More German in English

Here is another interesting example of a German prefix in English. … 098054.htm

Hi Jamie, thank you for posting this interesting paragraph which contains yet another word that is new to me: jaunty. The dictionary says it means lively or merry. Could you please tell me how popular this word is? How often would the average American (how do you define this term ;-)) use the adjective jaunty in their daily conversations?

Jaunty isn’t a word we use every day, but it’s not unusual. In my generation and later, Americans usually use it in a slightly whimsical way.

Jamie, could you please give us an example of how to use jaunty in a whimsical way?

Almost every time jaunty is used by Americans it’s meant whimsically. It’s an old, out-of-fashion word, so almost any time anyone uses it, it’s a sort of reference to the 1920s or earlier. It’s like when someone says something is groovy. They may use the word with a straight face, but the word has not been popular since the late 1960s (and in my part of the country we NEVER used it!). So if you now hear someone say something is groovy, he’s either being whimisical or sarcastic, and everybody gets a picture in their mind of something from the 1960s, or maybe of Austin Powers.

Smashing Baby!
I didn’t want to be rude, but this is what crosses my mind whenever I hear of Austin Powers,

Today’s Merriam-Webster word of the day is another example of how many German words are finding their way into the English language.

Curiously, and please correct me if I’m wrong, these terms don’t seem to be on the usual vocabulary lists for English learners – maybe apart from a few very common ones like rucksack, noodles and kindergarten, which some students tend to pronounce ‘–garden. The latter has remained untranslated in Spanish too, like (only) a few others: poltergeist, dachshund, delicatessen, muesli, for example.

I think you should say “have always found their way into the English language”.

That’s because Continental Europeans have some kind of concept of “linguistic purity” that doesn’t exist very strongly in English. Foreign textbooks and teachers won’t teach certain words or expressions to students, because they think they’re “not English”. But they ARE English.

Another problem is that you can teach these words to foreigners and they simply won’t believe you. If someone in my ESL classes sneezes, and I say, “Gesundheit!” they think I’m joking, and just speaking German for fun. I tell them that Americans say, “Bless you!” and, “Gesundheit!” interchangeably, but they don’t believe me until they hear it several times outside the classroom.

One time a colleague of mine in the Czech Republic farmed out a menu to me for translation. There was a Czech meat dish in it called “sv?ckov?” and I translated it as “sauerbraten”. The man insisted I translate the word into English, and I told him that the English term for the dish IS “sauerbraten”. He nonetheless refused to accept the word, claiming the client would think he was crazy if he brought the menu to him like that.

By the way, some less-educated Americans call kindergarten “kiddie garden”, which is a sort of direct calque, even though these people don’t know it.

Somehow, a ‘sour roast’ wouldn’t sound so appetizing :slight_smile: ! It’s like ‘sauerkraut’. It’s not very popular here, but it would be even less so if we translated the name of the dish!

:idea: Hmmmm… this discussion raises the following question in my mind:

Which spelling is correct in English:
sauerkraut :?:
sourkraut :?:



My American dictionaries say “sauerkraut”. I have never seen the spelling “sourkraut”.

The ones I’ve consulted also give ‘sauerkraut’. Maybe the dish sounds less sour this way!

Funny how tastes or cuisines change according to where people live. The further north you go, the more sour dishes you find, it seems. I pesonally love mixing flavours, especially sweet and sour foods and pickles. We also use vinegar and lemon in dressings, but fermented food is just not usual here.

I’ve noticed that as you get into hot climates the food gets spicy, no matter what part of the world you’re in. It’s claimed that food was spicier in Europe during the Middle Ages also, and my theory is that in the days before refrigeration, spice hid the bad taste as food started to detriorate.

You do have a point, Jamie. But I can think of another reason as well. Spices, especially salt, black pepper and even red pepper help for conservation the food for a longer period of time. As far as I know the Indians used this method a lot in order to preserve as much meat as possible for the winter when they couldn’t really hunt.

And these time old preserving methods are still used nowadays. Red pepper (Sp piment?n) is one the main ingredients of our typical, often air-dried or smoked chorizo sausage. ‘Jam?n serrano’ (mountain ham) is salted and dried in cool mountain air – the most expensive variety is the ‘black leg’ (Sp pata negra) ham, from pigs which are fed exclusively with acorns. Salt and smoke are also used to cure the delicious ‘cecina’, a dried piece of beef.

They mainly dried and smoked it. It’s possible they also used salt, but I don’t think they had access to all those spices – or are we talking about different Indians? You can still get Indian-style beef jerky in any large or small grocery store or gas station in the US, although now it can come in various different flavors, like teriyaki or Cajun spice. It’s almost pure protein, and one of my friends calls it “emergency food”.

Speaking of food preservation, have you ever read the book “Salt” by Mark Kurlansky? It’s a very interesting economic and social history of salt, which is the only rock that people eat. In English there are a lot of interesting popular books on the history of various animals, vegetables and minerals. I’ve got them also on potatoes, bananas, tobacco, tea and coal. There’s even a whole history book on codfish. These things changed the course of whole nations and even caused wars!