Tag Archive for 'german'

Project 22 – 14 – 18 October 2007

Autumn Dinner

The weather has been autumn-like enough that my chili cravings have set in. Last weekend I made up a batch, along with some cornbread on the side, and I’ve been enjoying it since, usually with a Saranac Pumpkin Ale on the side. Mmm, fall tastes yummy!


Even after sunset, the colors of Cascadilla can stand out… provided your shutter speed is slow enough.

Overexpanded Nozzle Shadowgraph

Tuesday actually brought a half-way interesting optics lab, thanks almost entirely to the involvement of fluid mechanics. What the hell are you looking at? This is a shadowgraph of air escaping from the nozzle of a can of compressed air, like what one uses to clean a keyboard. The edge of the nozzle is the dark shadow on the left. The bright streak with dark diamonds over it is the air escaping the nozzle. In this case, the air can’s button is pressed all the way down and the air escaping is a) traveling at the speed of sound and b) at a pressure lower than the ambient air. The diamond pattern is actually a series of shock and expansion waves that bring the air back to ambient pressure. The photo was taken by expanding a laser beam, releasing the air stream into the beam’s path, reflecting the resulting image onto an index card (see the lines?), and snapping a high contrast, black and white photo of the image on the index card. It’s also brought to be extreme geekery.

A Mysterious Blue Beauty

Stephanie gave me some German magnetic poetry for my birthday, and I’ve started playing with it some on my whiteboard at home. This particular phrase just jumped into my head and refuses to leave. I think it’s the sound of the ö‘s that I like.

Golden Cascadilla Sunset

Tonight I actually made it out of the office before dark! And, as if the world were rewarding me for my lack of commitment to long, obscene work hours, the colors of the sunset were amazing. So, naturally, I stopped to take twenty pictures or so. This particular one is a subset of a gigantic panorama, and it’s one of my favorites from the set because of its lovely color gradients.

More Fun With Streaming Radio

Listening to more Irish radio has not given me my much desired chance to hear Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s new single, “Sleeping”. It has, however, delivered a conversation about a missing albino pony and the €1000 reward being offered for its return. The farmer calling in was absolutely priceless. I swear that I had about a half second delay in understanding everything he said even though he was speaking English. Very bizarre feeling, that.

My officemate suggested that I practice such an Irish accent and then call into the college radio station. I don’t know that I could manage it, frankly.

Speaking of languages, I am now officially no longer a German major.

Formal Versus Informal

Listening to Mannheim Steamroller just taught me something fascinating. Having learned German, I was familiar with the concept of formal and informal pronouns, and I knew that English once used you and thou for those purposes. Rather than continue using thou as the informal in English, however, speakers of the language began using you, which had, until that time, been a formal pronoun, exclusively. Presumably this was some kind of act of egalitarianism–in any case, the result is that modern English speakers tend to think of thou as stilted and formal when it is, in fact, the opposite.

Last spring as I was reading Wilhelm Tell as part of my German class, I noticed that characters were using the formal–or, more often, the informal–in odd places in the text. Run-of-the-mill commoners were speaking to royally-appointed governors in the informal even when they spoke to their friends in the formal. Though it struck me as odd–especially because the highly ranked characters never commented on the commoners’ lack of respect–I didn’t ever ask my professor about it.

Tonight I was playing around on Amazon in an attempt to make some kind of Christmas wishlist when I realized that a Mannheim Steamroller song entitled Herbei, O Ihr Gläubigen (O Come All Ye Faithful) was playing on my computer. Curious to see the German lyrics since I couldn’t understand the choir on its own, I googled for the title and found some lyrics. As I read the side-by-side comparison of the lyrics in German and English, it occurred to me that the familiar English version’s fourth verse uses the informal when referring to Jesus Christ:

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
Jesus, to Thee be all glory giv’n!
Word of the Father,
Now in the flesh appearing!

Although I knew that thee was informal, I’d never thought about its use in hymns and Biblical texts. The bells really went off in my head when I realized that the German version of the song (which is quite likely where the English text comes from, knowing hymns scrap that, Wikipedia says that the Latin version is the original) also uses the informal. Given my limited knowledge of Catholicism, it would probably have been considered a major no-no to refer to God or Jesus in the informal during the time period when most of these sorts of hymns were written, so I wonder if using informal pronouns for God was a Protestant innovation, perhaps intended to make individuals feel closer to God. Once again, Wikipedia comes to the rescue:

As William Tyndale translated the Bible into English in the early 1500s, he sought to preserve the singular and plural distinctions he found in his Hebrew and Greek originals. Therefore, he consistently used thou for the singular and ye for the plural regardless of the relative status of the speaker and the addressee. By doing so, he probably saved thou from utter obscurity, and gave it an air of solemnity that sharply distinguished it from its French counterpart. Tyndale’s usage was imitated in the King James Bible, and remained familiar because of that translation. #

In other words, because ye/you was originally plural and thou was originally singular, God and Jesus have been translated into English in the informal since they are also singular. That explains the English, I suppose, but is German the same way for the same reason? It seems to me that, since German retains rules for informal and formal pronouns, that they might be a bit pickier about shoving Du onto God. Or maybe my professors have made a bigger deal about that distinction than anyone does in real life…