German mistakes I have made

12 Jul 2014, 3:35 p.m.
Part One of a (probably) ongoing series.
  • The German word Lebensabschnittspartner ('life section partner') means significant other, one's partner for a period of one's life, not necessarily forever. I was so excited when I first learned this useful word that I referred to David's dad's girlfriend as his Lebensaufschnittspartner — his life sausage partner.

  • I've been learning and speaking German for nearly two thirds of my life. I am reasonably interested in military hardware. I have many friends who speak German and are considerably more interested in military hardware than me. Still, it somehow escaped my notice until last week that the German word for tank, Panzer, does not also mean panther. Panzer does also mean armour, which was sometimes confusing in role-playing games, but still didn't tip me off. I didn't know why these things were named after big cats, but I did not question it, as naming anything after a cat seems reasonable to me. (The German for panther is actually Panter).

  • This is the most embarrassing one. Back in the dark ages, when I was eleven and started learning this language, my German textbook had a list of synonyms for 'cool'. You could show enthusiasm by saying something was klasse, toll, prima, super, geil... Many years later, spending time in Switzerland and meeting David's friends and family, I dredged this list up out of memory. The word that came fastest was geil, and so I told David's nine-year-old cousin that her nail polish was geil, his eighty-year-old gran that her house and cooking were geil, so on and so on. After a while, David asked me whether I knew that geil means 'horny'.