Sunday, July 25, 2010

Howdy, Heidi!

This is way cool: Today we welcome our first visitor from Burgdorf, Switzerland! It resulted from a rather unfocused Google search where the search phrase was "give me a hint" (without the quotation marks). Can you believe it generated 11.4 million hits? And number 26 on the list was my cartoon post from June 9th, entitled "You wanna give me a hint?" (Note: If you click on that link to go see the cartoon--or any of the links below--please remember to come back, because you might learn some JOG-ruh-fee and a little German, too!)

The first thing I noticed in the hit's Site Meter details (after its Swiss location, of course) was that the search language was German. M explained to me that Switzerland has four different official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. The latter is actually a group of dialects spoken in parts of southern Switzerland and northern Italy. M says that Switzerland's success with its multiple languages is a good counterargument to the xenophobic nonsense about the need for "English-only" laws in this country. He's probably right. I'd especially hate it if they outlawed Doggish. In fact I wish more humans would make the effort to learn that one, as it's a lovely language.

M showed me a website called, and when we typed "Give me a hint" into the English text box and asked for a German translation, up popped "Geben Sie mir eine Andeutung," which M says is pronounced Gay'-ben Zee mir eye'-nuh Ahn-DOY'-tung. He says the "Sie" (Zee) form is a thing you use if you're talking to someone formally--and always to anyone you've just met. The Germans are big on formality, as are the German Swiss, only not as much. If you're talking to a friend or relative or classmate, you can be less formal and say "Gib mir eine Andeutung." (I have no doubt this is proper informal German, but when we typed that exact phrase into the German text box and requested an English translation, what we got was "Gib me a hint." So I guess the site's translation engine is mostly for teaching you to speak to people you hardly know--which makes sense if you think about it, because if you already speak the language, you probably know a lot of Germans and wouldn't need the website in the first place. Duh!

M also made a good point about the ups and downs of learning German: While it's mostly not a walk in the park, at least they have the good sense to capitalize all of their nouns, not just the proper ones, no matter where they are in a sentence! (Andeutung, for example.) That helps with reading the language, though not with speaking it, of course--unless maybe you shout the nouns, or wink your eye or give some other signal each time you come to one. For further insights, M suggested I read an essay by Mark Twain called "The Awful German Language." I did--and now I highly recommend it to you. Here's a link to it.

The next thing I noticed about the blog hit was that Burgdorf is in the State/Region (in Switzerland it's actually called a "canton") of Bern. According to M the nearby city of Bern is the capital of Canton Bern and also of the whole country. Burgdorf is also in the Emmental, a river valley known for producing the kind of Swiss cheese that has all those holes in it and tastes delicious even though it smells like dirty socks.

M bet me that if we Googled "Burgdorf, Switzerland," we'd find that it's a village built near a castle--and he was right. Then he told me that Burgdorf is German for "Castle Village." I'm glad I didn't put any money on it! That M always has an ace up his sleeve.

I'd love to know what sort of "hint" our Swiss visitor was looking for. Probably not the same kind I was referring to in my earlier post! But I'm glad (s)he stopped by.


Anonymous said...

Maybe you can meet Gulya one day and she can teach you some Russian! I understand it is very flexible with NO sentence structure.

Anonymous said...

Well, Buddy, I'm glad I stopped by too, even though this is the first time an essay written by a very intelligent canine caused me to burn my dinner! You certainly can grab and hang on to a reader's concentration! Can you spare me a few milkbones?