Category Archives: Denglish

Quotes from my wife featuring the accidental combination of German and English words.

Death, Dying and Impermanence: An American Expat and His German Wife Tackle Life’s Biggest Questions

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“What does it all mean, mein Schatz?” — Image Credit: Cristina L. F. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/xanetia/) — Subject to CC 2.0 Generic copyright.

Not too long ago, I had a birthday which pushed me closer to 40 years old than 30. I took a close look in the mirror, saw a few more gray hairs on my head, and even a few new ones in my eyebrows. In my goddamn eyebrows. Now, if you’re over 40, you’re probably rolling your eyes about now — ready to tell me all about the horrors of life at your advanced age — but you don’t need to; I’ve been worrying about aging and mortality since I was 6 years old.

It all started in the first grade, on the very first day of science class. The teacher held up a rotating model of the solar system, spun the planets around and said:

“These are the planets, and this little guy right here is Earth. See it? That’s us. We orbit this big yellow ball in the middle, called the Sun. The Sun is a star, and like all stars, it is going to swell up someday and become a Red Giant — engulfing the Earth and all the rest of the planets in the solar system — and then it will explode.”

After taking a moment to appreciate the horrified looks upon our adorable little faces, the teacher added:

“But don’t worry… this won’t happen for billions of years. You’ll all be dead long before that happens.”

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“Don’t touch the big one, kids. It’s hot.” — Image Credit: Image Editor (https://www.flickr.com/photos/11304375@N07/) — Subject to CC 2.0 Generic copyright.

Time and emotional scarring have no doubt clouded my memory of what our teacher actually said, but I do know the scientific facts presented were lost upon me entirely. Instead, what I learned that day was a deeper, darker truth: I am going to die.

I spent the rest of that afternoon sprawled out on the floor of my classroom, pretending to write numbers for some kind of math lesson or another, when what I was actually doing was staring at the floor, tracing its dusty, pockmarked tiles with my newly hollowed gaze, thinking to myself, I am going to die someday. My Dad is even older than me, so he’ll probably die first. And my Mom is going to die too. But even if we all lived forever, the Sun would just grow really big and burn us all to death anyway. Oh my God, it’s gonna to hurt so bad… And I literally pictured a burning yellow ball of unimaginable scale pressing up against my face, frying the skin off my skull while crushing everything and everyone I’d ever loved into a swelling crescendo of horror and agony.

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“Bye Mom! Bye Dad! Thanks for all the popsicles!” — Image Credit: Maxwell Hamilton (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mualphachi/) — Subject to CC 2.0 Generic copyright.

Although I’m all grown up now, I’ve never forgotten that particular day. Not just because of the brutally honest lesson in astronomy, or the long hours of painful realization and introspection afterward, but because it marked my first awareness of impermanence; that ceaseless metronome ticking away the seconds for all of us. You. Me. The plants and animals. Hell, even the Great Pyramids of Egypt. We’re all dying and eroding back into the stardust from whence we came. And when viewed upon a long enough timeline, absolutely nothing remains the same forever. So if fluctuation is the natural state of things, what is the point of life? Why do we struggle so hard to create things when nothing we make — organic or inorganic — can possibly last longer than a microsecond in the blind, uncaring eyes of the universe?

This is the part where you might suggest I find some religion or seek help for my obvious depression / anxiety disorder, but I don’t need any of those things; I’ve got a German wife. She is pragmatic and down-to-earth, and when she is presented with the big questions regarding life and death, she will restore the warmth to my heart by asking very simply:

“Why does our time on earth have to be limitated?”

If you would like to read another classic Denglish quote, check this one out: My German Wife Explains the Optimal Weather Conditions for Seasonal Allergy Attacks

Moving from an Apartment to a House in Hannover, Germany: My Wife Exemplifies the Classiest Exit Strategy Possible

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…upgrading our living conditions SO hard. — Photo Credit: Sharon & Nikki McCutcheon (https://www.flickr.com/photos/payitforwardphotos/) — Subject to CC 2.0 Generic Copyright

As you know, my wife and I live in Hannover, Germany. She is a native German citizen — bright, beautiful and freakishly enthusiastic about her work as a Gymnasium teacher — and I am an American expat; dark and introverted, spinning graphic design projects from my home office like a funnel-web spider tending to its silken trip-lines: “Oh yes, my pretties… come closer. Let me sink my venomous logo into your fledgling business enterprise…”

So normally I’m the hateful side of our little German-American relationship, and my wife is the loving side; she genuinely enjoys people and always looks for the good in them. But after living in a questionable apartment building with psychotic inhabitants and an apathetic management company for two years (See: Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane), even she was ready to burn the place to the ground and piss on the ashes.

She checked the house rental listings every night for months until finally she found the perfect opening: A little house in a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, still close enough to commute to work, but far enough away we wouldn’t be tempted to climb on top of our new roof and pick off our former neighbors like a couple of wildly underqualified Marine snipers.

We got the news our rental application had been approved, and then we started packing like mad. We boxed everything up, hired a moving company and got the hell out of that apartment. As we drove away, gazing at the building as it receded from view, my wife stuck her hands out the window — both middle fingers held high in the air — and shouted, “Adios Amigos!”

Of course, with her adorable German accent, what actually came out was:

“Ahh-Dee-Yahs, Ahh-Mee-Gahs!”

If you would like to read another classic Denglish quote, check this one out: My German Wife Is A Huge Fan of HBO’s A Game of Thrones

The German Accent: Ain’t No Place for the English “T-H”

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“You just put your lips together and… blow.” — Image Credit: tiffany terry (https://www.flickr.com/photos/35168673@N03/) — Subject to CC Generic 2.0 Copyright.

I love my wife’s accent. It’s cute — sort of ambiguously European — with a rare subtlety which likely stems from so much time spent in the United States and her years of being married to me; an American book nerd who experiences heart palpitations whenever someone misuses the homophones “there” and “their.”

But who doesn’t enjoy a good foreign accent? They sound cool and unique. More attractive, even. (Except for that God-awful Cockney English accent. Holy shit.) So I cherish what precious little remains of my wife’s German accent, and record it whenever she lets fly with a real zinger. Yes, her mispronunciations make me laugh out loud, but I do not mean to mock her; I truly enjoy the linguistic differences. (And this road goes both ways, I’ll have you know: My wife laughs her sweet ass off whenever I try to say “ice cubes” in German. The word is “Eiswürfel,” pronounced, “Ice-vuhr-fell,” but I can’t stop saying “Ice-TZWUHR-fell.” Makes her lose her shit every time.)

One remnant of my wife’s accent is still going strong, however, and that is her total disregard for the English <th> sound, as in “theater,” “weather” or “Thor, God of Thunder.” (And yes, I am a comic book dork, as well as a fantasy nerd and sci-fi geek. I loved the movie Prometheus. It rocked so hard I’ve been hassling my wife to watch it with me since 2012.) So it was with much glee that I wrote down my wife’s quote the other day, after she came home from a particularly arduous day at work and demanded immediate relaxation, saying:

“I want to watch a movie so hard. We could even watch a sci-fi. We could even watch your ‘Pro-mee-toys.’ “

If you would like to read another classic mispronunciation post, check this one out: My German Wife Gets Stuck in Traffic, Struggles Adorably to Pronounce the English Letter ‘J’