German Word of the Week: Sturmholz

Uproot near S-Bahn

Pentecost (Pfingsten in German) celebrates the time when 'suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.' Appropriately, on Pentecost Monday, usually known as Whit Monday, a freak windstorm pummeled the westernmost state in Germany, Northern Rhine-Westphalia, leaving scenes of destruction like this. Six people died, traffic was disrupted for days, and something like 20,000 trees were uprooted, many others damaged. And we didn't even get a visitation by the Holy Spirit out of it.

Everywhere you go in Düsseldorf, there are still uprooted trees slowly dying, and tree branches scattered on the side of the road, where they were hastily cleared away to permit traffic to pass. And yet the city administration quickly issued a warning to all residents: the trees and branches blown over by the storm are the property of the city, and anyone appropriating them commits theft (g). This is in contrast to most of the neighboring towns, which encouraged citizens to clear away the wood.

This caused a controversy, which I plan to ignore. Instead, I want to focus on the word for the downed trees: Sturmholz. It couldn't be easier: Sturm (storm) + Holz (wood) = Stormwood. I've quizzed a few friends, and they report they'd never heard of the word before the storm, but instantly grasped what it referred to. The Lego Language provides yet another compact word for something that other, sloppier, lazier, smellier, louder, less efficient, more Southern European (g) languages would need an entire phrase to convey.


Johnny Stormwood, that is, lank-haired skateboard rebel and the embittered rival who brought down Slash Treadfree:


(From the twitter feed Unfinished Scripts)

Krazy Karlheinz’s Place of the Woodening of the English

This is the official logo of the convention center in Essen a city of 567,000 people in Germany:

Messe essen logo

If you're a native English speaker, or even a mildly competent ESL speaker, you may have noticed that 'place of events' is something no proper English speaker has ever or would ever think, say, or write. It has every hallmark of Denglish obtuseness — the awkward adjectival phrase, the faintly ludicrous non-specificity (is there any location in space-time that is not a 'place of events'?), the cack-handed attempt to convey a sense of excitement by stitching together a few random words in the lingua franca of hipness. It looks like something you would read on a Thai T-shirt, or what you'd get if you asked a group of retired East German coal miners twenty seconds to think of a really cool English slogan for their local senior center.

And yet this is the official slogan of a multimillion dollar convention center in Germany's most populous state. This humiliating testament to the dreary stuffiness of German corporate culture has appeared on millions of signs, billboards, stickers, notebooks, cocktail napkins, sanitary pads, shell casings, flags, and streetcar-side advertisements.

What caused this train wreck? One part of me says the answer is obvious. The convention center's marketing director, Alexander Remigius Maximilian Cornelius Ignaz Baron von Shicklgruber started the slogan meeting by saying: 'It came to me over the weekend: Place of Events!' and his fawning underlings immediately congratulated him on the staggering awesomeness of his idea.

But maybe the inspiration was Crazy Vaclav, the swarthy, heavily-accented auto dealer from an unspecified Eastern European country featured in the 1992 Simpsons episode Mr. Plow. (unembeddable video link here). He tries to sell Homer a car from a country that 'no longer exists'. As the Simpsons Wiki puts it, the car is deficient in legroom, 'even for the driver'.

The name of Vaclav's car dealership?


The De-, Trans- and Re-funkulation of ‘Kung Fu Fighting’

First, Carl Douglas' evergreen 1974 hit 'Kung Fu Fighting': 

And now, the near-simultaneous and deeply regrettable German ripoff 'Kung Fu Leute', from the hapless 'Kandy', who looks like he was dragged in off the street to read lyrics from a card:

Given Germany's role as self-appointed Sole Remaining Keeper of the Flame of Intellectual Property™, I can only hope Carl Douglas was handsomely compensated for the traumatic defunkification of his song. (Right?).

But wait! Deutschland redeems itself 30 years later when the German outfit the Mardi Gras Brass Band returns to the original English lyrics and turns KFF into a tuba-driven slow jam:

And now comes Erdmöbel with their own song about someone who remembers his lover by her 'kung fu fighting' ringtone. The video features two people with pure Nordic blood pretty faces kissing: 

But lest we forsake or fake the funk, let us conclude this musical journey with Cee Lo Green insanely buttshaking but way too short cover:

Killer Role

Still no response to the last trivia contest, so here's a new one. You're going to love this.

Tell me the name of any full-length movie drama (not a short or documentary) that stars an actor or actress who was later executed for murder in real life.

There's at least one correct answer to this question.

German Word of the Week: Saugwarze


Today's GWOW courtesy of Robert Musil. After completing the first two volumes of The Man Without Qualities I'm staring on the third and fourth volumes. The third starts with Ulrich, the narrator, receiving the last telegram from his father, a middle-European jurist to the core: 'You are hereby informed that my death has taken place — Your Father' (Setze dich von meinem erfolgten Ableben in Kenntnis. — Dein Vater'). Ulrich returns to his home and meets his sister Agathe for the first time in years, which sends him on a new round of philosophical musings.

Among them are the eternal mysteries of the male and female principle — if they are opposed and distinct, then why do men have nipples? But doesn't use the contemporary word for nipple, Brustwarze or 'breast-wart' (not bad in itself) but the quaint term Saugwarze — suck-wart. Next time I'm at a nude beach, or even certain public parks in Germany, I plan to compliment die Mädels on their succulent suck-warts. They love displays of pointless erudition.

The Virgin Through X-Ray-Spex

It's been a long time since we had a cultural trivia contest. Tell me who (1) (probably) painted this Virgin, and (2) who then painted over it, and what they painted.

Hint. The answer to #1 is moderately famous; the answer to #2 is very famous.

Good luck!

Guess this