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First Sunday in Advent/Erster Advent


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This first of Advent, which people keep wishing me a happy one of, seems to be a big deal.

And here are two jackdaws on the Stadttheater.


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Snow/Schnee


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Palm tree near Nuremberg:

A German shopping centre with bottle banks (Here it is in Street View):

All taken this morning. Nasty raw cold weather.


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A book you could read again and again/Ein Buch, das du immer und immer wieder lesen könntest


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I suppose there are some novels I could read again and again. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, some of Kleist’s stories such as Michael Kohlhaas, Die Verlobung in Santo Domingo, Das Erdbeben in Chili, maybe War and Peace (I’ve only read it twice, though), some Ishiguro, the Thomas Bernhard autobiographical books (I mentioned his autobiography, but there are other books like Wittgensteins Neffe).


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The NJW and legal English/NJW kennt englische Rechtssprache nicht


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I recently received a copy of an article from Neue Juristische Wochenschrift, Vertragssprache und Sprache des anwendbaren Rechts, by Rechtsanwalt Dr. Dr. h.c. Georg Maier-Reimer, the co-publisher. This was based on a talk given by the author at the Anwaltstag in May.

There are two statements in this article I can’t agree with. One of them is on p. 2549:

Die aufschiebende Bedingung wird üblicherweise mi “condition precedent” übersetzt, das ist wohl richtig. Die auflösende Bedingung wird aber als Gegenstück häufig mit “condition subsequent” übersetzt, und das ist falsch. Denn eine “condition subsequent” ist eine Bedingung, die nach der Transaktion eintreten muss, wenn die Wirkung der Transaktion bestehen bleiben soll. Sie ist also das Gegenteil einer auflösenden Bedingung oder die auflösende Bedingung mit umgekehrtem Vorzeichen: Der Nicht-Eintritt der condition subsequent ist auflösende Bedingung. Die Kategorie der auflösenden Bedingung in unserem Sinne scheint so im Common Law nicht zu geben. Deshalb sollte man, wenn man eine auflösende Bedingung meint, bewusst eine im Common Law ungebräuchliche Formulierung wählen, zum Beispiel “resolutive condition” oder “dissolving condition”, und diese sollte man besser noch durch einen Klammerzusatz mit dem detschen Terminus ergänzen, oder man sollte den Effekt des Bedingungseintritts ausdrücklich regeln.

(Aufschiebende Bedingung is usually translated as ‘condition precedent’, which is correct. Auflösende Bedingung is often translated as ‘condition subsequent’, and this is wrong. For a condition subsequent is a condition which has to occur after the transaction if the effect of the translation is to coninue in effect. It is therefore the opposite of auflösende Bedingung: if the condition subsequent does not occur, this is the auflösende Bedingung. The latter in our sense seems not to exist in the common law. So when one writes English one should translate auflösende Bedingung as ‘resolutive condition’ or ‘dissolving condition’, and add the German term in brackets, or else the effect of the occurrence of the condition should be expressly agreed.)

This paragraph was marked by a customer who wanted to avoid using ‘condition subsequent’ in a translation. I’m unhappy that such an authoritative source and person should spread this incorrect information. Was it not corrected by the other two lawyers at that session in May? The customer had cut out the article and kept it because he constantly has to deal with such terms.

Another point I disagree with is on p. 2547, where it says that ‘notwithstanding’ is often translated into German as unbeschadet, whereas it means the exact opposite. No, that’s not true: notwithstanding has two meanings, and one of them is unbeschadet. Here’s what Romain says:

notwithstanding ungeachtet, unbeschadet, trotz, ohne Rücksicht auf; in Abänderung von, abweichend von, nichtsdestoweniger, dennoch, trotzdem

Note the semicolon in the middle, separating the two meanings. And you can tell the meaning from the context.

Admittedly this article wasn’t about translation. It was about the dangers of using common law language when two English speakers write a contract in English which is governed by German law. The German courts may accept some of the common-law meanings of terminology in this case. Nevertheless, in passing, these two incorrect statements are made.


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The book you hate/Dein Hassbuch


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I have hated quite a lot of books, but perhaps I was unfair. For example, if a lot of people seemed to like a book, I might have been keen to disagree. And a book ha to be fairly well-known before one gives it the compliment of stating one hates it.
At junior school, I started reading Edith Blyton – I think it was the Famous Five, not the Hanni und Nanni the Germans are so familiar with. I found it pretentious and fake, but then I didn’t read much, although over the years there were many voices in praise.
At grammar school, I read in full but disliked The Lord of the Rings. Again, it seemed presumptuous to me. It was also very trendy. This was in the early 1960s, which was quite early (the whole thing was apparently published in 1955). But then again, an authentic text like the Nibelungenlied is not really what one imagines after seeing the Ring der Nibelungen.

I have thrown a couple of books away because I thought they’d been overhyped. Can’t think of any more books I hate – well, some stuff on legal translation, of course.


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Miscellaneous links/Gemischte Links


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These are varied sites – I can’t remember where I got most of them.

1. On YouTube, John Agard reads his poem, Listen Mr Oxford don. Here’s the text.

Me not no Oxford don
me a simple immigrant
from Clapham Common
I didn’t graduate
I immigrate.

The text has a strong legal element:

So mek dem send one big word after me
I ent serving no jail sentence
I slashing suffix in self-defence
I bashing future wit present tense
and if necessary
I making de Queen’s English accessory
to my offence.

2. At the New York Times, Jürgen Habermas on Leadership and Leitkultur.

To the present day, the idea of the leitkultur depends on the misconception that the liberal state should demand more of its immigrants than learning the language of the country and accepting the principles of the Constitution. We had, and apparently still have, to overcome the view that immigrants are supposed to assimilate the “values” of the majority culture and to adopt its “customs.”

That we are experiencing a relapse into this ethnic understanding of our liberal constitution is bad enough. It doesn’t make things any better that today leitkultur is defined not by “German culture” but by religion. With an arrogant appropriation of Judaism — and an incredible disregard for the fate the Jews suffered in Germany — the apologists of the leitkultur now appeal to the “Judeo-Christian tradition,” which distinguishes “us” from the foreigners.

I suppose John Agard would be expected to change his tune in Germany. – Religion was being cited again today at the CDU conference when there was a narrow vote against pre-implantation diagnosis of embryos.

3. einbuchstabedanebentiere has been a meme (now called Mem in German) on Twitter. You take the name of an animal and change one letter. Thus Faulesel, Orang Uran, Prokodil, Trethahn. Usually a description precedes it:

Ideal, um nachts spazieren zu gehen ist der Fackel
Macht kleine Sauereien und große Politik – das Merkel!
Das gibt’s doch wohl nicht: diebische Eltern
Männchen im Tierreich aufgepasst: es kommt der Eichelmäher

Fortunately someone has collected these: Über 5.000 #einbuchstabedanebentiere – gesammelt via twapperkeeper für Euch


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Your favourite book/Dein Lieblingsbuch


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Story of the Stone (Dream of the Red Chamber) by Cao Xueqin (see earlier entry) – a novel which takes the reader into a closely described 18th-century Chinese family, tells the stories of dozens of main characters and a few hundred minor ones, with many sad stories of the girls (both the maids and the members of the family, who all had to be married off), and the whole thing wrapped in a Buddhist framework that casts a different light on all the stories in retrospect. Dore J. Levy, in Ideal and Actual in ‘The Story of the Stone’, says that to appreciate the novel’s position in Chinese culture, we must imagine a work with the critical cachet of James Joyce’s Ulysses and the popular appeal of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, and twice as long as the two combined.

Also Thomas Bernhard, particularly the autobiography in five short volumes: Die Ursache, Der Keller, Der Atem, Die Kälte, Ein Kind. There is a collected volume, but these books could probably be picked up secondhand nowadays, for example from www.abebooks.de. Here’s a blurb from Publishers Weekly on the English edition:

Born out of wedlock, of a father whose name he was forbidden to mention and a mother who considered him “worthless,” Bernhard spent his early life in a state of torment made bearable only by his musical studies and the love of his grandfather, a failed writer and social outcast. From a Nazi boarding school, he went to a Catholic grammar school which was scarcely less oppressive. At 15 he made the liberating decision to work in a grocer’s shop catering to destitutes; but in his 19th year he contracted pneumonia, then tuberculosis, and his grandfather and mother died in quick succession.

I remember the scenes from the tuberculosis hospital, where Bernhard could see the new graves under his window.

Both books, despite the subjects, have plenty of humour.

I’m sure I could find many more. And that’s just novels. But the meme doesn’t say ‘novels’.


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Comment spam/Spam in Kommentaren


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At the moment I am being targeted by comment spammers. They have only spammed the older entries, where comments have to be approved. None of their comments has any relevance to the post and they all link to different websites, which I’m not convinced are really websites. All the addresses are @smr.edu.pl, but the beginning of the address varies. Does this mean they are not actually from Poland? I have a feeling there is no point in writing to the Polish webmaster to complain. I just have to keep deleting them.


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E.J. Cohn Manual of German Law


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I know it’s Sunday, but I’d like to plug a law book. Before I came to Germany, when I was first encountering German law, I picked up two volumes of this at Wildy’s , 2nd edition, 1968 and 1971, for £5 and £6, which was a bargain at the time (about 1980).

E.J. Cohn was a German who was a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn. His book goes through the German Civil Code of the time, explaining it in English for English lawyers. There is a German index as well as an English one, and in the first volume a copy from the German Land Register (Grundbuch) and a bibliography. The second volume deals with commercial law, but also conflict of laws, civil procedure, banktuptcy, nationality and family law of East Germany. I must admit I’ve mainly used the first book. But now looking at the page describing the Prokurist and the beginning of nationality (the law of nationality has changed somewhat now), both compared with the situation in England and Wales in a clear way, I can confirm that the book is still useful today – not as a guide to current German law, but as a comparative introduction to German law, which it places in its historical context.

Unfortunately I haven’t found extracts online. There are articles about the book, but none accessible without payment. Here’s the abstract of an article about German lawyers uprooted:

Ernst Joseph Cohn was born in Breslau, Germany on August 7, 1904 to Max Cohn and Charlotte Ruß. Before taking up his studies at the law faculty of the University of Leipzig in Germany, he attended the primary and secondary schools of his home town. His doctoral thesis deals with problems of communication of declarations of intention through the medium of messengers, in particular with the legal effect of a declaration received by a messenger. He obtained his doctorate degree as a summa cum laude. This chapter chronicles Cohn’s legal education and academic career in Germany, his legal research and publications before leaving Germany and emigrating to England, his research on English law as well as international law and comparative law, his interest in civil procedure and arbitration, and his views on private international law and unification of law.

However, you can get the book second-hand online. A search at abebooks.de or abebooks.com will produce some copies. If you leave out the author’s name, you will also find an earlier Foreign Office Manual of German Law (1952) which was written by Cohn.

Note also the latter’s page on bookshop cats.

Here’s a brief extract (section 80 of Volume 1), which I hope shows what a good writer Cohn was:

The importance of legal writings by private writers is far greater in the law of the Federal Republic of Germany than it is in the common law countries. Such writings may be freely quoted in a court of law. Writers of repute enjoy a considerable persuasive authority. If the majority of writers have agreed on a certain view and a dominant view (herrschende Meinung) has thus been formed, the weight of this view in legal practice is great. As judgments of the courts have no binding effect, an attorney who can rely on the dominant opinion as expressed by the standard textbooks and commentaries will be entitled to feel confidence in his case, even though there may be one or two published judgments of inferior courts. Judgments of the courts at all levels often contain references to private writings and sometimes an extensive discussion of the points made by them, in particular where the court wishes to deviate from the views adopted by the writers. References to legal literature will be found throughout this book, although for reasons of space these have been kept to a minimum.


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Swimming in Germany/Altdeutsch-Rücken


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At last I have discovered what these people who annoy me at the swimming baths are doing. It’s an old-fashioned German swimming stroke. The person swims backwards, moving both arms up, back and forward again simultaneously, in a crablike manner, and taking up an inordinate space in the pool – almost as bad as two women chatting to each other.

The clue was given by a commenter to an entry (in German) by Kaltmamsell. Kaltmamsell swims a lot and I have often envied her fitness and indeed youth, not that I could swim that far when I was younger. She wrote this entry on the problem of large numbers of people in the Olympiabad in Munich. In the smaller pools I go to, it is not so much the young swimmers but the old who cause problems. I also notice at water gymnastics that nearly all old Germans, including the men, make a big point of keeping their hair dry. I can’t help thinking that swimming with your neck bent could lead to vertebra problems, but maybe the sport makes up for that.

I found the above illustration in German Wikipedia:

Altdeutsch-Rücken (oft nur Altdeutsch oder auch Deutscher Kraul sowie Rücken-Gleitzug) ist ein Schwimmstil in Rückenlage. Dabei wird auf dem Rücken die Brustbeinschlagbewegung (Grätschschwung) in Kombination mit einem rückenkraulähnlichen Armzug, bei dem jedoch beide Arme zeitgleich bewegt werden, ausgeführt. Das heißt, sowohl Arme als auch Beine werden jeweils simultan und in jedem Moment symmetrisch zur Körperlängsachse bewegt.

It says one advantage of this stroke is that you can see where you’re going – if you bend your neck far enough.

I have also seen a kind of backwards swimming without arm movements, which I believe is supposed to be good for your back, though I don’t know why.

I found a Dutch site, Overview swimming strokes, with English, which shows 150 swimming strokes, with diagrams and animations. Here is a screenshot of part of their big diagram:

I can’t work out which the German backstroke is – it might be the ‘backstroke of Löwenstrom’.

Another peculiarity is that most people swim breaststroke with their heads out of the water. It seems that this is what is taught at school. I started with crawl. Here is some discussion between English-speaking parents in Germany on the topic at Toytown Germany.

So here’s me picturing my kids back in Oz in a few years time —- bobbing up and down in the sea doing breaststroke with their heads above water, getting absolutely nowhere as their cousins have tears streaming down their faces from laughing so hard! (“Don’t worry about us in out in the surf Mum – we learnt this breast-stroke thing in Germany! See we’re not even getting our faces wet!” … and out to sea they drift!)


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