It looks like I’m getting through these fast but actually I’m just ploughing through because I owed like three chapters after getting back from Amsterdam…
Favourite word: Der Spotttölpel: Mockingjay.
Bonus trivia! OK, this isn’t a real word, but whatever! I like birds. It looks like, rather than an amalgam of “mockingbird” and “jay”, the German version of mockingjays are “mockingbird” “boobies“! Jays, both the Eurasian jay and blue jays, are “häher”. In the English language version, it makes sense that the Capitol would use jaylike birds to genetically engineer, as blue jays seem to be pretty common throughout huge chunks of the US and are known for their varied songs and can learn to mimic human speech. I’m not sure why the German decided to deviate here. “Spotthäher”, the logical translation, doesn’t seem to be a real bird anywhere, so that’s not the reason, and no booby of any species lives around Europe (once a red-footed booby washed up in Sussex and it was a Big Deal) so it’s not for reasons of familiarity either – anyone got any ideas why the change?
Favourite non-invented word: die Pappschachtel: cardboard box.
And now for something completely different!
This was not on my list – I nicked it from my sister while we were in Amsterdam because I didn’t want to finish the book I was reading too quickly (failure, but oh well, more books!) – and I not only don’t read screenplays (are they even usually published?) but haven’t seen the film. So this is going to be a short one.
(Translated by Sylke Hachmeister and Peter Klöss.)
I’m going to try really hard not to make every one of these into little political rants, OK? Unfortunately, the German language is tied up in politics for me right now.
Let me just say that I’m 100% sick of people talking about ~remoaners~ and ~the liberal metropolitan elite~, and that goes double for all the handwringing thinkpieces by self-hating remain voters blaming people who voted remain for being too patronising and scaring away the working class, or whatever it is we’re beating ourselves up for this week. I find the assumption that remain voters just don’t understand the poor downtrodden North of England absolutely insulting. What about us, the Northern remain voters? Do we just not exist?
I am getting over the result, by turning all my efforts towards being able to get German citizenship as soon I can. I’m not going to apologise for having voted remain – I’ve never been on the “winning” side of a vote that counted in my entire voting life – and I’m not going to pretend that a majority vote can suddenly make something magically turn into a good idea. I’m not going to be considerate of the feelings of the people who voted to curtail my rights and throw my future in limbo – and who won, by the way. I’m just not.
So, my favourite word of chapter 2! It was hard this time. There were runners up, but they might get their chance to shine later.
Plumpsen: to plop (or flop, or slump, but plop is just a good word in every language).
Just settled back in at home after a lovely long weekend in Amsterdam with my mam and sister, and I’ve brought back a bit of a backlog with me… I forgot how lovely it is to just read, without always thinking, Should be editing/writing. When I finish this final editing pass of my current work in progress, I’m going to just take a month off and read (while querying argh).
Anyway. I’m sure someone recommended that I read North and South, which is why it ended up on the list, but none of the people who I thought might have recommended it remember doing so. Of course, I’m over a year behind on my reading list, so that could account for it.
There’s something odd about cryptic crosswords. They appear in every newspaper as if they’re self-explanatory, yet they have extremely intricate rules and customs. As the many hours I wasted in the school library, staring at the back pages of the broadsheets, if you don’t know what they’re about, you can’t even get started (I think the only cryptic clue I ever got in school was a Times clue along the lines of “A shock on a clear day (1,4,4,3,4)”). At least Sudokus always come with an explanation.
It was Cyclops that got me into crosswords – when my student digs were full of old tattered copies of Private Eye, the crossword (and its generous £100 prize) tempted me to pick up the organ. By then, the wonderful blog Fifteen Squared had started, with its explanations of each puzzle, and so I could gradually pick up the tricks of the trade. Compared to the broadsheets, Cyclops – real name Eddie James, or Brummie from the Guardian – is usually a bit easier. The wordplay is a bit more straightforward, and the answers are mostly drawn from current events and slang, which makes it a good place for beginners to start.
But solving the Eye crossword has its own challenges. Alongside the usual abbreviations (you know, L for “left”, C for “cold”) and handy letter combinations (“promises” are usually IOUS, a “revolutionary” can be a RED like CHE), there are some that are unique to the Eye‘s puzzle and its political, risque tone. Since I haven’t found a list of them anywhere, I thought I’d list them here.
Because I want to go for German citizenship to retain my European Union citizenship, and because I want to do that while the UK is still an EU member so I can have dual citizenship (guess what, people who think everyone who believes the referendum result is suboptimal for the UK/their own personal lives should just leave: we can’t just up sticks and leave on a whim! Countries have rules about citizenship! I know, isn’t it crazy?), I’m trying to learn German. Because there is a German test.
And though I generally enjoy learning languages and am interested in the nuts and bolts of language, it’s stressful to do so with a short deadline and a giant question mark over my future. I can’t even go for citizenship until the end of August at the absolute earliest, because I need to have been here for six years (or I could wait until I’ve been here eight years if I want to coast by on slightly worse German but then I’d more than likely have to give up British citizenship, and now is not a time to feel like a foreigner back home, to be quite honest). I have shed tears, I have lost sleep, I have been frustrated with myself and worried myself into a frenzy because the fact of the matter is, I don’t know what my life is going to be like two years from now, but I know it will almost certainly be a little bit worse without EU citizenship. Am I being dramatic? I don’t think it matters. I hate not knowing. I hate not having any control. I hate not being in a position where I could be OK right now if I had to.
So, because my English-speaking workplace is at best ambivalent towards my ability to speak German, I’ve decided I’ll keep up my skills (haha, skills…) between lessons by reading, which is something I enjoy doing anyway. I read Wildhexe: Die Feuerprobe by Lene Kaaberbøl (English translated by Charlotte Barslund, German translated by Friederike Buchinger) at the end of last year to see how I found it, and with lots of dictionary-consulting and writing definitions in pencil all over the pages, I managed it, and it made me feel a lot better about things. So I want to keep on going.
Die Tribute Von Panem: Tödliche Spiele (translated into German by Sylke Hachmeister and Peter Klöss) is, of course, the German version of The Hunger Games, and I’m going to read a chapter between English-language books. I won’t be blogging each one, because my German is barely at a level where I can understand the sentences, let alone deconstruct the craft behind the writing, but what I will do instead, to make sure I keep checking in, is give my favourite new word learned in every chapter.
So, my favourite new word from chapter 1 was easy.
Nachplappern: to parrot.
Oh, you thought I only read fancy books?
The Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughan first crossed my path last year, when Spuggy, best of husbands, bought me the second in the series (Kitty Goes to Washington) for Christmas, after finding it in a bargain bucket in the train station. He quite correctly surmised that a werewolf talk radio host and super-hot Brazilian were-jaguar (literally from the blurb) would be right up my alley.
Spoiler alert, by the way.
And with this, poetry season is finally over.
I find reading poetry as mentally tiring as reading in a foreign language, but I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m so comfortable reading English language prose that the difference jumps out at me. Anyway, Leonard Cohen is the last poet for now.
A buzz from my phone woke me in the middle of the night and Guardian alerts nowadays are like little Gandalfs foretelling disaster, but it was the news that the US trying to deport people based on kneejerk racism has been ruled illegal. Which is nice. But I still couldn’t get back to sleep for worrying.
Let’s talk about poetry instead.
So, this technically wasn’t the next book on my list. The next book on my list was another volume of poetry, and this time a HUGE one. So I thought I’d treat myself to some lovely prose instead.
I don’t usually have so much poetry all at once to read. It pops up here and there on my list, and as I work through it, it’s the poetry books that tend to be the hardest to find (bearing in mind that I’m in Germany and our beloved British Book Shop has vanished possibly forever???). When I go home to visit family I tend to look in bookshops for anything I’ve skipped, but even there the poetry selections tend to be pretty thin on the ground. You get the big old names – Wordsworth, Yeats, that crowd – and then you get a smattering of contemporary and more modern poets – Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, Ted Hughes – and then poetry compilations based on themes like Love, Poems To Make You Cry, Specific Family Members, Love, and Love. The poets on my list seem to have fallen right through the cracks, and it’s not really any wonder I hadn’t heard of almost all of them before their obituaries appeared in the Guardian. So the books I’ve had to skip each year end up on my Christmas list, and become my new year’s reading. And that is why I read so much poetry in January.
Well anyway, this isn’t about that. This is about a book series that I love unconditionally, so there’s a warning for anyone who’s expecting me to be even vaguely unbiased. Also, this is the latest book in the series, so expect spoilers. I’ll keep them as mild as possible.