Created: — modified: — tags: fun

A small language session

German is a relatively easy language. If you know Latin you're used to declensions and can learn German without great difficulty. That's what German teachers tell you at the first lesson. Then you start studying the der, die, das, den... and they tell you that everything follows a logical order. So it's easy. And to prove it, let's look at an example more closely.

You sign up for first-year German and go out and buy the textbook. It's a beautiful, hard-bound book, published in Dortmund, which talks about the customs of the Hottentots (Hottentotten in German). The book tells us that when opossums (Beutelratten) are captured, they are placed in cages (Kasten) with bars made of wood slats (Lattengitter) to keep them from escaping. These cages are called Lattengitterkasten in German and when there is an opossum inside, are know as Beutelrattenlattengitterkasten.

One day, the Hottentot police arrests a would-be murderer (Attentäter), who allegedly tried to kill a Hottentot mother (Mutter). Her son is a good-for-nothing stutterer (Stottertrottel). That mother is, thus, a Hot­ten­tot­ten­stot­ter­trot­tel­mut­ter and her would-be murderer is a Hot­ten­tot­ten­stot­ter­trot­tel­mut­ter­at­ten­tä­ter.

Easy, right? So the police captures the suspect and put him, for the time being, in an opossum cage (Beutelrattenlattengitterkasten), but the prisoner escapes! A search ensues and a Hottentot warrior cries out,

"I have captured the murder suspect (den Attentäter)!"

"Yes? Which one?" asks the chieftain.

"The Beutelrattenlattengitterkastenattentäter!" replies the warrior.

"What? The murder suspect who was in the opossum cage?" asks the Hottentot chieftain.

"That's right," says the warrior, "the Hot­ten­tot­ten­stot­ter­trot­tel­mut­te­rat­ten­tä­ter."

By now you know enough German to understand that he's talking about the would-be murderer of the mother of the good-for-nothing Hottentot stutterer, right?

"Oh, I see", says the Hottentot chieftain, "why didn't you say so right away? You could have begun by saying that you had captured the Hot­ten­tot­tenstot­tertrot­tel­mut­ter­beu­tel­rat­ten­lat­ten­git­ter­kaste­nat­ten­tät­er!".

As you can see, German is a very easy language. All you have to do is pay a little attention.


Thanks to the website for help with hypenation.

Same article in Russian: Хотентоты.