know, how to navigate this corona situation. So it’s something you won’t even find outside of Vienna.

Luke: Another thing that’s perhaps not specifically Viennese but certainly typically Austrian is this Amtsdeutsch, this German “officialese”. There’s nothing the Austrian officials love more, and the arrival of corona was the catalyst for a new influx of German officialese.

Barbara: Absonderungsbescheid, for example, that I would just swear is Austrian. Because it just sounds so Austrian, right? We have all this, all this “Amtssprache”. We have a long history and tradition of it. Like, you know, think Kakfa, whatever, right? So, Abstandspflicht. Sonderbetreuungszeit. All of these- you’d have to check whether they actually, you know, if they fit with other legal systems and whether you get them for that reason. I mean, this is, you know- and this is not to do with corona, but one of my favourite ones for Amtsdeutsch is actually “in Verstoß geraten”. Do you know what that means? Yeah, that’s Amtdeutsch, Austrian Amtsdeutsch, for “they lost it”. They just, you know, “somebody lost it”. “Es ist in Verstoß geraten”. I mean, that’s fantastic, right? That’s fantastic language use right there. Nobody knows what it means. You’d really have to have like a dictionary for that, right?

Luke: Thanks to German being quite transparent a lot of the time, it’s quite easy to work out what a Mund-Nasen-Schutz is. Something that covers your mouth and nose, so a mask. But, of course, Austria has to provide a very Austrian definition of what counts as a mask.

Barbara: Right? I mean if you go to the Austrian Ministry of Social Affairs, of course they have a definition of what it is, like it says: “Ein Mund-Nasen-Schutz (MNS) ist eine den Mund- und Nasenbereich abdeckende mechanische Schutzvorrichtung, die Mund und Nase abgedeckt und auch eng anliegen muss.” That doesn’t actually make sense linguistically, but anyway. “Der MNS ist entweder mittels Gummibänder oder durch Stoffbänder zu fixieren”. And I think that’s faulty language as well, but never mind. “Mittels Gummibändern”, I would say. “Das Material hat eine mechanische Barriere zu bilden, um das Verspritzen von Tröpfchen beim Sprechen, Husten und Niesen zu vermeiden. Die Verwendung von Gesichtsvisieren (sogenannten Face-Shields bzw. Mini-Face-Shields) ist nicht zulässig.” So there’s like this whole definition.

Luke: In episode 2 we heard a lot of examples of new words that have entered the German lexicon since corona, and some words that existed before but have gained a new meaning. Let’s hear some more from Frauke Rüdebusch.

Frauke Rüdebusch: Geisterspiel.

Luke: Literally ‘ghost game’.

Frauke: It meant, maybe in the context of football or soccer, that you had a game played without spectators. But only because maybe you had a penalty in the game before, in the match before. But now a Geisterspiel is held because there are no spectators allowed because the risk is too high that they could get infected. Then there’s Kurzarbeit.

Luke: Literally ‘short work’, meaning work with reduced hours.

Frauke: We had that before, but not in this dimension. Then a word like kontaktlos has been used before in the context of banking or credit cards. But now kontaktlos doesn’t mean you have to put your credit card only on top of the machine and not put it into it, you don’t have to have contact. Now it means that you actually have no contact to the people when you get something to eat, when you get delivered a parcel, whatever. Maybe you don’t even see the person behind it. Then another word, Verschwörungstheorie.

Luke: Conspiracy theory.

Frauke: There have been Verschwörungstheorien before but now, yeah, they have their high time. Hygieneregeln, of course.

Luke: Hygiene rules.

Frauke: As important as ever, but in a completely different context now. And, of course, the word positive itself. In the context of AIDS, we have that. If you are positive, it’s not positive at all. So, if you are tested corona-positive, it’s actually negative. So everyone is talking about ‘positivity’, but in the context of corona, it’s actually to be avoided.

Luke: Moving away from new words in German now, let’s revisit German words in English. In episode 5 I talked to Robb Knapp about Germanisms, and we talked about some German words that made it into English, even though we already have English words for these things. But still, the connotation might be a slightly different one.

Robb Knapp: For example, one can say rucksack or backpack, but the two words have slightly different effects on one's audience. Rucksack, which comes from German, sometimes has a military connotation.

Luke: There’s a Germanism that I have only ever heard in American media. I’ve heard it on shows like Desperate Housewives, this word being Hausfrau, or as they say it on the show, hausfrau.

Robb: I don't know what the meaning difference between hausfrau and housewife would be. It would certainly be more subtle than the difference between rucksack and backpack, I guess. But the effect one uses when one says hausfrau instead of housewife is certainly a different effect.

Luke: This is not really as much of a thing in the UK. A bit like gesundheit, that’s quite a US-American thing. But there are certain Germanisms that are less known in the US.

Robb: Another example that Brits or Australians might know better than gesundheit is abseil, with the literal meaning of ‘to rope down’. This would more often be known as ‘repelling’ to an American.

Luke: In the episode we also mentioned things like uber, which have become affixes or parts of compound phrases in English. There’s more where that came from. Take the German word for a celebration, Fest, which can be used in compounds in English all the time.

Robb: For example, you can hear about ‘lovefests’ or ‘jazzfest’. You can watch The Simpsons anytime and you'll see a poster on Lisa Simpson’s bedroom wall, it says jazzfest.

Luke: Another one you can make compounds with is Meister.

Robb: Meister just means ‘master’, I think it probably originated from Bürgermeister. Everybody knows that in German a Bürgermeister is a mayor. So a Meister, it's not hard to tell that means ‘master’. So I've seen examples like cartelmeister, chatmeister, dietmeister, or dramameister, so that would be- like we were saying, this is another example of somebody using something for a humorous effect.

Luke: You can even take someone’s name and just add -meister to the end of it. Again, that’s quite a US-American thing to do, and you can hear it in some US media, TV series and so on. For instance, someone called Cook could be the Cookmeister. Whatever floats their boat. There are words that come from German into English that have to change their spelling because we don’t have certain letters. Like with über, which is spelt without the Umlaut in English, there are words like Edelweiß, which are spelled with the double s instead of an Eszett in English. Episode 6 with Frauke Rüdebusch, where we talk about this letter, the Eszett or the scharfes s, and how it never used to have an uppercase version. Nowadays we have the capital letter, but before that, you would have to use a double s if you wrote a word in all capital letters. But if you remember back to that episode, we heard that the modern Eszett also has its origins in the combination of an s and a z, which is where we get the name Eszett.

Frauke: Actually, the Brothers Grimm, we would all know them from the fairy tales, they have written a dictionary. And in their dictionary, all their lemmas they have written in capital letters. And they did not use “ss” but they used “sz” as they knew from the Gothic language, the Gothic script. So, it actually was discussed if Eszett should become “s” and “z” in capital letters. But it was eventually decided to use “ss”.

Luke: And now we have the capital Eszett. Although, as we spoke about before, it does look a lot like a capital B. And to people who aren’t familiar with the Eszett at all, even the lowercase one can look like a capital B. I’ve seen people write German words with a B that should have a scharfes s. You can’t simply replace an Eszett with a B, though, since there are pairs of words that only differ in this one letter.

Frauke: Like Scheiße and Scheibe, they are two words that exist in German.

Luke: The latter, Scheibe, has many meanings, including ‘slice’ and ‘windowpane’. If you follow the podcast on Instagram, you will have seen a post I made a while back about the Lady Gaga song “Scheiße”, and on Spotify it’s sometimes listed as “Scheiße” with a scharfes s, and sometimes as “Scheibe”, with a B.

Frauke: But there is no context! Who would know that Lady Gaga hasn’t written a song called “Scheibe”?

Luke: I wouldn’t put it past her to actually have a song called “Scheibe”.

Music: Snippet from “Scheibe”, a joke song.

Scheibe, Scheibe
I still love the fame, love it like a windowpane
Scheibe, Scheibe
Dancing through the pain, dancing through the windowpane
Scheibe, Scheibe, Scheibe, Scheibe [fade out]

Luke: So that happened. That isn’t actually a Lady Gaga song. Scheibe has so many translations in English, it’s not as easy as just translating words one-to-one. And there are lots of words that don’t really have a translation at all. Going back to the very start, episode 1, and Lisa Hlawaty tells us about some of these tiny little words that not only don’t really exist in English, but also don’t seem to have a great equivalent in other varieties of German.

Lisa Hlawaty: Just recently I was talking to some friends, German-speaking friends. One of them is actually from Germany. And she told me about things that she discovered when she came to Austria. Like the use of leicht in questions, which she only found out about when she came to Austria. In things like “Hast du leicht schon Hunger?” Where the leicht doesn’t really have a certain- a specific meaning, but it shows the attitude of the speaker, like the surprise, the criticism, like “can it really be that you’re already hungry?”. But formulated in a way where it’s not so explicit. And things like that, she said, there’s no real translation in German German, that’s just a particularity of Austrian German.

Luke: And there are plenty more of these little words.

Lisa: Or the use of eh. The use of ja. “Wir haben ja schon darüber gesprochen”.

Luke: You can throw a ja in the middle of a sentence to express that something is obvious, or ought to be obvious.

Lisa: That’s what makes a language really rich. Because it allows you to express so many different details and, yeah, attitudes. I really like that.

Luke: Another good one is doch. You can use it to mean ‘yes’ but in response to ‘no’. So if someone says “nein” and you want to disagree, you wouldn’t say “ja” but rather “doch”. But again, this can function as one of these little words in the middle of a sentence that doesn’t really have an English translation. Think of a sentence like “Komm, sag doch deine ehrliche Meinung“. This doch doesn’t have a direct translation. It just adds this meaning that perhaps the person didn’t want to share their opinion, and the doch is added to express that the person should change their mind. It has so many different meanings in different contexts, though. We can get by without it in English, but it’s super useful in German.

Lisa: And it’s so important, I can’t really imagine not to have the word [doch]. And also, eben, I remember that my philosophy teacher at school, he said that we were not allowed to use that word in his class because it doesn’t have a meaning. And especially when you were doing a revision of the last class or something, people just used to say lots of ebens, because it’s just also a word that gives you something to say if you’re not really sure, and that’s what he wanted to prevent. But it does have a meaning, and it’s really hard if you’re not allowed to use it because then you want to use it all the time. Yeah. Definitely one of the fascinating words of German, of Austrian German.

Luke: If there’s not a translation for these words, how can learners learn them?

Lisa: The only thing you can do is give lots of examples and see if the person gets the meaning of it at some point. But then you also would have to deal with a person who’s really into the language and wants to understand. Because they can just not look up the meaning of the word in a dictionary.

Luke: In episode 8 I spoke to Sarah Heinz, and we talked about another issue with translation, this time with the English word ‘home’. We had words like Zuhause, Heimat, Heim, daheim, all having different connotations and ways you can use them. Heim and daheim are so similar, but they are used in slightly different ways.

Sarah Heinz: Well, they’re used differently in terms of syntax. I would say, Da bin ich daheim, so this is my home, that’s where I’m at home. Whereas heim is more in verbal constructions. Ich gehe heim. You wouldn’t say Ich gehe nach- daheim. Ich bin daheim, ich gehe heim, oder ich fahre heim. So that would be, I would say, the main difference. But the emotional attachment, Heim and daheim are, I guess, the same.

Luke: In this episode we also talked about words that have more negative connotations and even connections with more right-wing politics, and worse. Because of this, there are some people who think that certain words should be taboo.

Sarah: I mean, the most obvious baggage comes with Heimat, definitely, because it’s so connected to the national context of bordering practices, of exclusion, genocide, etc., and propaganda, obviously. But I don’t think that saying that a word is taboo is actually helpful for a cause. To forbid people to use this word or that word, it’s- I think it’s rather far more productive to say we have to be aware of the baggage that comes with a word and to be aware of the sometimes sneaky emotional effects that campaigns use. But to say that it’s a taboo word, you shouldn’t be allowed to use it – apart from obvious racial slurs, I mean, there are some words that should not be used, where it should have a consequence if people use them. But Heimat, is- I mean, it’s a problematic word with a historical baggage. But to say it’s taboo would be equally problematic, I would say.

Luke: There’s so much more I would have loved to include in this extra bits episode, but now it’s time to look ahead to series 2.

[Theme music]

Series 1 was so much to make, and I learned a lot from speaking to all my guests. Which is why I’m really excited for series 2, which will launch with two episodes on Tuesday 1st February 2022. Put it in your calendars, on Tuesday 1st February there will be two brand new episodes of Yellow of the Egg waiting for you in your podfeed. Series 2 will have more episodes, and this time there will be a new episode every second week. So we’re no longer weekly, but every two weeks. This way we can enjoy series 2 even longer.

So thank you once again for listening. Remember to subscribe to this podcast or follow it or whatever your app of choice lets you do. Instagram is @yotepodcast, that’s Y-O-T-E-Podcast, Facebook is @yellowoftheegg, email is See you all on Tuesday 1st February for the first two episodes of series 2. Machts es gut, servus aus Wien.

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