Monday, 17 June 2013

A “Gartenhose” is not a “garden hose” – or is it?

Recently my 5-year old daughter explained to my German speaking mum how she had helped in the garden: “Und dann hab ich die Blumen mit der Gartenhose gegossen.” That caused some confusion because she had literally said: “And then I watered the plants with the garden trousers.” We quickly clarified that a Gartenhose are gardening trousers, and that the word for garden hose is Gartenschlauch.

Then I started wondering whether there might be a connection between the two words. In German, we speak of “Röhren-Jeans“ or “Röhrenhose” (tube jeans or tube trousers) to describe very tight fitting trousers. Maybe the distance between hose and Hose is not as removed as it seems at first sight?

I checked the Oxford English Dictionary and indeed: the old meaning of hose was trousers! The contemporary English meaning of hosepipe was derived from that, presumably because of the shape of both trousers and tubes. This means that the contemporary German use of the word is the archaic English term.

I doubt though that this is an indication for my 5-year old becoming a historical linguist. However, I did not only learn that there is a connection between two words I would never have connected before, but also that I can access the OED for free by simply using my local library card

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The longest German word is gone

And? Is it a loss that we don't have the Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz anymore? 
Honestly, before the word was in the news, I had never heard of it before. A legal term that would not be used in everyday German. So - no - I don't think it will be missed. It only made the news because it was long, not because of its meaning. 
Stylistically it is always more elegant to be concise and the rules that were recently distributed on Facebook were a nice ironic summary of  that idea. 

Soooo - since the term was created as a regulation against mad cow disease and this does not seem to be an issue any more, the word can go. But who knows what legalese the horse meat scandal produced in Germany. Surely the labelling of beef still needs to be monitored?