25 February 2008

Greetings From Vienna - Auf Wiedersehen

Actually, I can go without wiedersehening Vienna for another 8 years...also, fyi, the pictures in this blog have nothing to do with the text, they're just random shots of the city.

In the beginning, there was German. A noble language etched with the power and force of the German-speaking peoples' forefathers. Then, at some point the Saxons made their way to the island Brittany (aka Britannia, Britian, etc) and brought their noble langauge with them. The, during or after the Norman invasion and the arrival of William the Conqueror (I'd be able to describe this better had my university/professor thought to include history of the german language as course but no...)German began to devolve and soon the world had English. Then at some point high school students started to study the language in which their's is rooted and the world then had Germish (German-English). Or Engman I suppose but it doesn't have as nice of a ring...

Now the situation is even worse. As English evolved from German and we in England and American and America Jr. to the north spoke English and the Germans and Austrians retained their language, it seems that the devolution is happening again. English has been sneaking its way into languages for decades now like an insiduous disease eating away at perfectly good langauges. Some, like Chinese, are such as they cannot accept English words and continue to make up their own to fit increasingly modern concepts. For example, my favorite Chinese word is the word for bus: gong gong chi che (ignore my bad pin yin, I never got the hang of it) which literally translated means 'public together vapor cart.' Others like the French simply refuse to let English take over their language. So whatever contempt I have for the country as a whole I have respect that they insist on linguistic integrity.

On the opposite end of the scale is German which is increasingly using more and more English words. First it was just technical words. Hier mit dem Maus an das Computer kilcken. (Click here with the mouse on the computer). Das Internet, das Kredit Karte etc etc. So ok, on the one hand, technical words (although credit card isn't really technical...) but everyday words for which I know they have perfectly good words of their own? That's unforgivable. For example, I had dinner in an Indian restaurant tonight (more about that below) and the waiter wanted to know how spicy I wanted it. Gar nicht scharf (not at all) or medium scharf. Medium? Medium?! Since when is that a German word? Answer...it's not!

Ok, enough of my rant...on to food!

Since I have given up meat for Lent I've been mostly living on pizza and pasta and after this long, even I can get sick of pizza. I know, right? Take a minute to let that one soak in! In any case, I was delighted to happen across an Indian restaurant today. I ordered butter naan and my second favorite Indian dish, palak paneer, which is spinach cooked down with onions and 'spices' until it's the consistancy of baby food and then has chuncks of soft white cheese tossed in. I ate traditional Indian style which means by hand using only the right hand. Now no one else in the restaurant was doing this and probably it was taboo but whatever. I am a firm believer in eating food the way it's eaten in its country of origin. For foods out of India and Pakistan and a few other countries, that means by hand (only ever the right one!). For China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan it means chopsticks or toothpicks for street food. In the western world it's forks or hands. I think it is an unforgivable sin to eat Chinese food with anything but chopsticks.

And back on track...

About halfway through my palak paneer my stomach caved in on itself and crumpled into a tight, angry ball. Uh oh. This is not going to be pleasant. But did I stop eating? Pfft. No. Also not one to turn down Indian sweets I ignored the pains in my stomach and ordered dessert-gulab jamun and chai. The gulab jamun was lovely but the chai was a serious let-down. I expected that an Indian restaurant, even one in Germany but with an obviously Indian owner (and I thought the Austrian accent was odd!) could do a chai at least as good as mine. I was so wrong. Oh well. Despite the gripping stomach ache and the disappoiting tea I do not regret tonight's dinner. If nothing else I got some much needed iron.


Deutlich said...

The invasion of English words into the German language has been a hot-button debate in Germany for at least two decades. My grandparents (who are German) still write certain letters the way they did when they were kids, which by now have completely changed to make the language "simpler" and in continuing w/this theme.. more and more English words seem to creep in.

Lauren said...

I continue to mourn the loss of the β . I still write it, even though "supposedly" it's no longer in use.

K said...

There are actually a large number of Middle Eastern countries where people don't eat with the left hand- I didn't know that India and Pakistan were "left hand is a no-no" places too. Is it dependent on the region there? I know a number of Indians who eat with both hands, which now seems strange. :) I agree about the chopsticks- my favorite though is folks who come into Thai restaurants and want chopsticks, when they use forks and spoons (albeit in the opposite hands) in Thailand. :)