Sunday, June 7, 2009


brief internet access in a café. check out bremer sprachblog. find Anatol Stefanowitch writing about the Voynitch ms, previously known to me, ahem, only from xkcd. AS has this phrase:

und wer ein bisschen googelt...

('and he who googles a bit...' or, more idiomatically, 'if you google a bit...')

Interessanterweise, I just devoured Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Man, and then felt I must read Blood Meridian, which reminded me of something I have thought in the past about Spanish in McCarthy. McCarthy has an incomparable ear for English dialogue of the South and Southwest. His Spanish is something else again. It's not that he has or doesn't have an ear for it - I have no opinion on this point. The Spanish is coopted into the prosody of the English; English speakers are laconic, and speakers of Spanish are also laconic. So when you read the Spanish dialogue in McCarthy you get Spanish stripped of everything that Mexicans actually do with the language when they speak it; it's a language with a rolled r, they do with the language what Scots do with English, the r works, roughly, like the - I don't know the word for this, the things that stick up on a pinball machine that the ball bounces off. Speech speeds from r to r, and when it hits an r it's sometimes like that moment in pinball when the ball goes madly back and forth between two posts, sometimes rattles rrrrrrrrrrrapidito off to the next r - this is not a language whose speakers prize the laconic. This is the thing that Spanish speakers miss when they speak English, at least when they haven't happened to land up in Glasgow; there are no rrrrrrrrs to bounce a sentence off.

It's good for a writer to have a voice. It's harder to have a voice if there's this susceptibility to language on the hoof. But CMcC says you have to trust where it comes from, and maybe you just do. Googeln. Googeln. Delovely.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like "googeln" too but wondered why it wasn't "googlen."

The Wiktionary entry says: "Das Verb googeln wurde 2004 in den Duden aufgenommen und leitet sich von Google ab. Beinahe ebenso häufig findet man die näher am Ursprung orientierte Schreibweise googlen, die aber im Deutschen nicht korrekt ist."

Seems almost the moment a neologism is coined, a prescriptive German lexicographical mindset lays down the rules, and that's that. You other 49%... are just Not Korrekt. Einfach so.