What’s in a name?

E
Photo credit: duncan

*No Friday letters today because I couldn’t actually think of a single one…*

Recently, Linda over at Expat Eye on Latvia was talking about some of mistakes her students make in English – both the amusing ones and those annoying ones that come up over and over, no matter how many times they’ve been corrected (you should really read her post by the way, some of the things her students come out with are hilarious!). This got me thinking about something that really annoys me when Germans speak English… their absolute insistence that we pronounce the letter “a” as if it were an “e”. The classic example was when somebody from the student residence I used to live in started telling me about “Nettley Portmen”. What? She is not covered in nettles. Her name is Natalie! No nettles involved, thank you! Also, it’s Portman. With an A!

Coincidentally, my friends and I were talking about something similar the other day… namely most Germans’ complete inability to cope with my name. This is an actual conversation that I’ve had more than once with native German speakers:

Me: Hi, I’m Bev.

German: Beth… like Elizabeth?

Me: No, Bev. Short for Beverley.

German: Aaah, Bethany! Pleased to meet you, Beth.

Me: No, it’s Beverley. Like Beverly Hills Cop.

German: Ohh, right! (Pause) But… isn’t he a man?

Me: *Stunned silence*

To be fair, I’ve only had the “but isn’t he a man” comment about twice. The rest happens almost every time I meet a German though. And don’t even get me started on the trouble that the e between the l and the y causes! (Yes, there really are three e’s in my name. No, that does not magically change the pronunciation… I’ve only had this name for 30 years, I do know what I’m talking about!). Ironically, all three of my siblings have names that would be perfectly normal in Germany (although my middle brother’s name would be pronounced differently here). My name is as English as they come, but I’m the only one who lives abroad…

Do you ever have trouble getting people to understand your name abroad? How do you deal with it?

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A “sweet” workout

*I know I’ve already posted once today, but I want to get this out there before I forget it…*

Leaving work this evening, I passed two students, a male and a female, who were presumably discussing the activity they had just come from. For some reason, they kept inserting random English words where a perfectly good German one would have worked. Here’s the conversation I overheard. The words marked in blue are what they actually said in English.

Girl: We just did a 45 minute hard workout!
Boy: Hard? You mean like situps and stuff?
Girl: No… he made us do crunchies!

At that point, I had to physically bite my tongue to keep from laughing out loud.
For those who are unfamiliar with English chocolate bars, this is a Crunchie:

Photograph of a Crunchie bar made by Cadbury, ...
Cadbury’s Crunchie, showing its honeycomb toffee structure. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Sounds like my kind of workout! 😉

Happenings

Okay, enough snow pictures! What else has been going in in the land of Confuzzledom?
Well, I bought these shoes:

Polka dot shoes

I spotted them through the doorway as I walked past H&M and I just had to go in and see if they were available in my size. They were – and they only cost €9.95! Bargain. And yes I am aware that some people will consider me the devil incarnate for shopping at H&M (think of the poor Chinese workers…), but I’m already boycotting Proctor and Gamble (which, by the way, means no Pringles for me, ever!!) and Lidl. A girl can’t give up everything you know… and especially not polka dot shoes! Unfortunately, so far I’ve only been able to wear them inside the flat. It’s too cold out for anything other than boots!

Hmm, what else?
I’ve been trying to incorporate exercise isn’t my daily routine, so that I can still work off my daily treats even when there’s no time for my exercise DVD. So whenever nobody else is in my office, I do some weight lifting with my water bottle (1.5 l of water isn’t exactly light!) or lift up each leg in turn and hold it straight for a few seconds. Then, at home, while waiting for water to heat for pasta or potatoes, I do star jumps*. I’m hoping this will at least slightly counteract my inability to walk past the Easter basket at work without taking just one or two tiny chocolate eggs…

stare
Stare (Photo credit: Hen3k Hen3k)

I heard a girl speaking English on the tram the other day and she had the exact same accent as my American friend. I kept looking at her thinking “You sound just like L… but you’re clearly not L!”. If you’re an American in Karlsruhe and you noticed someone staring at you on the tram towards Ettlingen, I swear I’m not a psycho!

Yesterday was the monthly “Stammtisch with my colleagues”. A Stammtisch can either mean your regular table at your local pub or a regular meetup for people with similar interests (such as an English Stammtisch for people who want a chance to speak English). In our case, the Stammtisch simply involves going for a meal with our colleagues and having a chance to chat outside of work. Former colleagues/interns, etc. are also invited, but don’t often show up. This month, the chosen meeting place was an Indian restaurant (there’s a vote), so I had a delicious curry for last night’s tea. The first few times one of us ordered something, the waiter would say in broken German “You can’t order that – it’s not real Indian food!”, then the person would change their mind. It was pretty funny (although I suspect you had to be there to think so). I actually managed to order something that he had no objections to first time round. Yay me!

That’s about it, I think. There haven’t really been any happenings around here lately. But tomorrow is the start of my four-day weekend, so hopefully I’ll have something to report after that.

*These appear to be called jumping jacks in American, as I learned a few months ago. When Jillian Michaels instructed us to do jumping jacks for the warm up circuit, I watched her demonstrate for a few seconds then, as realisation dawned, said “OH, star jumps!”. Out loud. To myself. I’d always wondered what a jumping jack was…

Now I get it!

I finally got round to buying and reading Watching the English – which I’ve been meaning to do since it came out. It’s very good! If you haven’t read it I certainly reommend that you do! Obviously not everything in the book strikes a chord with me (but it’s impossible to be 100% about anything as far as I’m concerned), but sooo many times I found myself nodding to myself thinking “Yes! I do that.”… “and that!”. And “Oooh, so that explains it!” And now I know… my utter social incompetence is not my fault! I’m not a freak of nature, I’m just English! And we’re just not that good at starting conversations with complete strangers, or even people we know just a little bit. Unless we’re standing at a bar, where the normal rules of social interaction are temporarily suspended (this also explains why it’s almost impossible to strike up a conversation with a random person in a pub here. Germans go out drinking with their friends… the English go out drinking because it’s one of the few ways you can make friends. And even then we need props, like dartboards and pub quizzes). I am definitely making my boyfriend read this book – it may explain a few things 🙂

Oh, and in case anyone cares, yes I did watch the Eurovision last night (sad, I know but it’s tradition!!). Poor old Engelbert was robbed. I didn’t expect him to do very well, but he was certainly better than second last! Some of the acts that got more points them him were genuninely awful – Jedward looked to me like they were miming (their lip movements in no way matched the words?!) and yet still managed to be off key. Explain that one somebody? I’m just hoping the people who voted for them were all pre-pubescent girls who didn’t know any better. I can see why Sweden won, although the song wasn’t really my thing. Germany (my adopted country!) did ok and I actually quite liked the song. It was certainly a lot better either of the ones by Lena! I heard that Satellite song (the one she won with 2 years ago) on the radio the other day and was reminded of exactly why I don’t like it. It makes no sense! And who cares if your underwear are blue?! So, there’s my verdict. And now no more Eurovision for another year. (Oh, I just have to add – I love the way Scott Mills managed to mention the London olympics before revealing the UK’s points… we may be doing terribly at this Eurovision lark, but at least we’ve got something!).

I want that job!

I’ve just been looking at the German job centre website, as I so often do these days, and I’ve found a job that would be great for me. It’s in Gernsbach in the Black Forest. A quick look at the Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) website tells me that from here it’s only a roughly 45 minute train ride to Gernsbach train station, which means it would be possible to commute from here. The job is for a trainee translator. They want someone with excellent English skills, preferably a native speaker. This person should have “good” translation skills. I have both of those covered! Unlike the other jobs I’m applying for, this one is not at a translation company. The employer is actually a publishing house, specialising in information about environmental issues – waste management, recycling, water (and the cleaning thereof). The applicant should be interested in environmental policy. It all sounds great. I am good at translation (81% in my last assignment says it all really), I am interested in the environment and in recycling and, most of all, I’m interested in finding a job that’s either in Karlsruhe (where I live) or at least somewhere that I can easily commute to. I really, really don’t want to move (well, actually I do want to move, but only out of this building – not half way across the country).  Ideally I would have liked to stay at the company where I’m doing my internship, but as the bosses don’t want to give me permanent position this job in Gernsbach sounds perfect for me. I’ve just written my application for it. I just have to wait for my boyfriend to come and proofread it for me then it shall be sent on its merry way. If anyone has happened to stumble across this blog then please keep your fingers crossed for me. Cos I really, really want this job!