German So Funny

When I was studying French in school, my teacher at the time warned the class about faux amis. Literally translated this means “false friends”, but what she was getting at is that there are some words that are similar in two different languages which might lead you to assume that they have the same meaning, while in fact they do not. The classic French – English example that she provided was the word magasin, which you might assume means magazine, whereas in reality it means shop. While this is a perfect example of what she meant by a faux amis, it was not a particularly humerous one.

It was not until I started learning German, however, that I found a language filled with hilarious faux amis in relation to English. I remember being puzzled over ads for apartments which kept refering to their living rooms as “gross [and] hell”, which actually means large and brightly lit. I burst into laughter at a shop window with the word “Schmuck” plastered across it, only to discover that it actually means “jewelry”. Also, make sure you don’t offer someone a present and call it a “gift”, as that actually means you are offering them poison. My favorite German – English example though is probably the way that the parking ticket machines and highway signs politely wish you a “Gute Fahrt!” as you go about your way.

That is not to say that the hilarious faux amis only go in one direction. Describing the thick mist you had to cross in the countryside will get you laughed at, as you are actually describing the thick bullshit you were slogging through. I also personally spent a whole 5 minutes repeatedly using the word “mushy” to a student in describing the consistency he needed to blend his worms down to, only to be informed by my sniggering colleague that “mushy” in German means “pussy”, and not the one of the feline variety. Credit to my student though, he did not so much as crack a smile during my entire monologue.

However, despite the numerous examples that I have already come across despite my novice grasp of German, I think that there is one German – Romanian faux amis that just might trump them all.

My boyfriend joined me a few months after I had moved to Germany. He arrived one night, exhausted from his trip, but decided to join me and my colleagues on a traditional Kneipentour, which is a sort of bar hop often done as a leaving party for students. The typical way to do this bar hop is to have one shot and one beer in each location, so of course everyone clinks glasses and cheers before drinking. The fact that there is also a German superstition that you must look people directly in the eye when you cheer with them, lest you wish risking 7 years bad sex, added an extra wrinkle of hilarity to this story.

This being Germany we were not saying “Cheers” when clinking glasses, but rather “Prost”. After three rounds of people staring into each other’s eyes and saying “Prost” over and over again, my boyfriend finally asked what that means in German.

“It means Cheers”, I said.

“Oh”, he replied. “I thought it might. In Romanian, Prost means asshole”.

That has got to be my favorite faux amis of all time, even with all of the English ones put together. Everyone roared with laughter, made a point of emphasising the word Prost throughout the evening, and made a mental note to not say it in random bars should they ever visit Romania. It could lead to… an awkward misunderstanding.

So, do you know of any other amusing faux amis? Do you think you can beat “Prost”?

Holidays With Crys: Road Trips and Weddings

Hello again

I have just got back from the first of my planned trips over the next few months. This year I have promised to attend two weddings and a birthday in three different countries, and the first of these was a wedding in Romania. After a 26 hour drive across 4 countries, I was planning to post about the whole experience before diving into bed, only to find out that I was completely cut off from internet access. Oh well.

The road trip itself was exhausting and uneventful. Although I was hoping that we could turn it into a similar road trip as the last time I went down to visit my boyfriend’s family, he had far too much to squeeze into his two week visit to afford to dawdle, so we simply drove straight through. We managed to catch a couple of hours of sleep, then got in the car and drove to Bucharest for a massive, no holds barred Romanian wedding.

Having only been to one Irish wedding as an adult, I was curious to see for myself how the Romanian one would differ both from it and from what little I have gathered from movies and television.

[Read more…]

Why The Fuss About Wolves?

There is an ongoing discussion among conservationists when it comes to which species to protect, and which ones to allow to die out. As conservation efforts have limited resources, and as larger and larger portions of the planet are being developed to meet the needs of human population growth, the idea that we can try to save all species that face extinction is, unfortunately, quite naive. One such animal that finds itself in the center of this debate is the panda, which costs a fortune to keep alive and breeding with little to no chance of their numbers becoming stable in the wild again. Some argue that we shouldn’t spend such enormous amounts of money on keeping the panda alive when those resources could be better spent elsewhere, just because it is cute and cuddly. Others argue that it’s cuteness is precisely why so many people donate to keep it alive in the first place, and thus it should be protected in order to encourage enthusiasm towards conservation efforts.

I have heard similar arguments made not by conservationsists, but by laypeople in regards to wolves. Many, even those who are not enthusiastic about conservation, have heard and one point or another people discussing wolf populations, either efforts to reintroduce them into places where they have been extinct for decades, or decrying countries like Norway for allowing hunters to kill off huge percentages of their wild wolf population legally.

What, I am often asked, is the reason behind all of this fuss over wolves? I mean, they are predators! They kill other animals, they are just one more danger to humans, and farmers hate them because they kill off the odd sheep as well. Why spend all of this money and make such an effort to reintroduce a couple dozen wolves into places where no one wants them, when other species could be protected instead?

Recently, I came across a video that summarizes the case study of Yellowstone National Park very nicely. In just a few minutes, you can see what a huge impact wolves can have on their ecosystem.

Despite their villanous representation in cartoons or certain nature documentaries, top predators are essential to the balance of life as we have enjoyed it for centuries. Wolves are incredibly important, and can do wonders for their ecosystems.

And, let’s not forget that without wolves, we would have never had dogs. And without dogs, videos like this would never have existed, and what a tragedy that would have been for all of us.


Third Time’s A Charm

I would like to take a moment to congratulate France on their election results. After a run-off between the decisevely fascist Marine Le Pen and the pro-EU, pro-immigration independent Emmanuel Macron, Macron is the new President of France after a crushing victory.

Many of us were worried for the future of France given Le Pen’s frightening popularity. The isolationist, ultra-right wing populism streak infecting the western world was ominous for France. However, very fortunately, France did not follow in Britain and the US’s footsteps.

Most of the credit, of course, goes to the French people. However, I think that they were also fortunate when it came to their timing. Had their elections not happened after Brexit and the US’s Presidential campaign, there might have been even more apathy directed towards this run-off, and Le Pen might have had a better shot at winning. Another contributing factor, I think, was the presence of another establishment outsider, another option to vote against the status quo who was not a foaming-at-the-mouth racist.

I think that, more than a streak of racism and bigotry, we are in the midst of a streak of deep frustration with the current ruling parties, the establishment, and the embedded circle-jerk corruption. This anger and resentment is what propelled Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump. For this reason, I think that a US Presidential election between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders would have ended very differently indeed. Sadly, we will never know what would have happened in that case.

Either way, I am glad that France went in a different direction. While Emmanuel Macron is young, inexperienced and had little track record for one to judge him against, his inclusive rhetoric at least makes me confident that he was a better choice compared to Le Pen. I wish him the best of luck, and let’s hope that France will bring forth the positive change that is so desperately needed right now.

How Did I Not Know About This??!!

How I do enjoy browsing IFLScience in my free time.

Apparently, it has been common knowledge for years amongst children that crunching on mints with your mouth open in the dark is a very fun practice. IFLScience assumed that many people already new this, and so went on to explain the scientific principles behind why this is amusing.

[C]rushing a Wint-O-Green Lifesaver mint with a hammer can produce an optical phenomenon known as triboluminescence. This roughly means “friction-light” and refers to the light that is generated due to the breaking of chemical bonds when materials are smashed, rubbed, or scratched.

Waait a minute. Mints light up in the dark??!! How did I not know about this! This sounds exactly like the kind of thing I would do as a kid.

OK so now that we’re on the subject, why does this happen?

“When the sugar is cracked, electrical charge is separated, positive from negative, and when there is a big enough charge accumulation (electric field) the electrons jump through the air in the crack, colliding with and exciting the nitrogen molecules as they do.”

IFLScience follows this explanation up with a super slow motion video of smashing mints, which pretty much just blew my mind.

OK, that settles it. I may be fast approaching my 30th birthday, but I am gathering up a few friends, buying every kind of hard mint available in the supermarket, going home and turning off all the lights. This has got to be investigated, personally.

Maybe I should tell my friends what I’m up to though… they might get a little worried without some context.

This Might Work

I had myself a little pity party over the weekend. Someone vandalized my brand new scooter that I was so very proud of, after exactly one week of being in my possession, I lost my key to work, and a bunch of other minor First World Problems ganged up on me and got me stressing out. In response, let’s have a little political satire, shall we?


Has anyone actually thought to try it? It might actually work.