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German Lessons

Fruit: In German a little squeeze can turn Gretel into Hansel As part of my trying to figure out where I come from and why my mother thought herring in tomato sauce was suitable for a 3rd grader's lunch box, … Read More

By / September 25, 2007

Fruit: In German a little squeeze can turn Gretel into HanselFruit: In German a little squeeze can turn Gretel into Hansel As part of my trying to figure out where I come from and why my mother thought herring in tomato sauce was suitable for a 3rd grader's lunch box, I recently retried taking German lessons at NYU. I had failed miserably at it in high school ("You mean I have to memorize all this stuff?") and again in college ("You mean I have to memorize all this stuff?") and again when I went to Germany ("Ich weiss nicht was Sie sagen." I have not memorized any stuff.)

The first day of these things is always awkward as we go around the room explaining why we'd like to learn to recast the world into the stark light of male, female and neuter.

"My fiance is German."

"My fiance is German."

"You people tried to kill my family."

After that, well, the class actually wasn't too bad. With my 5 previous years of instruction I had tested easily into level 3 out of 10 available classes. ("You have a good sense of the nouns, but do not seem to have memorized any verbs.") Being the optimist I am, I chose level 2.

I was easily the best student, and could sit back and enjoy the struggles of the woman who spoke Korean, English, French, but stumbled over "Potzdamer Platz." Ha! I am so much way smarter, even if I can only speak English and kindergarten German. At least I can say "Kindergarten." (Which is masculine, of course, even though the children are, technically neuter, except for a group of boys, which is feminine, naturally, or girls, who are always neuter until they are ladies and been around the block a few times.)

Here are some useful hints for knowing what gender objects are in German.

  • Fruit, such as oranges, grapes, cherries, and lemons are female, except for apples, which are male, because, apparently, they killed Snow White. However, when squeezed into juice, they all turn male. Apparently the German's believe a little pressure can go a long way.
  • Your eyes, ears, hair and eyebrows are feminine, even your lips are ladies, but your mouth and throat are male. Think about that the next time you lick your lips, or anyone else's for that matter.

In my next post, I will show you how not to stick words together in German if you are trying to avoid explaining how you spent the day misusing Canadian hats.

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