Adventures in German

I’m now in my second class of the study of the German language. I’m still pretty terrible at it, especially since I don’t have the discipline to fully immerse myself. I should be watching more German TV, and studying harder.

Tonight’s class started with a brief discussion of what symptoms you would have if you had a cold (i.e. cough, runny nose, etc.). The teacher wrote a number of terms on the board, some of which I understood. I jotted all of them down and on our class break, used my trusty Wörterbuch to translate the ones I’d missed.

The last word on the list was die Gliederschmerzen. This is one of those long German words that is easier translated when you break it apart. I already knew that “schmerzen” meant “pain” or “ache”. I leaned over to my favorite classmate, a fun blond Slovakian girl, and asked her if she knew what Gliederschmerzen meant. We both reached for our dictionaries (hers is obviously Slovakian/German). In my dictionary, the entry for “Glied” reads:

1. Limb, member

“Limb pain” seemed like an odd translation, so I kept reading to see if there was any further clarification.

2. penis, (male) member.

Wait, what? Penis? Really? Did the teacher pull a fast one? Did Gliederschmerzen really translate as “penis ache”?

My friend found the exact same notation in her dictionary at the same time. She leaned over to the girl on the other side of her (who is from Poland, but Slovakian and Polish are very similar), and all three of us started cackling like 10-year-olds.

The teacher was still sitting at the front of the classroom, engrossed in some paperwork.

“YOU ask him!” my friend hissed.

“YOU are a naughty girl!” I whispered back.

I forced myself to stop giggling, got the teacher’s attention, and asked my question without referencing the word “penis.” He explained that Gliederschmerzen meant a whole body ache or pain in the joints, such as you get with the flu.

I nodded somberly, noting the translation. After his attention was diverted, my friend and I dissolved into another fit of giggles. Yes, the word penis is still funny.


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