February 02 2009:
Those of you who have stopped by this blog will have noticed by now that I spend [herself would say – considerable] portions of my life in Germany. Kid 2.0 delights in calling it ‘Chernamy“, but then he is only three years old and has yet to master the English language. In his defence though, he does also attend a french language day care so that’s quite a lot for his neural pathways to contend with. I, on the other hand really have no good excuse. Which leads me to the topic of the day – muddling by in a second language.
In an earlier life I studied high school German, mostly to fill an empty slot in my ‘electives’ made vacant by my utter ineptitude / disinterest in chemistry and/ or biology. So two years of high school Deutsch later and then fast forward several years in an odd coincidence I met and married my beautiful and very patient wife who just happened to be German Canadian – possessing a natural grasp of the language brought on by living in her family of very opinionated German girls.
My travels take me to Bavaria mostly – the residents of which, depending upon who you talk to, don’t actually speak German, but rather some quaint regional dialect [news, I am sure to the Bavarians]. At any rate, apparently my frequent visitations have done no good to my already poor grasp of the German language, infecting it with regionalisms and worst of all an accent. [Apropos speaking in another language – an aunt referring to my uncle’s butchered french sighed “he never conjugated his verbs!” – which pretty much sums up my fractured German grammar].
I was reminded of my linguistic shortcomings when about a year ago whilst visiting my wife’s[very recently departed] great aunt I referred to having visited the metzgerei here in town. Being the gracious lady that she was, she chuckeld very politely and corrected me nicely – surely I meant the schlacterei – as butchers are known in the proper parts of Germany.
At which time I began to consider that perhaps this concentrated exposure to only a very regional part of Bavaria might be having a negative effect on my vocabulary – and how many other colloquialisms had I unwittingly adopted without even knowing it? Long story short – I am now making an effort to not only improve my German vocabulary, but to understand regional oddities as I encounter them – thus some Bavarian German:
[a note on spelling: it is difficult to replicate the sound of the umlaut accent over a vowel – so spelling below is phonetic]
Greuss Gott: A form of greeting found throughout Bavaria, in place of Guten Morgen or Guten Tag. The visitor will encounter this expression offered up by the shopkeeper upon first entering a shop, and it is normal to repeat it in response. I am told that this particular greeting is connected with the Roman Catholic history of Bavaria and that it regained some popularity during the war years amongst Germans who wished to politely dissent from being associated with the Nazi regime.
Zhoin: a corruption of ‘zahlen’ which is the root verb ‘to pay’.
Zvoh: a corruption of the pronunciation of the number two – or ‘zwei’. Bavarians, and Austrians for that matter, tend to soften the vowels and
Servus: hello; and of course
Metzgerei: the butcher’s shop – known variously as a schlacterei elsewhere in the Federal Republic.