Fine Points of the English Language


“Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache“

German language, tough language


There is a lot of truth in this proverb, but the English language has many challenges, too. The longer I speak and write English, the more I realize that English is harder than it seems. Take the German word “Salat” for example. Whether it’s in the garden, your local supermarket or on your dining table, it is still “Salat.” In the U.S., on the other hand, it’s “lettuce” in your garden, but once it’s in a bowl, it transforms into “salad.” I constantly trip over this one and will say, “let’s have lettuce, um, salad, for dinner.”

Example 2: Schloss. This German word depicts not only a lock, but also a palace. That doesn’t necessarily make sense, unless you figure that ordinary people were pretty much shut out from entering palaces in the old days.

Example 3: Parkplatz. The German term refers not only to the space where you park your precious wheels, but also to the lot where you wander around aimlessly until you remember where you parked your car. In English, however, you have to differentiate between the “parking space” and the “parking lot.”

Example 4: Straße. In German, this term refers to the street you live on and the road you travel on to get someplace else. The English language, however, differentiates between streets, roads, highways, alleys, lanes, and drives.

Confused yet? When all else fails, use the German proverb “Da haben wir den Salat” – meaning “The fat’s in the fire” or “What a mess!”


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