the awful german language

genau vertalingen

Some German words are so long that they have a perspective. Observe these examples:




These things are not words, they are alphabetical processions. And they are not rare; one can open a German newspaper at any time and see them marching majestically across the page,—and if he has any imagination he can see the banners and hear the music, too.

In A Tramp Abroad (1880) verwerkte Mark Twain de belevenissen en ervaringen van zijn tweede reis door Europa, in 1878, die hem door Duitsland, Zwitserland en Italië voerde. In dit werk publiceerde hij als aanhangsel ook het beroemde essay The Awful German Language, waarin hij geestig de eigenaardig-heden en moeilijkheden van de Duitse taal belicht: “Ik ben ervan overtuigd dat een begaafd mens in dertig uur Engels kan leren spreken, Frans in dertig dagen, en Duits in dertig jaar.


…finally, all the parentheses and re-parentheses are massed together between a couple of king-parentheses, one of which is placed in the first line of the majestic sentence and the other in the middle of the last line of it—after which comes the verb, and you find out for the first time what the man has been talking about; and after the verb—merely by way of ornament, as far as I can make out,—the writer shovels in “haben sind gewesen gehabt haben geworden sein,” or words to that effect, and the monument is finished. I suppose that this closing hurrah is in the nature of the flourish to a man’s signature -