20 October 2011

Hilf einem "älteren" Menschen

Have you ever read The Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks? It might only be funny for people who like to edit things, but it's certainly worth a look because of the witty meanings sarcastically gleaned from unnecessary quotation mark use. Ever since I first read it, I've run into things I thought would be great to send in. Like this one:


This faux-pas was committed by none other than the Leipzig Institute Student Council in a document about living more spiritually as a group for a few weeks. "Hilf einem 'älteren' Menschen" means "Help an 'older' person." Is the definition of "older" to be decided by the individual helping--so would a roommate or coworker who was older than I count, for example? Or was the student council afraid of offending by calling someone "old," so they substituted a quotation-marked comparative to soften the adjective's negative connotation?

Despite the hilarity of the vague definition of "older," I loved the idea of the program and read the assigned scriptures and completed suggested activities each day during our Holy Weeks Program. At the end of the few weeks, we were supposed to do a write-up about how we liked the program, which I promptly wrote and sent. Interestingly enough, not another thing was ever said about the program in institute. Apparently only one person participated. (No, not even the brain child's parents participated. Too bad; they missed out.)

1 comment:

  1. Well, actually these quotation marks aren't too bad. We lack a good translation for the nicer term elderly. Using the comparative is the usual way to soften the meaning but yes, it is not absolutely clear and there are still people who feel a little bit offended once you address them as older people. That's why...

    Every German will get the correct meaning underlined by the quotation marks. And noone will mix it up with a roommate 2 years older than you.

    In the German language we do have other problems. Some of them come from all the American words/phrases we use. Think of apostrophes! Instead of "Geertjes Brief" people tend to write "Geertje's Brief". Nice in English, wrong in German. The plural of babies is Babys in German. But people care less.

    Then there are the Pseudo-American-terms... (e.g. Handy, Public Viewing)

    So what?! Question marks and apostrophes shouldn't be as important as some kind of serious efforts to live better. The result of the mentioned program is poor. And THAT is a pity.