German Word of the Week: Lichterloh


The one nice thing you can say about forest fires is that they bring mention of one of my favorite German words, lichterloh. Lichterloh is an adverb almost always used in conjunction with the verb "burn," and indicates that something is completely consumed in flames.

Lichterloh is one of those odd orphan words with few relatives in its language — something like 'disgruntled' in English. Lichter means 'lights,' which would seem to have something to do with fire, but nobody is really sure where the rare suffix 'loh' comes from, except that it may be a color. And lichterloh is not only exotic, but easy on the ears. The 'ch' in the middle is the special German 'ch', a breathy consonant is located about halfway between the English 'h' and 'ch,' and you can savor the long 'oh' at the end.

German Word of the Week: Kaffeesatzleserei

While listening to something-or-other on the radio, I heard the word you see above. And thought to myself: Coffegroundsreadery?

Yes, coffeegroundsreadery! Anglo-Saxons like to read tea leaves, but apparently our swarthier cousins, who are more fond of coffee, read coffee grounds instead. Here's how it's done:

There are at least two forms of coffee reading. Both require that the cup be covered with the saucer and turned upside-down. Some traditions, such as in Romania, require that the sediments in the cup be swirled around the inside of the cup until they cover the majority of the cup's inside surface. Other traditions, such as Turkish and Middle Eastern, do not require this swirling but do require that the cup be turned towards yourself for showing your own fortune. The coffee grounds are given time to settle and dry against the cup before a reading begins.

Whatever you do, don't try this in Israel.

German Word of the Week: Paramentik


So I'm wandering around recently when I come across this sign: "Workshop for Evangelical [i.e., Protestant] Paramentik and Textile Objects." Paramentik? Is it a medication? If so, why are people creating it in a workshop? Perhaps it's a kind of theological doctrine. But then, the same question arises: are we to assume that the Protestants first spend an hours working on the doctrine of "paramentics", and then start knitting "textile objects"? I wouldn't put it past them… comes to the rescue, informing us patiently that Paramentik actually means "vestments," of all things. I'm sure the word has some sort of fascinating Greek origin, which my highly cultivated readers will be happy to inform us of. Go to it, Joysters!