German language resources / Deutsche Grammatik im Internet

It’s been a while – two-and-a-half years – since I mentioned the useful site – free online German language resources / Deutsche Grammatik, Online Wörterbuch zur Rechtschreibung, Flexion und Wortbild(ung?).

I have used it sometimes, but I don’t usually check my German grammar.

The site has now incorporated the latest spelling reform in its dictionaries and grammar pages. It says:

With 250,000 entries generating more than 3 million inflected word forms, is the most comprehensive spelling dictionary and German grammar resource available on the net.

There’s a good site search too.

German Christmas markets/Weihnachtsmärkte

A tourist site says:

The Christmas fairs and markets of Germany are unique. If you’re tired of commercialism taking over this holiday period and would like to get right away for a real traditional Christmas you might consider heading to Germany where gifts are not mass-produced but craftwork of real quality.
Here you can buy all kinds of Christmas merchandise and gifts, especially traditional things such as crib figurines, toys, wood carvings, marionettes, candles and lambskin shoes. Many are difficult to resist – as will be the glass of delicious mulled wine you are offered and the baked apples that are very welcome on crisp winter days.

(My italics). That is the trouble. By the eiusdem generis rule, the expression ‘all kinds of’ followed by ‘crib figurines, toys, …’ etc. excludes things that would not fit in that list, such as computer games, plastic reindeer heads, the new Hannibal Lecter novel, MP3 players and mass-produced confectionery – even though some might associate these with Christmas.

Here is Lord Rooker speaking in the House of Lords on the eiusdem generis rule (Romain says Auslegungsregel der Beschränkung eines Sammelbegriffs auf Gegenstände der aufgezählten Art):

As I understand it— – I am not a lawyer— – No, I am not, but I say to my noble friend that sometimes I have a little more common sense than the lawyers and I do not use as many words as they do. I apologise for that but I cannot read in long paragraphs. However, I am reliably informed that in the definition of conditions of service is the word “includes”. That is an important word, as are the words that follow it. So far as concerns the lawyers, it means that only certain things may be added to the list of pay, allowances, hours of duty or leave. The list is not as long as a piece of string.
I sought expertise because I was wondering how on earth to pronounce eiusdem generis. I am sure the lawyers say that this is the same kind of thing; in other words, that the word “includes” means that only things of the same kind can be added to a list.

Here’s a Christmas market in the German style outside Winchester Cathedral.

The Cathedral will source the very best exhibitors to fill the chalets, to satisfy and inspire the most discerning shoppers. Professional artists, craftspeople or international exhibitors would be most welcome. The variety of stalls will include gifts for all tastes and budgets. From traditional wooden Christmas decorations from England and Germany to gifts from Provence, Danish hand-blown glassware, fine linens, studio pottery, knitwear, silk screen designs and much more.

Only for the discerning, but (to quote the first site) an odd way of ‘getting away from commercialism’.

Btw, non-natives might note the ‘hand-blown glassware’ (mundgeblasen). Blowing is obviously a variable activity.
Thanks to kalebeul.

Green thumb/Grüner Daumen

These gardening gloves come from Räder (click on Collection and click through a few pages). On the green thumb is the word Bloom, which I suppose is intended to be Neudeutsch. At all events, a person whose native language is English might be mystified. An ideal Christmas present for the person who wants to create an air of mystery, perhaps.



The reason I came by Ben’s notes on translations from the German was because I received an email from Jean-François in France, or at least via, on the topic of resp., which he said is OK in mathematics contexts. He had read on my blog that the abbreviation resp. doesn’t exist in English.

It is used in mathematics.
For an example, go to:
And search for “resp.” in the page.
Or do a Google search with: resp. mathematics.

I have to admit that this page and numerous other Ghits (© Trevor) cast serious doubt on my opinion. However, I do note that the author of this page is called Gérard P. Michon. He did his Ph.D. in Los Angeles, but there’s something not quite American about his name. And so it is with other Ghits (I haven’t looked at all of them).

So I wrote to Ben, who translates maths, but he didn’t seem too keen on resp. either.

Jean-François had been asked by an American technical writer from his company what he meant by resp. He also added – ‘just for fun’ – the following, which I pass on as I haven’t been able to digest it:

On supports of induced representations for symplectic and odd-orthogonal groups.
Let G be Sp(2n,F) (resp. SO(2n+1,F)), where F is a p-adic field of characteristic zero. In this paper, we give a correspondence which associates to an irreducible representation π of G an m-tuple of irreducible representations of lower rank symplectic (resp. orthogonal) groups based on the supercuspidal support of π. We show that this correspondence respects the induction and Jacquet module functors (in a sense to be made precise), as well as verifying a number of other useful properties. In essence, this correspondence allows one to isolate the effects of the different families of supercuspidal representations of general linear groups which appear in the support of π.

Meanwhile, someone else came to my site looking for resp. The search also threw up a discussion between some people in the USA on the use of respectively. One of them had written ‘Respectfully submitted by …’ and had this corrected to ‘Respectively submitted by …’ It was posited, of course, that this might be British usage. Finally the questioner decided to omit the word altogether.

Translations from German / Denglisch

I am proud to be able to present Ben Teague‘s checklist on ‘Was this text translated from the German?’ – all the way from Athens (that’s Athens, Georgia). I will comment on this separately.


(1) Already misused in sentences like

*Already in 1969 human beings visited the Moon

. . . or, even worse,

*Human beings visited the moon already in 1969

This often comes from language such as bereits 1969. Better:

Human beings visited the Moon as early as 1969 (virtually the same meaning)
As early as 1969, human beings visited the Moon (nearly the same meaning, time stressed)
By 1969 human beings had visited the Moon (the meaning now a little distorted)
By 1969 human beings had already visited the Moon (with the schon item restored, but note that already implies a link to a further part of the discourse)

(2) Beziehungsweise. Several things can go wrong in the translation:

bq. (2a) Use of respectively as a conjunction. It isn’t one.
(2b) Use of the blatantly un-English abbreviation resp.
(2c) Rendering of beziehungsweise (bzw.) as *or in one of the cases when it doesn’t really mean that.
(2d) Use of respectively when it doesn’t accomplish anything.
(2e) Attempts to make respectively carry too much freight.

Cases (a) and (b) call for just one remark: Don’t ever make these errors.

Case (c) is deeper and more difficult. German writers use beziehungsweise to keep lists straight:

Die Wahrscheinlichkeit eines Sturms bzw. einer Flut ist hoch. The probability of a storm or (a) flood is high.

In this instance bzw. means exactly or. But the word also expresses distribution:

Die Feder bzw. Bleistifte sind blau bzw. schwarz. The pens and pencils are blue and black, respectively. (I.e., pens are blue and pencils are black.)

Avoid the almost meaningless

*The pens or pencils are blue or black

. . . and the even worse

*The pens and pencils are blue and black.

Case (d) is sometimes induced by special uses of bzw., for example:

Die Federn sind blau bzw. schwarz. The pens are blue or black.

The German sentence says that some pens are blue and some are black, not that each pen is blue and black. In my opinion,

*The pens are blue or (and) black, respectively

is usually a mistranslation because it contains the nonfunctioning last word.

Case (e) comes about because beziehungsweise in German is a good deal stronger than respectively. You can for example make multiply parallel structures such as

Die Feder bzw. Bleistifte bzw. Kugelschreiber sind aus Gänsekielen gefertigt bzw. stammen aus China bzw. enthalten Spiralfeder.

(It is barbaric, but technically not incorrect.) Consider

*The pens or pencils or ballpoints, respectively, are made from goose quills or (and) come from China or (and) contain coil springs.

It’s silly to follow German rules of distribution in English. The sentence expresses three thoughts and should be divided:

The pens are made from goose quills; the pencils come from China; the ballpoints contain coil springs.

(3) German-style hyphenation in compounds. Expressions like


correctly become

Emergency off button
Home page (or homepage)
Safety edge switch

with no hyphens. If we have definite rules in this area, they are complicated. Native usage is the best guide. The next-best is that English most commonly builds short strings of nouns in “open” fashion, neither merged (*offbutton) nor hyphenated (*off-button). When an open compound functions as an adjective, however, it gets hyphens:

common-rail injector
porch-swing chain
pug-mill drive

Translation and law at City University

From an ITI list I gather that on 6 December 2006 there is a one-day conference at the City University London on Translation on the Law.
There is also a free public lecture on forensic phonetics in the evening.

Talks on the City University M.A., the Metropolitan Police, and the ‘new national standards in translation’ being developed by CILT.

It is the first I have heard of this last, but here is a link.