Thursday, January 15, 2004

It's funny how languages change over time. Sometimes it takes hundreds and hundreds of years, but occasionally you can see a marked shift in a relatively short time period.

Take the concept of how Americans profess their "love" for everything. "I love chocolate. I love those jeans. I just love puppies." When I was in college, I was taught that the German verb for "to love"--lieben--was to be reserved for romantic love only. So unless you were planning on getting kinky with chocolate, jeans, or puppies, you should opt for the gefallen mir--"pleasing to me"--construction instead.

Recently I overheard Mike saying "Ich liebe something-or-other," so naturally I corrected him. And in typical Mike fashion, he argued with me. "But, Mom," he said, "that's how we learned it at Sprachschule. And what about the McDonalds ad campaign: Ich liebe es! They don't say Es gefällt mir!"

Fine, I said. If you want to get romantic with french fries, be my guest.

But then the other night in Findet Nemo, we heard Dory the fish say Ich liebe Parties! Mike gave me a sharp poke in the ribs with his elbow. It hurt, but it prompted me to do some investigating.

So this morning at my bread-making class at the USO, I decided to pick my teacher's brain while we were waiting for our dough to rise. She nodded vigorously in agreement with my position that gefallen mir is the appropriate construction. "But," she said of this new use for lieben, "it's an Americanization of German, and it's popular with the young people." From the look on her face, she had either just tasted something very sour or considered this as evidence that her mother tongue is headed south in the proverbial handbasket.

The other day I got an email from a writer friend of mine who wanted to know how German teens say "cool." The only word I could summon from my days of studying German in college was toll, but that seemed somewhat dated. I found a list of German kiddy-speak on the web, and it suggested the following terms:

Absolut super!

As I read down the list, I did a double-take at geil. According to my dictionary, geil does have a secondary meaning of "awesome," but its primary definition is "horny." And Affen means "monkeys" or "apes." Mega-monkey horny?!

Tonight at Brownies, I asked one of the German moms about how kids today say "cool." "Well," she said, lowering her voice, "there is this one word that they say even in first grade, but I don't let my daughter say it." I had a feeling I knew what was coming, and sure enough she continued: "It's geil."

"But doesn't that mean 'horny'?" I asked, feigning amazement.

"Exactly!" she said, nodding her head vigorously. "It sounds terrible, but they all say it." I didn't have the nerve to ask her about Megaaffengeil.

Now how, you are probably asking yourself, did Bonnie know that geil means "horny"? Well, I found that one out right after I found out that German slang for "testicles" is Eier. And I learned that one on the ski slopes of Austria!

Annabelle and I were working at the bottom of the slope with Rudy, our snowboard instructor (think Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure). The after-ski bar was just below us, and we could hear the music blaring out. Suddenly I heard the sound of Johnny Cash's "Burning Ring of Fire." But wait! It was in German.

So I hollered over to Rudy, "Hey, isn't that 'Burning Ring of Fire'?"

"Let me get her started," he shouted back, gesturing toward Annabelle, "and I'll tell you." He gave Annabelle a gentle push and then glided over to me. "No," he said in a low voice, "it's Ich hab' einen Ring um meine Eier." I looked at him blankly (ring? eggs?), and he continued: "It means 'I have a ring around my balls.'" Oh.

So, of course, when we arrived back home at the end of the weekend, the first thing I did was download the MP3 and the second thing I did was print out the lyrics. And there it was, smack dab in the second verse:

Ich bin dauern geil,
kein Genital bleibt bei mir heil.
Ich liebe Piercing an meinem Sack,
denn das bringt mich erst so auf Zack.

Pulling out my trusty yellow pocket dictionary, I quickly discovered not only the meaning of geil but also that heil means "intact" and Zack refers to a climax. Oh, look, and there's that new-fangled ich liebe construction!

Email me if you want a copy of the MP3. It's mega-monkey horny.

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