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German grammar (just to be difficult)

Posted by TheFallen on October 17, 2002

In Reply to: German grammar posted by Bookworm on October 16, 2002

: : : : : : : I am creating a series of photographs that play on word meanings. For example: "sacrilegious" the image would be church goers with paper sacks over their heads.
: : : : : : : I need to find more words or phrases that would help with my series. Is this called anything in particular ? Any of your thoughts or ideas where to look would be help.

: : : : : : The Meanings and Origins section of this website has a long alphabetical list of phrases. Some of them could be illustrated with punning photos.

: : : : : My daughter the artist says:
: : : : : "Cutting ties.
: : : : : Finger nail.
: : : : : Club sandwich.
: : : : : Truck bed.

: : : : : We did a project like this for 3-D design last year, actually, where we built a model illustrating a word-play. It had to be both an interesting word-play and composition...make a list of words with double meanings, such as "seal" (a sea mammal, or seal as in "seal of approval"). Then expand on that."

: : : : English is a language that is, owing to its very varied multilingual roots, rich in pun potential. If you contrast this to other languages, in most cases, you'll find far less homonyms, with the very literal and precise Germans seeming to go out of their way to build longer and longer words, in almost Chinese-like ideogrammatical style, just to avoid any potential chance of confusion.

: : : This is off topic, but I have always wondered about rules of capitalization in German. I have seen translations of English signs into German and some of the words, which were midsentence (and judging from the equivalent sign in English, not proper nouns) were capitalized. Why is that?

: : All nouns in German are always capitalised, as are words which start a sentence. I guess your German translation added capitals where they shouldn't have been on the assumption that the words were nouns. Peculiar, because a noun is a noun! However, don't forget what was mentioned earlier - Germans build words. Thus an adjective+noun in English will become a noun in German in many instances.

: The adjective+noun=noun rule also explains why I was having trouble finding a commonality among the capitalized words. I was looking for only one part of speech. Thanks!

Though it's been a while, and although this is ultra-dogmatic, I am fairly confident in saying that there is also one German pronoun that is also always capitalised, namely "Sie", which is both the singular *and* plural formal version of "you". This is capitalised in all its cases, and also in its possessive adjectival form "Ihr", meaning "your". It's unlike the Germans ever to have exceptions to any of their linguistic rules, but this probably came about to distinguish "Sie" from "sie" - the latter confusingly meaning both "she" and "they".

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