November 11th, 2006

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German for the American Soldier

In an oblique reference to Veteran's Day, I'd like to describe a small book I found at a library sale back when in high school. Titled German for the American Soldier, it was published in 1918 and furnished to American servicemen who might end up dealing with Germans in "The War to End All Wars."

Or, as the preface states: "The purpose of the text is to furnish in convenient form phrases and sentences that will be helpful to the American soldier in his dealing with German prisoners and with German-speaking civilians on German territory."

The book is divided into sections, so that soldiers can interogate, interpret possible military intelligence, ask questions about health, etc. Some of the suggested dialog is, at least to me, hilarious. I can so picture an American soldier with this little book.

Quotes, German and then English, with some comments.

Ich habe vorgestern in der Zeitung gelsen dass die Insurgenten die Hauptstadt bechossen haben. Glauben Sie das?
I read the day before yesterday in the paper that the insurgents have been bombaring the capital. Do you believe that?

[Hmm, note use of the term insurgents!]

Warum lernen Sie Deutsch?
Ich werde wohl "da drueben" mit deutschen Gefangenen muessen.
Ihre Kentnisse werden Sie also feaehigen sich verstaendlich zu machen und aufgefangene Briefe zu uebersetzen.

Why are you studying German?
I shall probably have to talk with German prisoners "over there."
Your knowledge will enable you therefore to make yourself understood and to translated intercepted letters.

[Yes, a pocket book will totally help!]

Ich moechte enige leichte Zigarren, etwas guten Tabak und drei Schachteln Zigaretten kaufen.
I should like to buy some mild cigars, some good tobacco and three boxes of cigarettes.

[Because soldiers really need to know how to get the important stuff when staking out small German villages.]

Wir haben nur Schinken, Brot, Eier, Kaese, Wurst und Bohnen. Anders finden Sie in diesen Dorfe nicht.
We have only ham, bread, eggs, cheese, sausage and beans. In this village you won't find anything else.

[You march into my town and expect gourmet? Wait, you're American, you might be impressed!]

Epidemien sind fast gar nicht vorgekommen, obgleich die Truppen oft in verseuchtes Gebiet marschieren mussten.
Epidemics have practically never occurred, although the troops have often had to march through pest-ridden territory.

[Yeah, nobody died of disease in WWI.]

Sie haben sich krank gemeldet, nicht wahr?
Ja. Mir ist uebel. Die Speise bekommt mir nicht.
Sie stellen sich nur krank.

You reported sick, didn't you?
Yes. I feel sick. The food didn't agree with me.
You're only pretending to be sick.

[And his epitaph was "I told you I was sick!"]

Ergebt euch! Streckt die Waffen!
Surrender! Lay down your arms!

[No matter what the language, you'd pretty much understand this.]

In diesen Kaempfen haben wir viele Gefangene gemacht.
In these engagements we took many captives.

[And now we will eat them.]

Wir haben soeben die Beschiessung der Stadt angekuendigt.
We have just made announcement of our intention of bombarding the city.

[Attention: Look out below!]

Blanke Messingeknoepfe sind auch verbannt als etwas Gefaehrliches.
Bright brass buttons have also been banished as dangerous.

[Throwing tradition out the window!]

Die Hauptvolle des Flugzeugs liegen in senier Kleinheit und Geschwindigkeit.
Sie fliegen sehr oft mir einer Geschindigket von mehr als hundert Kilomer pro Stunde und in sehr grosser Hoehe.

The chief advantages of the airplane line in its small size and in its speed.
They often fly at a speed of more than 75 miles per hour and at very great heights.

[A whole 75 miles and hour! Oh my!]

Der Motor ist die Seele des Flugzeugs, und von seinem guten Lauf haengt das Gelingen des Flugs ab.
The motor is the soul of the machine and upon its smooth running depends the success of the flight.

[This must've been written by a German. I mean... the soul of the machine?]

Et cetera!

Thus the Americans were supposed to be prepared to handle people like my grandfather, who in fact served in the German army during WWI, as a teenager. He wound up taking chlorine gas and going back home to Bremerhaven. Which had been bombed. He left a few years later.
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Sometimes I'm crotchety

I don't have an iPod or any sort of MP3 player, but I do use iTunes on my home PC and through that, I think I've figured out why I'm just not interested in one of those players: I just don't like shuffle-play. For most types of music, I like to either hear complete albums, usually in order, or the same artist. iTunes' "Party Shuffle" bugs the crap out of me because playing industrial next to Chopin has no appeal. Even with individual libraries, like say Klaus Nomi or Scandinavian neo-folk, listening to things in random order, over and over, gets so old. Whereas for me, with albums, every time you hear an album straight through, it's an experience, kind of like a *set* of songs that's designed to be played in a certain order. An iPod is not going to give that to you unless you mess with it by creating playlists. I'd rather just put in a CD. As for portability, I do have a portable CD player but I don't use it that often because I don't like walking around with headphones on. I feel that I miss what's going on around me and/or am going to get run over by a car I don't hear coming. The only good use for an iPod would maybe be at the gym when somebody is blasting a TV playing Fox News or football.
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Back in college I used to love reading articles by and about Quentin Crisp, and just now looking at the Wikipedia entry on this delight of the 20th Century, I remember why:

Crisp attempted to join the army at the outbreak of the Second World War, but was rejected and declared exempt by the medical board on the grounds that he was 'suffering from sexual perversion'. He remained in London during the 1941 Blitz, stocked up on cosmetics, purchased five pounds of Henna and paraded through the blackout, picking up GIs, whose kindness and open-mindedness inspired his love of all things American.

He he.

Meanwhile, a few choice quotes:

An autobiography is an obituary in serial form with the last installment missing.

In an expanding universe, time is on the side of the outcast. Those who once inhabited the suburbs of human contempt find that without changing their address they eventually live in the metropolis.

The poverty from which I have suffered could be diagnosed as "Soho" poverty. It comes from having the airs and graces of a genius and no talent.

The trouble with children is that they're not returnable.

Oh, and isn't this nice:
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Rock On!

My home wireless network seems to be experiencing a rare moment of functionality.

I've been sitting on the couch for some hours working while watching VH1's "Greatest Artists in Hard Rock." I have to say, even though I rarely listen to any hard rock anymore, I have a lot of fondness for it, going back to toddlerhood, when I was into Queen. Right now The Who is on, at #9, and dear God I love them. Led Zepplin, Cream, Aerosmith, NIN, Black Sabbath, Guns 'n Roses, whatever. There are some I hate, like Soundgarden, Insane Clown Possee, grungy sounding bands, but I can really go for some headbanging hard rock.

Meanwhile I may even get this web site out this week and that means I'll get paid. Which will be excellent!

P.S. When this show is over, I'm putting in Pretty Hate Machine, becuase I have to hear "Head Like a Hole" now!
P.P.S. Naturally as soon as I tried to post this, the network disconnected. Now it's back, although the status thing says "Disconnected" (and "Connected" when it's down). I'll never figure this wireless out.
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