It's inspired by a small game some of my fellow students started playing. I studied in Bamberg, a city which is (deservedly) part of the UNESCO world heritage foundation programme. The upside is that Bamberg attracts a huge amount of toursits, the downside is the very same thing. Also, you can't easily do larger home repairs and renovation work, as any improvements to your home are difficult to do, if you do not want to violate policies on historical monuments (yes, the entire city is a „monument“, to what nobody knows).
Back to the point. The game is rather easy to understand. Whoever finds the most stupid tourist and can fool him the meanest way in front of witnesses would win. So far the winner is a guy from Southern Bavaria, who made people believe that a „dogs are forbidden here“-sign near the Regnitz waterside (local river) was put up to warn dog owners. It doesn't sound like much, but he told them that the Regnitz is the home of large species of catfish, who'd prey on small dogs like pugs, pekingese or dachshunds (wtf, what's the plural?), and in rare cases, even small children. The couple asking actually believed that and started to avoid the waterside at any cost afterwards. I had a huge blast observing that and an even harder time to not laugh.
So back to it. Toursits are bad if you have to answer stupid questions. Like, being asked where the local dome is, when the people are standing literally in front of it. Or where the infamous town hall is, when they're in sight of it. It's ghastly. Also, nationalities do matter. The Asians are annoying, because they either ask you to take photographs, or to take pictures of you drinking beer in a famous local brewery. Well, Asians are okay-ish. Americans are the most annoying people, because of their sheer arrogance to read signs, translated guides and their habit to know everything better, while proclaiming their idiocy in a very, very loud voice. The rest of Europe is a lot shier, but not less stupid. However, most of the foreign tourists are really fine for me, as long as you can still move in the city. The worst specimen of tourists is from Germany. You do not only not understand them, their stupidity knows no boundaries. All of the examples above were sold not to aliens, but to various Germans. And there are plenty of more examples.
And yes, I do mean it, Germans do not understand other Germans. It's a common misconceptions of aliens, especially those from all Americas (the states, Canada, Peru and whatnot) to assume every German-speaking country (Austria, Switzerland, parts of Italy, CZ, France, Denkmark, …) would actually speak German. Believe me, they do not. Also, nobody can possibly understand how different the languages in Germany are. This comes from someone who is fluent in Franconian and does not understand other Franconians if push comes to shove.
If you open up the most popular German dictionary, the Duden, and look for odd entries, you will find plenty. There are some examples in which even the officials are not too sure what the correct form is. Take for instance the word for the military rank „general“ - it's General. There's no deviation yet. However, if you want the plural form, you have Generale and Generäle. It's both correct, but people from the North will claim the -ale, while the South will claim -äle; both are correct, but nobody will give in and insist their form is the true one. Then we have words everybody knows, but which vary across the country. Take for instance the word „Apfelgrips“ - it's the only real official definition of an object that's left when you ate an apple. You know the left-over always pictured in comics. I heard of a guy who wanted to collect as many alternatives for this particular object as possible. He stopped his collection after about asking a hundred people from one hundred different villages and cities. He had more than a hundred potential words. Imagine that.
If you have a look at German history you will soon realize why this can be. What is taught as „official“ German now actually is a dialect of the region around Hannover – Hochdeutsch. Southern Germans, e.g. Bavarians, Austrians, or the northern parts, e.g. Prussia, had different regulations. It sounded very similar, but there were differences in vocabulary and grammatical rules. I didn't study German, but that's what I heard and it makes sense.
As a consequence the only region within Germany who actually speaks true German are the people from Hannover. People within the largest cities still have different phonetics, at least slightly. A guy from Munich will generally have a deeper voice and different pronounciation of the letter R, P and T than a guy from Berlin. They'll also use different tempi, nobody in the south usually uses the simple past, while it's „more typical“ for people from the North-West; however not neccessarily their tempus of choice. … back to the point. The famous soccer player Franz Beckenbauer once expressed it like this: „I pitty Hannover, the people there have nothing, like really nothing, not even a dialect“.
There are dialects you can't understand as outsider – Bavarian (south), Platt (north), Saxonian (east) and my own (Franconian). To give you a few examples of „Franconian“ dialect (spoken from Bayreuth to ~40 km below Nuremberg)(listen to Mondragon, he's got a very Franconian intonation) and it's specialities.
- Even if our lives depended on it, we can only hardly make sound the letters „b“ and „p“ sound different, if we do, it sounds as if we read out loud some official text. Also, our „r“ sounds very Russian. I was often taken for a Russian with good English by foreign exchange students. Like 8 out of 10 assumed I was in the Russian Erasmus programme. As sign of protest I tried to learn Russian, but failed.
- We have a very unusual way of using prefixes. Take for instance the prefix „zusammen“. Alright, a step back. Franconians shorten „zusammen“ (together) to „zam“. That's all, we like short words, but take as long to speak out loud as if we wouldn't shorten them. Now, there are verbs like „zusammenbringen“, which is „zusammen/zam“ + „bringen“ - „together“ + „bring“ = bring together / unite. The Franconians, contrary to real Germans, use „zamsägen“. Which is „zusammen“ + „sägen“ = sawing together. Right, if there is a piece of wood we saw it together (make it whole translated literally), instead of sawing it into pieces.
- Filler words. Each German region has its own fillers. Southerns use „freilich“, which I can't even translate. It's like underlining that you are positive about something. The problem is no Southerner uses freilich. In Munich it's more like „freili“, in Franconia it's „fei“. Yeah...
- Fucking up grammar. Franconian grammar is to German grammar what „The Stove“ is to a Double Armory. I'll just translate this: „des musste raus druckern“ [Franconian] - „das musst du drucken“ [German] - „that one has to be printed out“. It's incredibly difficult to translate how we use the wrong article (des – das) and put a verb into passive, while also doing nasty things pronounciation-wise, it'll sound like druggern instead of the ck.
I'll stop here, I could write many more pages on the subject of Franconian dialects and probably will. If you have doubts that it's a highly complex matter, I suggest you ask the German player Ref, who currently resides as alien in Bamberg. Just, as last remark on the matter, Franconian underlies a n enormous variation within Franconia. In between Bayreuth, Aschaffenburg and Nuremberg grammar, pronounciation and rules are a rough guideline; however the resulting local rules have nothing to do with each other. Hence, I can understand a person from Nuremberg only if he accepts to meet somewhere in the middle between our freakish dialects. And only then. We usually argue with other Franconians about the „beauty“ of our dialect in private and only agree on common ground whenever a „verdammter Saupreuß“ is close, so we can team up to confuse him. We're the undisputed masters of passive aggression.
Fun with languages
This also brings me to the next point. Any German, regardless from where he is from, thinks his/her dialect is the most charming one. This, depending on your patriotism (mine is beyond meassurement), can lead to gigantic verbal fights. You can't possibly imagine. It's not about making your area sound the best, it's about your dialect being the superior one. I remember building up my tent on the festival „Highfield“ neir Leipzig – East Germany. My friends chattet up a group of girls meanwhile, who happened to be from Magdeburg (also East Germany). I dislike East Germany with all my heart; not the people, but their dialect. When they asked one of the girls what she did for a living, she answered „speech therapist“. My answer entirely killed the romance, as it was „you're living in the right area then“. And again, the Franconians were the asshole in the camp. I could live with that. „Die Ostdeutschen haben nix, nichtmal soziale Marktwirtschaft“ (no offense).
Anyway, the chart of most annoying dialecst within Germany always look similar. People like Platt usually the most, hence the thing spoken in Northern Germany. I couldn't identify Platt from other Northern speech when I hear it, but I kind of find the dialect charming. Good old fish people. People hate Franconian and Saxonian the most (East Germany, the latter one). I don't get it. Saxonian is definitely worse than my beloved dialect, which offers so much unique insults and comes with a soft touch of nihilism for free. Also, there's Schwäbisch, which makes me want to puke (sry Bakuryu). Muschte Häusle baue, my ass.
The thing is, whenever, you as German, are abroad you are bound to encounter other German tourists. Ever since the iron curtain was gone the East Germans and their loud blasting Saxönian are everywhere. And nobody but the Saxonian realizes how harassing it is. It's difficult. The people from Saxonia are fine, but those who travel are not. They're the happiest people on earth and are always eager to talk about the utmost boring things in their horrible version of German. I remember an occasion where I stood with two friends in a hostel in Prague (what a great city!). The hostel personell sometime approached us and told us there was another German searching for people, as he was alone. He came up and we started chatting. The same hostel-guy showed up and told us more Germans were in if we were interested. Seconds before he could say anything else, we already head the cries of Saxonians complimenting the colors of the wall or how lovely the sun was today, or some other random garbage. Without checking back with each other, our new found friend started chatting in English. When the Saxonians asked if we wanted to join them, cause we're Germans and all, all of us pretended to be Dutch. It's amazing what lengths you are willing to go just to avoid Saxonian tourists abroad. Call me an asshole and a racist, but it's the truth. Also sorry for those Saxonians staying on here, most of you are cool, just not in my holidays. They're rare and sacred to me.
I drift off and off. So, since I somehow explained how German language works, now to a very German thing. It's so ordinary that the ordinary German doesn't find it idiotic anymore, at least not very often. It's a thing called „Beamtendeutsch“ and puts the fun out of anything. Reading „Beamtendeutsch“ is draining the colour, it crushes your sould and it eats your mind.
To elaborate, Beamtendeutsch is a very specific way to write in German. It requires a native to understand it, there's no way in hell any non-native understands it without studying the language for a few years. And even then it's questionable if you get why it's probably an invention by the devil himself.
The origin of Beamtendeutsch can probably be found in the motivation to describe an issue as clearly as possible, without leaving any doubt. Lawyers want to write laws, which can not be misunderstood – for instance the fact that murder is forbidden. Beamtendeutsch is what you get if you want to be precise language wise and then leave it to brain dead clerks without qualification, or lawyers living in their ivory tower trying to pass by time for a few decades. Et voila, you have it, the Frankenstein version of German. Yes, German can get worse than it is already.
Before you understand the awesomeness of Beamtendeutsch, we should discuss the upsides of German. You all know that Germans can create new words by combinging existing ones. The language is very creative this way. You can describe nearly everything and if you leave it to a talented writer, such as Goethe or Schiller, you get wonderful literature in return. However, if you leave it to second grade politicians, feminists or – the worst idea – to the military, you get chaos.
Anyhow, so you can combine words. The text book example would be „Schifffahrtskapitänsmütze“ - which is rather long, but very logical. The common words in the entire thing are: „shipping“ „captain“ and „hat“ - in that order (Schiffahrt + Kapitän + Mütze). The merged word now describes a hat that belongs to a captain of a ship. It's really logical. Well, foreigners face the downside of learning a lot of vocabulary, but it gets easier the farther you advance. The same way you get monstrosities like:
„Rind + Fleisch + Etikettierung + Überwachung + Aufgabe + Übertragung + Gesetz“
„Cattle + meat + label + supervision + duty + assignment + law“
Cattle marking and beef labeling supervision duties delegation law – Wikipedia
Be fair, almost any legislation project has a name similar to it, just not as one word. I guess you get why clerks, especially politicians, are eager to use this speciality of German. It, theoretically, gives you the ability to be as precise as possible. It can also be a nightmare. Politicians, especially the ones in low levels, try to sound sophisticated. The smarter class of politician sooner or later learns that using more common words is far better if they wish to be understood. Sadly, most just don't care, it makes it easier to hide that they have no interest in what they say as long as they are elected.
Combine this with the ridiculous urge of Germans to organize everything. We want do have order, zere vill be order in mein garden, zere vill be order in mein holiday, zere vill be order in mein educational system AND MOST IMPORTANT ZERE VILL BE ORDER IN MEIN MILITARY.
Let's go into detail. Imagine you have compound words like the law title we just saw. Imagine you also have a really interesting grammar at hand. Now try to report any given issue in the most complicated way you can imagine. You will have enough time and money on your hands to spend an hour per sentence for a ten sentenc announcement. You can be very, very creative. If you're somewhat successful people will stop reading after five words, as they just give up and learn English instead.
So, this really was printed. And again, a step back, I just realized I can't translate it, so let's do it stepwise. A clerk around here had the task to tell the public that the community servants would take care of cutting the grass near streets, as this might cause some traffic jams every now and then. The title of the poster was something extremely idiotic, which you wouldn't expect. In theory, the following sentence would have been enough „Starting with April the greenery next to streets will be regularly cut. Please watch out when driving, our workers might block parts of the road“. That's all. Literally. I just pick up the most complicated Beamtendeutsch used to make it sound official.
First off, „straßenbegleitendes Randbereichsgrün“.
Straße (noun) begleiten (verb)
street + accompany
accompanying the street
Rand + Bereich + Grün
Border + area + greenery
→ greenery accompanying the street
This will be the objective of the sentence. The sentence is:
"Der Bürgermeister bestätigte, das straßenbelgeitende Randbereichsgrün würde Ende nächsten Aprils in regelmäßigen Abständen beschnitten worden sein"
It's just absurd.
The mayor affirmed, that the [greenery accompanying the streets] will be worked on regularly starting with April next year
I can't, really it exceeds my knowledge, to also translate that this is not only the second future (which is one of the rarest grammatical constructions) in combination with a passive form of the archaic (!) word „cut“ (beschneiden), which already is passive-ish btw, and also in reported speech. It's a highly interesting attempt to re-invent grammar altogether.
You will find constructions like this in a magnitude of semi- and fully official papers, laws and sheets all over Germany and most likely in big public institutions. However, the German Bundeswehr (military) is infamous for it. Insurances are shit compared to the Bundeswehr. If you want to encounter madness, you go to the clerks of our soldiers. There's really nothing like it world wide. If there was a war, we would have to cut down an entire rain forest first, just to make sure the clerks are armed with enough paper to organize the paper trail for the logistical ground work behind the curtains.
First, they invent the best words which already exist. Wheelbarrow. Schubkarre in German. In Bundeswehr-Beamtendeutsch:
„Lastenkipper, dreiachsig“. My attempt for a translation: „Load Tilting Device, having three axis“. Like, a device that can carry loads and tilt them onto a surface and can tilt them in three dimension (forward, to the side, diagonally).
Then, they're overly detail obsessed, even for Germans.
Liegt der Kopf mehr als 20 cm vom Rumpf entfernt, ist der Tod festzustellen.
If the head is in a distance of more than 20 cm of the torso, death has to be declared.
Das Gerät kann nur durch Brand, Wasser und andere zur Zerstörung geeignete Mittel zerstört werden.
The device can only be destroyed by fire, water and other means, which are suited to destroy it.
Uban myths, but quite close to reality also feature
Berge und Hügel unterscheiden sich vorangig in ihrer Höhe vom restlichen Gelände.
Mountains and hills are different from the rest of the vegetation mostly due to their heigth.
Bei einer Wassertiefe ab 1,20m hat der Soldat eigenständig mit Schwimmbewegungen zu beginnen. Die Grußpflicht entfällt dabei.
If in water with a depth of more than 1,20m a soldier has to start with movement to swim on his own. The saluting duty is not required in this case.
Also, they have no idea how stupid their slogans are.
Geh zur Bundeswehr und triff neue Leute!
Come to the military and meet new people. That's the intention. Too bad the chosen word „triff“ also means „shoot“.
Edit: Examples to highlight this isn't an exclusive Bundeswehr problem.
The German ministry for health amused me with these. .
Es kann angenommen werden, dass der Tod ein unumkehrbarer Zustand von Gesundheit ist.
It can be assumed that death is an irreversible state of health.
Definition, gesund. Nicht krank.
Definition, krank. Nicht gesund.
Definition, healthy. Not ill.
Definition, ill. Not healthy.
And more examples by various offices I found on the net.
»Besteht ein Personalrat aus einer Person, dann erübrigt sich die Trennung nach Geschlechtern«
If a staff council is formed by one person only, division by gender is not required.
»Kunststoff-Fenster mögen zahlreiche Vorteile haben, insbesondere in Bezug auf Wartung und Pflege - Holz hat den Vorteil, nicht aus Kunststoff zu sein.«
Synthetic windows may have numerous advantages, especially in the context of maintenance and cleaning - wood has the advantage to not be synthetic.
»Die einmalige Zahlung wird jedem Berechtigten nur einmal gewährt.«
One-time-payments are granted to a beneficiary only one time.
»Welches Kind erstes, zweites, drittes Kind usw. ist, richtet sich nach dem Alter des Kindes.«
What child the first, second, third, etc. child is, depends on the age of the child.
»Stirbt ein Bediensteter während einer Dienstreise, so ist damit die Dienstreise beendet.«
If a clerk dies during a business trip, the business trip ends.
»Der Tod stellt aus versorgungsrechtlicher Sicht die stärkste Form der Dienstunfähigkeit dar.«
Death, in the context of caretaking, is the hardest form of disability for service.
Anyway, we're already on page seven. Enough for today. Hope it was as good as the last and understandable. If it made piko and quint cringe and facepalm, I somewhat achieved what I wanted to.