One of the first things that you notice when you turn on the TV, go to a bookshop or even just glance at a movie poster in Germany is that for some reason almost everything has a different title here. And I don’t just mean that they’ve translated the English title into German – translate a German title back and as often as not you get a long sentence which doesn’t hint at the plot of the film, or game, or book, but states it outright with zero subtlety or coyness. Remember how hilarious everyone found it when Samuel L Jackson starred in Snakes on a Plane? In German, that would simply be par for the course.
Airplane! is a good example. It’s a deceptively simple title in English – all it tells you is that the film involves an aeroplane, while the exclamation mark quietly suggests it’s a lighthearted comedy. The title could be translated into German simply as Flugzeug! or Das Flugzeug!, but clearly that wasn’t good enough for the German localisation team. Instead, they gave us Die unglaubliche Reise in einem verrückten Flugzeug – “The Unbelievable Journey in a Wacky Aeroplane“. Now we know that not only does it involve an aeroplane, but it involves a wacky one, making a journey which, we are told, it may be impossible to believe in.
This isn’t an isolated case either. Laurel and Hardy, poor chaps, get boiled down to their most obvious characteristics. In Germany, they’re “Dick und Doof” – Fat and Stupid. It’s hard to provide nuanced characterisation in a short, often silent, slapstick comedy, but I’m pretty sure there’s more to them than that.
Spirited Away is “Chihiros Journey to a Magic Land”. WALL-E is Der letzte räumt die Erde auf – something like “The Last Tidying of Earth”. On a more adult note, In Brugges becomes Brügge sehen… und sterben? which is the frankly brilliant See Brugges… and Die? (This title, I think, sounds best if you say “and Die?” in a confused, inquistive voice)
While Life of Brian and Meaning of Life stayed the same, Monty Python and the Holy Grail in Germany is Die Ritter der Kokosnuß, or “The Knights of the Coconut” – an accurate title, I suppose, since there are more coconuts in the film than grails, though it’s an odd part of the film to focus on. (And Now For Something Completely Different became The Wonderful World of Gravity, but that’s more inscrutable than literal)
The best title, however? The one that inspired this whole post? That belongs to the otherwise justly obscure 1994 TV movie Baby Brokers, which by the time it reached Tele5 had become Eine Mutter verkauft ihr Baby – “A Mother Sells Her Baby”*. There it is – the platonic ideal of a film title. There is nothing this title hides about the film. It is perfect.
* IMDb also lists Kids for Cash – Eltern ohne Skrupel – “Kids for Cash – Parents Without Scruples” – as an alternative title. This is also a pretty good title; I especially like the way they’ve decided to title it half in English and half in German, as well as the understatement of suggesting that a mother who sells her baby is “without scruples”. Also, I like the word “scruples”.
So apparently all the recipes I post are for soups? Well, whatever, soups are delicious and this is the perfect time of the year for them (incidentally, our max/min thermometer claims it’s been down as low as -16°C at night and it’s not been above freezing for a fortnight. Yay Frankfurt).
This is cream of pepper soup – delicious, spicy, adaptable and easy to make. In other words, pretty much the perfect soup.
Cream of Pepper soup (Paprikasuppe)
Serves 2-3 (Für 2-3 Portionen)
- 2 to 4 peppers. Any colours in any combination works – I’ve tried the soup with red peppers, orange peppers and green peppers, and they’re all great. (2 bis 4 Paprikaschoten, alle Farben)
- 1.3 litre of chicken or vegetable stock (1.3 l Hühner- oder Gemüsebrühe)
- 1 medium onion, chopped (1 mittelgroße Zwiebel, gehackte)
- 150 ml single cream (150 ml 30% Sahne)
- 2 teaspoons black pepper (2 TL schwarze Pfeffer)
- Paprika or cayenne pepper (Paprika oder Cayennepfeffer)
- 1 tablespoon of butter (1 EL Butter)
Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onions and soften for 5 minutes. (Die Butter in einem großen Topf schmelzen, die Zwiebel hinzugeben und 5 Minuten erweichen.)
Chop and deseed the peppers. (Die Paprikaschoten hacken und entkernen.) Some recipes suggest peeling the peppers, but if you have a blender then this is a load of faff with no real point. Add the pot and fry for a couple of minutes. (Die Paprikaschoten in den Topf fügen, und 2 Minuten braten).
Add the stock and black pepper and simmer for about half an hour. (Die Brühe und den schwarzen Pfeffer dazugeben, und 30 Minuten leicht köcheln lassen.)
Add the half the cream and blend with a hand mixer. (Der Hälfte der Sahne geben und mit dem Stabmixer pürieren) Garnish with the rest of the cream and the paprika or cayenne pepper. (Mit dem Rest der Sahne und Paprika oder Cayennepfeffer garnieren.)
Another recipe! This one’s inspired by a delicious mushroom soup from Bettys in Harrogate, this is a fairly quick and easy soup which goes great with crusty bread. It has a savoury aniseed taste from the tarragon, balanced by the rich creamy cheese.
Also, to practice my German, I’ve included what I hope is a translation of the recipe, the format and vocabulary loosely based on the structure used on the site Suppenkunst.de. If it could be improved, please comment!
Mushroom, tarragon and goat’s cheese soup (Pilz-Estragon-Ziegenkäse-Suppe)
Serves 2-4 (Für 2-4 Portionen)
- 4 shallots or small onions, chopped (4 Schalotten oder kleine Zwiebeln, gehackte)
- 250 g chestnut mushrooms, chopped (250 g gehackte braune Pilze)
- 250 g white mushrooms, chopped (250 g gehackte weiße Pilze)
- 300 g soft goat’s cheese (300 g Frischkäse aus Ziegenmilch)
- 2 or 3 sprigs of tarragon, finely chopped (2 oder 3 feingehackte Estragon-Zweige)
- 1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock (1 Liter Huhnerbrühe oder Gemüsebrühe)
- 1 tablespoon of butter (1 EL Butter)
Melt the butter in a large pan, add the mushrooms and shallots and fry for 5 minutes. (Die Butter in einem großen Topf schmelzen, die Pilze und die Schalotten hinzugeben und 5 Minuten braten.)
Add the stock and simmer for about half an hour. (Die Brühe dazugeben, und 30 Minuten leicht köcheln lassen.)
Add the goat’s cheese and tarragon, mix well, and blend with a hand mixer. (Den Frischkäse und den Estragon geben und gut unterrühren, und mit dem Stabmixer pürieren)
Enjoy! (Guten Appetit!)
Well, we finally have the internet at our flat – a process that took longer than we expected thanks to Deutsche Telekom’s insistence that before we needed a German phone number before they’d send an engineer to set up our German phone number.
Anyway, in the dark pre-internet days I spent my hours learning German and stealing the wifi at Starbucks. One of the best things about German as far as I can tell is its vocabulary – with complicated words often being compounds of simpler ones, it’s generally not too difficult to work out the meaning. As a random example, where English uses the word “pyjamas” – not related to any other word in the language and therefore impenetrable to anyone who hasn’t learned it – German uses “Schlafanzug”; literally “sleep suit”.
The compounding system isn’t always clear (it seems rather a nonsequitur that oxygen, which is fairly obviously a flavourless gas, should be called “sauerstoff” (literally “sour stuff”), but apparently it’s because oxides tend to taste sour), but it does give rise to some brilliant words. These are my favourite ones I’ve come across, although bear in mind that I might not always have got them quite right:
- der Weltraum – The German word for outer space, this literally means, evocatively, “the world room” (though admittedly “Raum” seems to be used a lot to refer not just to rooms (which it is cognate to), but to spaces in general).
- gegengleich – This word came up in an explanation of antimatter, and describes the property of antimatter that all its features (except mass) – charge, strangeness, lepton number, etc – are equal in magnitude but opposite in sign to the equivalent piece of regular matter, something English doesn’t really have a proper word for. With a bit of poking Google translate comes up with “diametrically opposed”, which I suppose comes pretty close (especially if you’re thinking in terms of complex numbers).
- die Wissenschaft – It must be lot harder to be anti-science when your word for science literally just means “knowledgehood”. That’s what science is, after all – a collection of knowledge.
- verlaufen – The “ver-” prefix seems to be a pain in the arse when it comes to learning words – it modifies the verb it’s connected to in one of several incredibly abstract ways, meaning that generally I end up having to just look up what a ver- verb means in the dictionary – but I do like its “to do something with negative consequences” meaning. “laufen” is “to walk”, “verlaufen” is “to walk with negative consequences” – i.e. to get lost.
- die Bremse – It’s a brake. I’m putting it here just because it gives us one of the best physics words ever, bremsstrahlung.
- der Durchfall – It means “diarrhoea”. Literally, it’s “through fall”. Things that fall through you. Ew.
- das Eiweiß – This means both, literally, “egg white” and, by analogy, all protein in general, so according to the back of the carton of orange juice in front of me, each glass of juice contains 1.4 grams of egg white. I imagine German food science labs being like one giant, neverending “Who’s on first?” routine.
- Every occupation name ever – For most occupations, German lacks any gender neutral word. If you talk about a Lehrer, for instance, you’re talking not just about a teacher, but a male teacher specifically – the female form is Lehrerin. This means that all job adverts have to, completely unnecessarily, advertise for both the masculine and feminine forms – eg, Lehrer/in.
This list also originally contained Zwolffingerdarm – the German word for the duodenum – which literally means “twelve finger intestine”, for being incredibly gross, until I realised that the English word for it means exactly the same thing – we just had the sense to mask it in Latin first. Duodenum digitorum indeed.