Monthly Archives: November 2019

Mark Twain on the German Language

I know this is a rerun, but I’m jetlagged and hungry. This quotation always makes me laugh. I hope you’ll enjoy it anew.

Mark Twain traveled extensively, in the United States, in Europe, and in the Middle East. He was quite critical of the way the German language is constructed. In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, he wrote the following:

She had exactly the German way; whatever was in her mind to be delivered, whether a mere remark, or a sermon, or a cyclopedia, or the history of a war, she would get it into a single sentence or die. Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of the Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.

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Anachronisms, Inc.

We still say these things, even though we don’t actually do them any more.

When was the last time you rolled down a car window?

Remember those little stalks with a small knob on the end? I can’t remember the last car I was in that didn’t have automatic windows.

Have you dialed a number?

You’ve probably seen videos of teenagers being presented with an old-fashioned clunky telephone and told to figure out how to make a call. Try as they might, the kids remain clueless. After rotary dial phones, we thought we were so up to date when pushbutton phones appeared. Now it’s primarily touching a number if you need to call someone whose number isn’t programmed into your smartphone. If it is, just touch or say their name.

You still cc on emails—but you might not even know what that stands for.

We still send cc’s in emails. I’m wondering how many people even know what that means—it’s carbon copy and comes from the time of the manual or electric typewriter when you wanted to make a duplicate. You’d put a special piece of paper called carbon paper between your regular typing paper and a second sheet and feed them together into the machine. When you took the papers out, a duplicate of your original showed up on the paper that was behind the carbon paper.

Where’s the World Wide Web?

Remember what you’d have to write to get to a website in the early days of using computers? You’d have to put in www and then the rest of the address to reach your destination. It’s rare when you have to use that abbreviation any more. Things we take for granted change in a flash.



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Hyperbole, Inc.

If you’re not sure what hyperbole means, this advertising on the side of a truck I saw today will enlighten you:



(Who knew swimming pools existed on Alpha Centauri or even on poor, demoted Pluto?)

Incidentally, and sad to say, I once worked with an English teacher who pronounced hyperbole as hyperbowl. I swear. The word is Greek, and the last syllable is pronounced —lee.

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