The first book you ever read/Das erste Buch, das du je gelesen hast

Of course I have no memory of this. I went to a kind of school and learnt to read when I was four, but all I can remember is the height of the steps I had to climb up to get to my seat – we were on a little platform, and I think the top of the three steps was level with my head. And my mother didn’t keep my books and toys either.

The earliest book I can remember getting as a birthday or Christmas present and reading a lot of, though, is quite interesting: an American poetry anthology for children which appeared in 1957 and I got it then, so I was ten. And I found it is still published today. It had a wonderfully wide selection of poems and was on beautiful thick paper – a luxury in those days – and had modern printing.

Here it is at, and you can look inside and see all the contents:
Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected For Boys and Girls [Hardcover]
Helen Ferris Tibbets (Author), Leonard Weisgard (Illustrator)

I still have the book, but in England. I don’t remember a dustjacket, and I don’t remember illustrations, but maybe there were.

And there was another anthology, which cannot have been this one, which contained an English version of a Hölderlin poem: Life Half Lived. I will have to look at my bookshelves again in Upminster to see if that is there too.

Minimum wage for apprentices/Mindestlohn für Auszubildende

Via someone who arrived at Transblawg, I found a link to a reader’s letter on the Telegraph, from Sir Cyril Taylor, who apparently played a role in Tony Blair’s creation of schools called academies.

I am still trying to work out what this letter means. It seems to refer to the fact that the UK introduced a minimum wage for apprentices in October 2010, and this reduced the number of apprenticeships available. Germany doesn’t have a minimum wage. I find it hard to decide whether a minimum wage is a good thing – probably – Wikipedia gives arguments on both sides – but I wonder what it can be like to be so certain of what is right as many Telegraph letters (the column on the right currently links to an article by Boris Johnson headed Snooty Europhiles should be forced to crawl in penance. – Europhile here refers to the euro currency, not the EU, although reading the article raises doubts).

But back to Sir Cyril. He praises Germany.

Because we have a common law legal structure, our law evolves to incorporate EU rules and these are rigorously enforced by our officials.
The result, for example, is that the absurd health and safety rules on young apprentices introduced by the EU have been allowed to reduce dramatically the number of apprenticeships, especially in small firms.
By contrast, in mainland Europe, which follows a Roman law structure, under which the central government makes the decision on whether rules should be enforced, such EU rules are frequently ignored.

Now there is quite a lot of case law in Germany – I’ve banged on about this before – not least by the Bundesverfassungsgericht – the Federal Constitutional Court – which can correct the government’s legislation. It is true that recently Frau Merkel has said that the Court might find it unconstitutional for Germany to bail out other countries, but it doesn’t always work the same way.

However, Sir Cyril has considered the Federal Constitutional Court:

In Germany there is a constitutional court which allows the 16 German Länder to opt out of European rules of which they do not approve.

Ah. I haven’t yet pinned down what decision this relates to, but I feel that the case is somewhat overstated.

He next turns to the Realschule, which he says offers a first-rate training for future German engineers, including providing apprenticeships. This can’t be quite right, can it? Realschule is closest to the rarer UK secondary technical school, and is part of secondary education. The colleges that do apprenticeship training are the Berufsschulen.

Sir Cyril was educated in the UK and USA, and has many honorary degrees too.


Actually, I am quite annoyed with DHL. I know the weather’s bad, but I paid extra for quick delivery and they seem to have abandoned the container in mid-afternoon. But they aren’t as bad as Little Moo. Must remember never to order Christmas cards there again later than October.

You can see the fountain in summer here.

LATER NOTE: Moo are very generous with postal refunds (the cards came on Tuesday) and reprinting if necessary, but at Christmas time is important, hence my advice to myself to order earlier.

Swiss legislation in English online/Schweizer Gesetze auf Englisch online

I’m never completely up to date with what Swiss and Austrian sources are available online. I do have a couple of translation of the Swiss Civil Code and the first volume of the Swiss Code of Obligations in English, but I need the later parts. And sure enough, it’s online now. Start looking at, find legislation and then narrow it down to this. Here’s the German version.

Art. 620

A. Begriff

1 Die Aktiengesellschaft ist eine Gesellschaft mit eigener Firma, deren zum voraus bestimmtes Kapital (Aktienkapital1) in Teilsummen (Aktien) zerlegt ist und für deren Verbindlichkeiten nur das Gesellschaftsvermögen haftet.

2 Die Aktionäre sind nur zu den statutarischen Leistungen verpflichtet und haften für die Verbindlichkeiten der Gesellschaft nicht persönlich.

3 Die Aktiengesellschaft kann auch für andere als wirtschaftliche Zwecke gegründet werden.

Art. 620
1 A company limited by shares is a company with its own business name pre-determined capital (share capital) is determined in advance and divided into specific amounts (shares) and whose liabilities are payable only from the company assets.

2 The shareholders are required only to fulfil the duties specified in the articles of association and are not personally liable for the company’s obligations.

3 A company limited by shares may also be established for a purpose that is non-commercial in character.

The happy news was apparently announced on December 2, which is very timely for me:

Strafgesetzbuch, Zivilgesetzbuch und Obligationenrecht neu auch auf Englisch verfügbar
Bern, 02.12.2010 – Die Bundeskanzlei hat englische Übersetzungen des Schweizerischen Strafgesetzbuchs, des Schweizerischen Zivilgesetzbuchs und des Obligationenrechts veröffentlicht. Diese ergänzen die Sammlung der Bundeserlasse in englischer Sprache, die derzeit rund 90 Gesetze und Verordnungen umfasst. Die Texte stehen unter zur Verfügung.

Now I notice this translation is not perfect – for instance, the word ‘whose’ is missing before ‘pre-determined capital’. I looked at my transltion of Volume 1 and it’s not the same. So a new translation has been prepared for online use. Has anyone come to any conclusions about this?

A book that reminds you of someone/Ein Buch, das dich an jemanden erinnert

Another difficult one. I remember I had a lot of cookery books bought in the 1960s, for instance Elizabeth David on French Provincial Cooking, French Country Cooking and Italian Food. Another was The Joy of Cooking. They remind me of my mother because she gave me a cookery book club membership for my birthday. She didn’t like cooking. I sometimes wanted to take my cookbooks to Germany, but someone in the family firmly believed they were Mum’s books. Eventually, when space had to be made, they were all thrown out wholesale (I have The Joy of Cooking hardback here, though) as ‘Mum’s books’. It doesn’t really matter, because it would be easy enough to get the Elizabeth David new or second-hand. But I knew parts of them very well once.

Fontane – Afghanistan

By Theodor Fontane, via Wikisource.

Philip Oltermann on the London Review of Books blog put me onto this. More background there, including a link to Nina Hagen singing the poem on YouTube. I can’t agree that ‘Fontane is uncool’, though. Another English version here.

Those who should hear, they hear no more,
Destroyed is the army that went to war,
With thirteen thousand their trek began,
Only one came back from Afghanistan.

Das Trauerspiel von Afghanistan.

Der Schnee leis stäubend vom Himmel fällt,
Ein Reiter vor Dschellalabad hält,
„Wer da!“ – „„Ein britischer Reitersmann,
Bringe Botschaft aus Afghanistan.““

Afghanistan! er sprach es so matt;
Es umdrängt den Reiter die halbe Stadt,
Sir Robert Sale, der Commandant,
Hebt ihn vom Rosse mit eigener Hand.

Sie führen in’s steinerne Wachthaus ihn,
Sie setzen ihn nieder an den Kamin,
Wie wärmt ihn das Feuer, wie labt ihn das Licht,
Er athmet hoch auf und dankt und spricht:

„Wir waren dreizehntausend Mann,
Von Cabul unser Zug begann,
Soldaten, Führer, Weib und Kind,
Erstarrt, erschlagen, verrathen sind.

„Zersprengt ist unser ganzes Heer,
Was lebt, irrt draußen in Nacht umher,
Mir hat ein Gott die Rettung gegönnt,
Seht zu, ob den Rest ihr retten könnt.“

Sir Robert stieg auf den Festungswall,
Offiziere, Soldaten folgten ihm all’,
Sir Robert sprach: „Der Schnee fällt dicht,
Die uns suchen, sie können uns finden nicht.

„Sie irren wie Blinde und sind uns so nah,
So laßt sie’s hören, daß wir da,
Stimmt an ein Lied von Heimath und Haus,
Trompeter, blas’t in die Nacht hinaus!“

Da huben sie an und sie wurden’s nicht müd’,
Durch die Nacht hin klang es Lied um Lied,
Erst englische Lieder mit fröhlichem Klang,
Dann Hochlandslieder wie Klagegesang.

Sie bliesen die Nacht und über den Tag,
Laut, wie nur die Liebe rufen mag,
Sie bliesen – es kam die zweite Nacht,
Umsonst, daß ihr ruft, umsonst, daß ihr wacht.

Die hören sollen, sie hören nicht mehr,
Vernichtet ist das ganze Heer,
Mit dreizehntausend der Zug begann,
Einer kam heim aus Afghanistan.

Miscellaneous internet links/Vermischtes aus dem Internet

Google operator AROUND

Lifehacker sets out how to use the undocumented Google search operator AROUND.

Just on a cursory examination, I did three searches:

state AROUND (1) witness
state witness
“state witness”

The second two both had examples of state’s witness, but the first didn’t. However, changing the (1) to (2) did.

A Lifehacker commenter gave a link to a Google page on various other operators.

Google translating patents

I mentioned this topic last week under Google and the EPO. The IPKAT (Jeremy) has now taken the topic up in Gained in translation: Google comes to help the EPO (with a nice image).

Quoting the press release and commenting in brackets:

The collaboration aims to offer faster and cheaper fit-for-purpose [this begs the question: “which purpose?” It seems to the IPKat that patents are read for more than one reason] translations of patents for companies, inventors and scientists in Europe. Today, anyone wishing to register a patent must do so in one of the EPO’s official languages – English, French and German. They then need to arrange for translation of the patent – at their own cost – into the languages of all countries in which they wish the patent to apply. This complexity means that many European patents are not available in all national languages or legally binding in all the EPO’s member states. Similarly, anyone searching for information in patents published in foreign languages finds it difficult to retrieve data relevant to their research projects.

A final remark:

Merpel says, when are they going to invent a device that translates English-language patent documents into English too?

The decline of the English language

Following a Daily Mail article about adults dumbing down the English language, there is a nice piss-take by Martin Robbins in the Guardian, The sinister threat to our language and brains.

Since all change in society is by its very nature sinister, evil, and evidence of spiraling decline, Mrs Clair sensibly believes that it may be too late to “turn the tide on our declining English”.

“Their language is deteriorating. They are lowering the bar. Our language is flying off at all tangents, without the anchor of a solid foundation,” she warned. In the past, that foundation was comprised of a solid blend of Greek, Latin, Arabic, Celtic, Viking, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, French and Romance influences, giving English the famed consistency and simplicity of structure that helped it to become a global language. But now, two thousand years of careful development looks set to be wiped out in a generation as young English people irresponsibly try to meddle with it themselves.

A couple of the commenters were not too sure whether the article was serious or not.

Peter Harvey also commented on Ms Clair in his blog last week, under the heading Spelling and dunces.

Pages and sheets/Seiten und Blätter

There’s been a discussion of the (Mexican) Spanish term fojas utiles. Two points came up here: firstly, these may be ‘sheets with valid text’ – at least, the other sheets are either blank or crossed out (inutilizadas). Short lines may be used to fill up a ‘blank’ page so nothing can be entered there. I thought this was interesting because I can remember some German birth certificates contain a line with the words ‘eine Zeile’ (a line), which I suppose is the same thing. I’ve never found a source for information on the procedure for documents. I doubt there is one online – this kind of thing would be in materials for court office staff and that kind of thing.

The second question relates to the term sheets – would not pages be better? A sheet (the term was new to me) means a leaf of paper with a front (recto) and a back (verso). Actually, I know the term folio rather than sheet for this. One always wonders whether to use it when the German reference to a big register says Blatt.


folio: 1. A leaf of paper, parchment, etc. (either loose as one of a series, or in a bound volume) which is numbered only on the front. … recto/verson
2. In Bookkeeping, The two opposite pages of a ledger or other account-book in which these are used concurrently …

One commenter said that in archival speak, the term is leaf, which can have a front and back. Although people do talk about the fronts and backs of pages, this isn’t correct.

The Chicago Manual of Style (14th ed., 1.1), for the USA:

The trimmed sheets of paper that make up a book are often referred to as leaves. A page is one side of a leaf. The front of the leaf, the side that lies to the right in an open book, is called the recto page (or simply recot). The back of the leaf, the side that lies to the left when the leaf is turned, is called the verso. Rectos are odd-numbered pages; versos are even-numbered.

New Hart’s Rules, for the UK, confirms this use of leaf, recto and verso, and also introduces the term spread or opening.

But when it comes to folio, things get more confusing. Folio can mean a page number, which is not relevant here. Or it can mean a sheet of a typescript, which should be printed on one side of the paper only.

My conclusion is that the correct term for Blatt is leaf, but the terms sheet and folio are more generally used. Page is not correct.

All clear as mud.