A little learning makes the whole world kin.
     Proverbs XXXII, 7

     I  went often to  look at the collection of curiosities  in  Heidelberg
Castle, and one day  I surprised the  keeper of it with  my German. I  spoke
entirely in that language. He was greatly interested; and after I had talked
a while he said my German was very rare, possibly  a "unique"; and wanted to
add it to his museum.
     If he  had known what it had cost me to acquire  my art,  he would also
have  known that it would  break any collector to buy it.  Harris and I  had
been hard at work  on  our  German  during  several weeks at  that time, and
although  we had  made good progress,  it  had been accomplished under great
difficulty and  annoyance,  for three of our teachers  had died in  the mean
time.  A person  who  has  not  studied German  can form  no idea  of what a
perplexing language it is.
     Surely  there  is  not  another  language  that   is  so  slipshod  and
systemless, and so slippery and elusive to the grasp. One is washed about in
it, hither and thither, in the most helpless way; and when at last he thinks
he has captured a rule which offers  firm  ground to take a rest on amid the
general rage and turmoil of  the ten parts of speech, he turns over the page
and reads, "Let the pupil make careful note of the following EXCEPTIONS." He
runs his eye down and finds that there are more  exceptions to the rule than
instances of it. So overboard he goes again, to hunt for another Ararat  and
find  another quicksand. Such has been, and continues to  be, my experience.
Every time I think I have got one of these four confusing "cases" where I am
master of  it, a seemingly insignificant preposition intrudes itself into my
sentence,  clothed with an  awful and  unsuspected  power,  and crumbles the
ground from under me. For instance, my book inquires after a certain bird --
(it is  always inquiring after things which are of no sort of no consequence
to  anybody):  "Where  is the  bird?"  Now the answer  to  this question  --
according to the book -- is that the bird is waiting in the  blacksmith shop
on account of the rain. Of course no bird would  do that, but then you  must
stick  to the  book. Very well,  I  begin to cipher out the German  for that
answer. I  begin at the wrong end, necessarily, for that is the German idea.
I say to myself, "REGEN (rain) is masculine -- or maybe it is feminine -- or
possibly neuter -- it is too  much  trouble to  look  now. Therefore, it  is
either DER (the) Regen, or DIE (the) Regen, or DAS (the) Regen, according to
which gender it may turn  out to be when I look. In the interest of science,
I will cipher it  out on the hypothesis that it is  masculine. Very well  --
then THE rain is DER Regen, if  it is simply in the quiescent state of being
MENTIONED, without enlargement or discussion -- Nominative case; but if this
rain is  lying around, in a kind of a general  way on the ground, it is then
definitely located, it is  DOING SOMETHING -- that is, RESTING (which is one
of the German grammar's ideas of doing something), and this  throws the rain
into the  Dative  case, and  makes it  DEM Regen. However, this rain is  not
resting,  but is doing something ACTIVELY, -- it is  falling -- to interfere
with the bird, likely -- and this indicates  MOVEMENT, which has the  effect
of  sliding it  into the Accusative  case  and  changing DEM  Regen into DEN
Regen." Having completed the grammatical  horoscope of this matter, I answer
up confidently  and  state  in  German  that  the bird  is  staying  in  the
blacksmith shop  "wegen (on account of) DEN Regen." Then the teacher lets me
softly down with  the  remark  that whenever  the word "wegen"  drops into a
sentence, it ALWAYS  throws that subject into the GENITIVE  case, regardless
of consequences  --  and therefore this  bird stayed  in the blacksmith shop
"wegen DES Regens."
     N.B. -- I was informed, later, by a higher authority, that there was an
"exception"  which permits one to say "wegen DEN  Regen" in certain peculiar
and  complex circumstances,  but that  this  exception  is not  extended  to
anything BUT rain.
     There are ten parts of speech, and they are all troublesome. An average
sentence, in a German  newspaper,  is a sublime and impressive curiosity; it
occupies a  quarter of a column; it contains all the ten parts of speech  --
not  in regular  order, but mixed;  it is  built  mainly  of compound  words
constructed by the writer on the spot, and not to be found in any dictionary
-- six or seven words compacted into one, without joint  or seam -- that is,
without  hyphens; it treats of fourteen or  fifteen different subjects, each
enclosed in a parenthesis of its own, with here and there extra parentheses,
making pens  with pens:  finally, all the parentheses  and reparentheses are
massed together between a couple of king-parentheses, one of which is placed
in the first line of the majestic  sentence and the other  in the  middle of
the last line of it --  AFTER WHICH COMES THE VERB, and you find out for the
first time what the man has been talking about; and after the verb -- merely
by way of ornament, as far as I can make out -- the writer shovels in "HABEN
SIND  GEWESEN GEHABT  HAVEN GEWORDEN SEIN," or words to that effect, and the
monument is finished. I suppose that this closing hurrah is in the nature of
the flourish to a man's signature -- not necessary, but pretty. German books
are easy enough to read when you hold them before the looking-glass or stand
on your head -- so  as to reverse  the construction -- but I  think that  to
learn to read and understand a German newspaper is a thing which must always
remain an impossibility to a foreigner.
     Yet even  the German books are  not  entirely free from attacks  of the
Parenthesis distemper -- though they  are usually so mild as to cover only a
few  lines, and therefore when you at last get down to the verb  it  carries
some meaning  to your  mind because you  are able to remember a good deal of
what has gone before. Now  here is a  sentence from a  popular and excellent
German novel  --  which a slight parenthesis in it.  I will make a perfectly
literal translation, and throw in the parenthesis-marks and some hyphens for
the  assistance  of  the reader  --  though  in  the original  there are  no
parenthesis-marks or hyphens,  and the reader is left to flounder through to
the remote verb the best way he can:
     "But  when  he,  upon  the   street,   the  (in-satin-and-silk-covered-
now-very-unconstrained-after-the-newest-fashioned-dressed)        government
counselor's wife MET," etc., etc. [1]
     1. Wenn er aber auf der Strasse der in Sammt und  Seide gehuellten jetz
sehr ungenirt nach der neusten mode gekleideten Regierungsrathin begegnet.
     That is  from THE OLD  MAMSELLE'S SECRET,  by  Mrs. Marlitt.  And  that
sentence is constructed upon the most approved German model. You observe how
far  that  verb is from  the  reader's base of operations; well, in a German
newspaper they put their verb away over on the  next page; and I  have heard
that   sometimes  after  stringing  along  the  exciting  preliminaries  and
parentheses for a column or two, they get in a hurry and have to go to press
without getting to the verb at all. Of course, then, the reader is left in a
very exhausted and ignorant state.
     We have the Parenthesis disease in our literature, too; and one may see
cases of it every day  in  our books  and newspapers: but with us it  is the
mark  and sign of an unpracticed writer or a cloudy intellect,  whereas with
the Germans it is doubtless the mark and sign of a practiced  pen and of the
presence  of  that  sort  of  luminous  intellectual  fog which  stands  for
clearness  among  these  people.  For  surely  it is  NOT  clearness  --  it
necessarily can't be clearness. Even a jury would have penetration enough to
discover that. A writer's ideas must be a good  deal  confused,  a good deal
out  of  line and  sequence, when he  starts out  to say  that a  man met  a
counselor's  wife  in the street,  and  then  right in the midst of  this so
simple undertaking halts these approaching people and makes them stand still
until he  jots down an  inventory  of the woman's dress. That is  manifestly
absurd. It reminds  a person  of those dentists who secure  your instant and
breathless interest in a tooth by taking a grip  on it with the forceps, and
then stand there and drawl through a  tedious anecdote  before they give the
dreaded jerk. Parentheses in literature and dentistry are in bad taste.
     The Germans  have  another  kind  of parenthesis,  which  they make  by
splitting  a  verb in two  and putting  half of it at the  beginning  of  an
exciting chapter and the OTHER HALF at  the end  of it. Can any one conceive
of  anything more confusing than that? These  things  are  called "separable
verbs." The German grammar is blistered all over with  separable verbs;  and
the  wider the  two portions of one of them are spread apart, the better the
author  of the crime  is pleased  with his  performance.  A favorite  one is
REISTE AB -- which means departed. Here is an example which  I culled from a
novel and reduced to English:
     "The trunks  being  now  ready,  he DE-  after kissing  his mother  and
sisters,  and once  more  pressing to his  bosom his  adored Gretchen,  who,
dressed in simple white muslin, with a single tuberose in the ample folds of
her rich brown hair, had tottered feebly  down  the stairs, still  pale from
the terror and excitement  of the past evening,  but longing to lay her poor
aching head yet once again upon the breast of him whom she loved more dearly
than life itself, PARTED."
     However, it is not  well to dwell too  much on the separable verbs. One
is sure to lose his temper early; and if he sticks  to the subject, and will
not be warned, it  will  at last  either soften  his  brain  or petrify  it.
Personal  pronouns and adjectives  are a fruitful nuisance in this language,
and should have been left out. For instance, the same sound, SIE, means YOU,
and it means SHE, and it  means HER, and it means IT, and it means THEY, and
it means  THEM. Think of the ragged poverty of a language which has to  make
one  word do the work of six --  and a poor little weak thing of  only three
letters  at  that. But mainly,  think of the  exasperation of never  knowing
which of these meanings the  speaker is trying to convey. This explains why,
whenever  a  person  says  SIE to  me, I  generally  try  to kill him,  if a
     Now observe  the Adjective. Here was a case where simplicity would have
been an  advantage;  therefore, for  no other reason,  the  inventor of this
language  complicated  it all  he could. When  we wish to speak of our "good
friend or friends," in our enlightened  tongue, we stick to the one form and
have no trouble or hard feeling about it;  but  with the German tongue it is
different. When a German gets his hands on an adjective, he declines it, and
keeps  on declining  it until the common sense is all declined out of it. It
is as bad as Latin. He says, for instance:
     Nominative -- Mein gutER Freund, my good friend.
     Genitives -- MeinES GutEN FreundES, of my good friend.
     Dative -- MeinEM gutEN Freund, to my good friend.
     Accusative -- MeinEN gutEN Freund, my good friend.

     N. -- MeinE gutEN FreundE, my good friends.
     G. -- MeinER gutEN FreundE, of my good friends.
     D. -- MeinEN gutEN FreundEN, to my good friends.
     A. -- MeinE gutEN FreundE, my good friends.
     Now let the candidate for  the asylum try to memorize those variations,
and see how soon he will  be elected. One might better go without friends in
Germany than take all this trouble about them. I have shown what a bother it
is to decline a  good (male) friend;  well this is only a third of the work,
for  there is a  variety of new distortions  of the adjective to be  learned
when  the object is feminine, and still  another when the  object is neuter.
Now there are more adjectives in this language than there are black  cats in
Switzerland,  and they must all be as  elaborately declined as  the examples
above suggested. Difficult? -- troublesome?  -- these  words cannot describe
it. I heard  a  Californian student in Heidelberg say, in one of his calmest
moods, that he would rather decline two drinks than one German adjective.
     The   inventor  of  the  language  seems  to  have  taken  pleasure  in
complicating  it in every way he  could  think of.  For instance,  if one is
casually referring to a house, HAUS,  or a horse, PFERD, or a dog,  HUND, he
spells these words as I  have indicated;  but if he is  referring to them in
the  Dative case, he  sticks on a foolish and  unnecessary E and spells them
HAUSE, PFERDE, HUNDE. So, as an added E often signifies the plural, as the S
does with us, the new  student is likely  to go on for  a month making twins
out of a Dative dog before he discovers his mistake;  and on the other hand,
many  a new student who  could ill afford loss, has bought and  paid for two
dogs and only got one of them, because he ignorantly bought that  dog in the
Dative singular when he really supposed he was  talking plural -- which left
the law on the seller's side, of course, by the strict rules of grammar, and
therefore a suit for recovery could not lie.
     In German, all the Nouns begin  with a capital  letter.  Now that is  a
good idea;  and a good  idea,  in this  language, is necessarily conspicuous
from  its  lonesomeness. I consider this capitalizing of  nouns a good idea,
because by reason of it you are almost always able to tell a noun the minute
you  see it. You  fall into error occasionally, because you mistake the name
of a person for the name of a thing, and waste a good deal of time trying to
dig a meaning out of it.  German names almost always do mean something,  and
this helps to  deceive the  student. I translated a passage one  day,  which
said  that  "the  infuriated  tigress  broke loose  and  utterly ate  up the
unfortunate fir forest" (Tannenwald).  When  I was  girding up  my  loins to
doubt this, I found out that Tannenwald in this instance was a man's name.
     Every noun  has  a  gender,  and there is  no  sense or  system in  the
distribution; so the gender of each must be learned separately and by heart.
There is  no  other  way. To do  this  one  has  to  have  a  memory like  a
memorandum-book.  In German, a young lady has  no  sex, while a  turnip has.
Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what callous
disrespect  for the girl. See how it looks in print -- I translate this from
a conversation in one of the best of the German Sunday-school books:
     "Gretchen. Wilhelm, where is the turnip?
     "Wilhelm. She has gone to the kitchen."
     "Gretchen. Where is the accomplished and beautiful English maiden?"
     "Wilhelm. It has gone to the opera."
     To continue  with the German  genders:  a tree  is male,  its buds  are
female, its leaves are  neuter; horses are sexless, dogs  are male, cats are
female  --  tomcats included,  of  course;  a person's mouth,  neck,  bosom,
elbows, fingers, nails, feet, and body are of the male sex, and  his head is
male  or  neuter according  to  the  word  selected to signify  it,  and NOT
according to the  sex of the  individual  who wears it -- for in Germany all
the women  either  male  heads  or  sexless ones;  a  person's  nose,  lips,
shoulders, breast,  hands,  and toes are of the female  sex;  and his  hair,
ears, eyes, chin, legs, knees, heart, and conscience haven't any sex at all.
The  inventor  of the language probably got what he  knew about a conscience
from hearsay.
     Now, by the above dissection, the reader will see that in Germany a man
may THINK he is a man, but when he comes to look into the matter closely, he
is bound to  have  his doubts; he  finds that in  sober truth  he is a  most
ridiculous mixture; and if he ends  by trying  to comfort himself  with  the
thought that he can  at least depend on a third of this mess  as being manly
and masculine, the humiliating second thought  will quickly  remind him that
in this respect he is no better off than any woman or cow in the land.
     In the German it is true  that by some oversight of the inventor of the
language, a  Woman  is  a  female; but  a  Wife  (Weib)  is not  -- which is
unfortunate. A Wife, here, has  no sex; she is neuter; so,  according to the
grammar,  a  fish is HE, his scales are  SHE, but a fishwife is  neither. To
describe  a wife as  sexless  may  be  called under-description; that is bad
enough,  but over-description  is  surely  worse.  A  German  speaks  of  an
Englishman  as the  ENGLAENDER; to change  the sex,  he adds  INN,  and that
stands for Englishwoman -- ENGLAENDERINN. That seems descriptive enough, but
still it is not exact enough for a German; so he precedes the word with that
article which indicates that the creature to follow is feminine,  and writes
it down thus: "die Englaenderinn," --  which means "the she-Englishwoman." I
consider that that person is over-described.
     Well, after the student has learned the sex of a great number of nouns,
he is still in a  difficulty, because he finds it impossible to persuade his
tongue to  refer to things as "he" and "she," and "him" and "her," which  it
has been always accustomed to  refer  to it as "it." When  he even  frames a
German sentence in his mind, with the hims and hers in the right places, and
then works up his courage to the utterance-point, it is no use -- the moment
he begins  to speak  his tongue  files the track and all those labored males
and  females  come out as  "its." And  even  when  he is  reading German  to
himself, he always  calls those things "it,"  where  as he  ought to read in
this way:
     2. I capitalize the nouns, in the German (and ancient English) fashion.
     It is a  bleak Day. Hear the  Rain, how he pours,  and the Hail, how he
rattles; and see the Snow, how  he drifts along, and of the Mud, how deep he
is! Ah the  poor Fishwife, it is stuck fast in the Mire; it has  dropped its
Basket  of Fishes;  and its Hands have been cut  by the Scales as it  seized
some of the falling  Creatures; and one Scale has even got into its Eye. and
it cannot get her out. It opens its Mouth to cry  for Help; but if any Sound
comes out of him, alas he  is drowned by the raging of the Storm. And  now a
Tomcat has got  one of the  Fishes and  she will surely escape with him. No,
she bites off a Fin, she holds her in her Mouth -- will she swallow her? No,
the  Fishwife's brave Mother-dog  deserts his Puppies and rescues the Fin --
which he eats,  himself, as his Reward. O, horror, the Lightning  has struck
the Fish-basket;  he  sets  him on  Fire; see the  Flame, how she licks  the
doomed Utensil with her  red and angry Tongue; now she attacks  the helpless
Fishwife's Foot -- she burns  him up, all  but the big Toe, and  even SHE is
partly consumed; and still she spreads, still  she waves her  fiery Tongues;
she  attacks the  Fishwife's Leg and destroys  IT; she attacks its Hand  and
destroys HER also; she attacks the Fishwife's Leg and destroys HER also; she
attacks its Body and consumes HIM; she wreathes herself about its Heart  and
IT  is consumed; next about its Breast, and in a Moment SHE is a Cinder; now
she reaches its Neck  -- He goes; now its Chin  -- IT goes;  now its Nose --
SHE goes. In another Moment, except Help come, the Fishwife will be no more.
Time presses -- is there none to succor and save? Yes! Joy, joy, with flying
Feet the she-Englishwoman  comes! But alas,  the generous she-Female is  too
late: where now is the fated Fishwife? It has ceased from its Sufferings, it
has gone to a better Land; all that is left  of  it  for its  loved  Ones to
lament over, is this  poor smoldering Ash-heap. Ah, woeful, woeful Ash-heap!
Let us take him up tenderly, reverently, upon the lowly Shovel, and bear him
to his long Rest,  with the  Prayer that  when  he rises again it will be  a
Realm where he will have one good square responsible Sex, and have it all to
himself, instead of having a mangy lot of assorted Sexes  scattered all over
him in Spots.
     There, now,  the reader can see  for himself that this pronoun business
is  a very awkward thing for the unaccustomed tongue. I  suppose that in all
languages the  similarities of look  and  sound between  words which have no
similarity in meaning are a fruitful source of  perplexity to the foreigner.
It  is so in our tongue, and it is notably the case in the German. Now there
is that troublesome  word  VERMAEHLT: to me it has so close a resemblance --
either real or fancied -- to three  or four  other  words, that I never know
whether  it means  despised, painted, suspected, or married; until I look in
the dictionary, and then I  find it means the latter. There are lots of such
words  and they are a great torment.  To  increase the difficulty there  are
words which SEEM to resemble each other, and yet  do not; but they make just
as much trouble as if they did. For instance, there  is the  word VERMIETHEN
(to  let, to  lease,  to  hire); and the word VERHEIRATHEN  (another way  of
saying to marry). I heard of an  Englishman who  knocked at  a man's door in
Heidelberg  and  proposed,  in  the  best  German   he  could   command,  to
"verheirathen" that  house. Then there are  some words  which mean one thing
when you emphasize the first syllable, but mean something  very different if
you throw the  emphasis on the last syllable. For instance, there  is a word
which means a runaway, or the act of glancing through a  book,  according to
the placing  of the emphasis;  and another word which signifies to ASSOCIATE
with  a man, or to AVOID him, according to where you put the emphasis -- and
you can generally depend  on putting it in the  wrong place and getting into
     There are some  exceedingly useful  words in this language. SCHLAG, for
example;  and ZUG. There are three-quarters of a  column of  SCHLAGS  in the
dictonary,  and  a column  and a half of ZUGS. The  word SCHLAG means  Blow,
Stroke, Dash,  Hit, Shock, Clap,  Slap, Time,  Bar, Coin, Stamp, Kind, Sort,
Manner, Way, Apoplexy, Wood-cutting, Enclosure, Field, Forest-clearing. This
is its simple  and EXACT  meaning -- that  is  to  say,  its restricted, its
fettered meaning; but there are  ways by which you can set  it free, so that
it can soar away, as on the wings of the morning, and never be at rest.  You
can hang any word you please to its tail, and make it mean anything you want
to. You can begin with  SCHLAG-ADER, which means artery, and you can hang on
the   whole  dictionary,  word  by  word,  clear  through  the  alphabet  to
SCHLAG-WASSER, which means bilge-water -- and including SCHLAG-MUTTER, which
means mother-in-law.
     Just the  same  with  ZUG.  Strictly  speaking,  ZUG  means Pull,  Tug,
Draught, Procession, March, Progress, Flight, Direction, Expedition,  Train,
Caravan,  Passage,  Stroke,  Touch,  Line,  Flourish,  Trait  of  Character,
Feature,  Lineament,  Chess-move,  Organ-stop,  Team,  Whiff, Bias,  Drawer,
Propensity,  Inhalation, Disposition:  but that thing which it does NOT mean
--  when  all  its  legitimate pennants  have  been hung  on,  has not  been
discovered yet.
     One cannot overestimate  the  usefulness of SCHLAG and  ZUG. Armed just
with these two, and the word ALSO, what cannot the foreigner on German  soil
accomplish?  The  German word ALSO is the equivalent  of the English  phrase
"You  know,"  and  does  not mean anything  at all  --  in  TALK, though  it
sometimes does in print. Every time a German opens  his  mouth an ALSO falls
out; and every time he shuts it he bites one in two  that was trying  to GET
     Now, the foreigner, equipped with these three noble words, is master of
the  situation.  Let  him talk right  along,  fearlessly;  let him pour  his
indifferent German forth,  and  when he lacks for  a  word, let  him heave a
SCHLAG into the vacuum; all the chances are that it fits it like a plug, but
if  it doesn't let  him promptly heave a ZUG after  it; the two together can
hardly fail  to bung  the hole; but if, by  a miracle, they SHOULD fail, let
him simply say ALSO!  and this  will give him a moment's chance  to think of
the needful word.  In Germany, when  you load your  conversational gun it is
always best to throw in a SCHLAG or two and a ZUG or two, because it doesn't
make any difference how  much the rest of the charge  may  scatter,  you are
bound  to  bag something  with THEM. Then  you blandly say ALSO, and load up
again. Nothing gives such an air of grace and elegance and unconstraint to a
German or an English conversation as to  scatter it full of "Also's" or "You
     In my note-book I find this entry:
     July 1. -- In the hospital yesterday, a word of  thirteen syllables was
successfully removed from a patient -- a North German from near Hamburg; but
as most unfortunately the surgeons had opened him in the wrong place,  under
the impression that he contained a panorama, he died. The sad event has cast
a gloom over the whole community.
     That paragraph furnishes a text for a few remarks about one of the most
curious and notable  features of my subject  -- the length of German  words.
Some German words  are so  long that they have a perspective.  Observe these
     These things are not words, they are alphabetical processions. And they
are  not rare;  one can open a  German  newspaper  at any time and see  them
marching majestically across the page -- and  if he has any  imagination  he
can see the banners and hear the music, too. They impart a martial thrill to
the meekest subject. I take a great interest in  these curiosities. Whenever
I come across a good one, I stuff it  and put it in my museum. In this way I
have made  quite a valuable  collection. When I get  duplicates,  I exchange
with other collectors, and thus increase the variety of my  stock. Here rare
some specimens which I lately bought at  an auction sale of the effects of a
bankrupt bric-a-brac hunter:
     Of  course  when  one of  these grand mountain ranges  goes  stretching
across the  printed page, it adorns  and ennobles that literary landscape --
but  at the same time  it is a great  distress to  the new  student, for  it
blocks up his way; he cannot crawl  under it, or  climb  over it,  or tunnel
through it. So he resorts to the dictionary  for help, but there  is no help
there. The dictionary must draw the line somewhere -- so it leaves this sort
of  words out.  And  it  is  right,  because  these  long things  are hardly
legitimate words, but are rather combinations of  words, and the inventor of
them  ought to have been  killed. They are compound words  with the  hyphens
left out. The various words used in building them are in the dictionary, but
in a very  scattered condition;  so you  can hunt the materials out, one  by
one,  and get at the  meaning  at last,  but it  is a  tedious and harassing
business.  I have  tried  this  process upon  some  of  the  above examples.
"Freundshaftsbezeigungen"  seems to be "Friendshipdemonstrations," which  is
only a foolish  and clumsy way of  saying  "demonstrations  of  friendship."
"Unabhaengigkeitserklaerungen" seems to be "Independencedeclarations," which
is no improvement upon "Declarations of Independence," so  far as I can see.
"Generalstaatsverordnetenversammlungen"          seems         to         be
"General-statesrepresentativesmeetings,"  as nearly as I can  get at it -- a
mere  rhythmical, gushy euphuism for "meetings of the legislature," I judge.
We used to have a good deal of this  sort of crime in our literature, but it
has gone out now. We used to speak of  a things as a "never-to-be-forgotten"
circumstance,  instead of cramping it  into  the  simple and sufficient word
"memorable" and then  going  calmly about  our  business  as if nothing  had
happened. In those days  we were not content to embalm the thing and bury it
decently, we wanted to build a monument over it.
     But in our  newspapers the compounding-disease  lingers a little to the
present day,  but with the hyphens left out, in the German fashion. This  is
the shape it takes: instead of saying "Mr. Simmons, clerk  of the county and
district courts, was in town yesterday," the new form put it thus: "Clerk of
the County and District  Courts Simmons was in  town yesterday." This  saves
neither time nor  ink,  and  has an  awkward sound besides. One often sees a
remark  like this in our  papers: "MRS.  Assistant District Attorney Johnson
returned to her city residence yesterday for the season."  That is a case of
really  unjustifiable compounding;  because  it not only  saves  no  time or
trouble, but confers a title on Mrs. Johnson which  she has no right to. But
these little instances are trifles indeed, contrasted with the ponderous and
dismal  German system of piling jumbled compounds together. I wish to submit
the following local item, from a Mannheim journal, by way of illustration:
     "In   the   daybeforeyesterdayshortlyaftereleveno'clock    Night,   the
inthistownstandingtavern called 'The Wagoner'  was  downburnt. When the fire
to the  onthedownburninghouseresting  Stork's Nest  reached, flew the parent
Storks away. But  when  the  bytheraging,  firesurrounded Nest ITSELF caught
Fire, straightway plunged  the  quickreturning Mother-Stork into  the Flames
and died, her Wings over her young ones outspread."
     Even the cumbersome German construction is  not able to take the pathos
out of that picture -- indeed, it somehow seems to strengthen it. This  item
is dated away back yonder months ago. I could have used it sooner, but I was
waiting to hear from the Father-stork. I am still waiting.
     "ALSO!"  If I had not shown that the German is a  difficult language, I
have at least intended to do so. I have heard of an American student who was
asked how  he was getting along with his German, and who answered  promptly:
"I am  not  getting along at  all. I have worked at it  hard for three level
months, and  all  I have got to show for it is one solitary German phrase --
'ZWEI GLAS'" (two  glasses of beer). He  paused  for a moment, reflectively;
then added with feeling: "But I've got that SOLID!"
     And if I have not also shown that German is a harassing and infuriating
study, my execution has been  at fault, and not my intent. I heard lately of
a worn and sorely tried American student who used to fly to a certain German
word for  relief when  he could bear  up under his aggravations no longer --
the  only word whose sound was sweet and precious to his ear and  healing to
his lacerated spirit. This was the  word DAMIT. It was  only  the SOUND that
helped him, not the meaning; [3]  and so,  at last, when he learned that the
emphasis was not on  the first syllable, his only stay and support was gone,
and he faded away and died.
     3. It merely means, in its general sense, "herewith."
     I think that  a description of any loud,  stirring,  tumultuous episode
must be tamer  in German  than  in  English.  Our descriptive  words of this
character have such  a  deep,  strong, resonant  sound, while  their  German
equivalents  do  seem so thin and mild and  energyless. Boom, burst,  crash,
roar,  storm,  bellow,  blow, thunder,  explosion; howl,  cry, shout,  yell,
groan;  battle, hell.  These  are  magnificent  words; the have  a force and
magnitude  of sound  befitting  the things which  they  describe.  But their
German equivalents would be ever so nice to sing the children to sleep with,
or else  my awe-inspiring  ears were made  for  display and not for superior
usefulness in analyzing sounds. Would any man  want to die in a battle which
was called by so  tame a term as a SCHLACHT? Or would not a comsumptive feel
too much bundled  up, who  was about to go  out,  in  a shirt-collar  and  a
seal-ring, into  a  storm which the bird-song word  GEWITTER was employed to
describe? And  observe  the strongest of  the several German equivalents for
explosion --  AUSBRUCH. Our word Toothbrush is  more powerful than  that. It
seems  to  me that the Germans  could do  worse  than  import it into  their
language  to describe particularly tremendous  explosions  with. The  German
word for hell  --  Hoelle  -- sounds  more  like HELLY  than  anything else;
therefore, how necessary chipper, frivolous, and  unimpressive  it  is. If a
man were told in German to go there, could he really rise to thee dignity of
feeling insulted?
     Having  pointed out,  in detail,  the several vices of this language, I
now  come to the brief and pleasant task of pointing out  its  virtues.  The
capitalizing  of the  nouns I have already mentioned.  But  far  before this
virtue stands another -- that of  spelling a word according to the sound  of
it.  After  one  short lesson in the alphabet,  the student can tell how any
German word is pronounced without having  to ask; whereas in our language if
a  student should inquire of us, "What does  B, O,  W, spell?" we should  be
obliged  to reply, "Nobody can tell what it  spells  when you set if  off by
itself; you can only tell by referring to  the context and finding out  what
it signifies  -- whether it is a thing to  shoot  arrows  with, or a  nod of
one's head, or the forward end of a boat."
     There  are  some  German  words  which  are singularly  and  powerfully
effective.  For  instance,  those  which  describe  lowly,   peaceful,   and
affectionate home life; those which deal  with love, in any  and all  forms,
from mere kindly feeling and honest good will toward  the  passing stranger,
clear up to courtship; those which deal with  outdoor Nature, in its softest
and  loveliest aspects -- with meadows and  forests, and birds  and flowers,
the fragrance  and sunshine  of summer, and the moonlight of peaceful winter
nights; in a word, those which deal with any and all forms of rest, respose,
and  peace;  those also  which  deal  with  the  creatures  and  marvels  of
fairyland; and lastly and chiefly,  in those words  which express pathos, is
the  language surpassingly  rich and affective. There are German songs which
can make a stranger to the language cry. That  shows that the SOUND  of  the
words  is  correct  --  it  interprets  the  meanings  with  truth and  with
exactness; and so the ear is informed, and through the ear, the heart.
     The Germans do not seem to  be afraid to repeat a word when it  is  the
right one.  they repeat  it several times, if they choose. That is wise. But
in English, when we have  used  a word a couple of times in  a paragraph, we
imagine we are  growing  tautological, and so we are weak enough to exchange
it for some other word which only approximates  exactness, to escape what we
wrongly fancy  is  a  greater  blemish. Repetition  may be bad,  but  surely
inexactness is worse.
     There are people in the world who will take a great deal  of trouble to
point out the faults in a religion or a language, and then go  blandly about
their business without  suggesting any remedy. I am not that kind of person.
I have shown that the German language needs reforming. Very well, I am ready
to reform it.  At least I am ready  to  make the proper  suggestions. Such a
course  as this might be immodest  in another; but I have devoted upward  of
nine  full weeks, first  and last, to  a careful and critical study  of this
tongue, and thus have acquired a confidence in my ability to reform it which
no mere superficial culture could have conferred upon me.
     In the first place, I would leave out  the Dative case. It confuses the
plurals; and,  besides, nobody ever knows  when  he  is in  the Dative case,
except he discover it by accident -- and then he does not know when or where
it was that he got  into it, or how long he has  been in it,  or  how  he is
going to get out of it  again. The Dative case is but an ornamental folly --
it is better to discard it.
     In the next place, I would move the  Verb further up to  the front. You
may load  up  with ever so good  a Verb, but  I notice that you never really
bring down a subject with it at the present German range -- you only cripple
it. So I insist that this important part of speech should be brought forward
to a position where it may be easily seen with the naked eye.
     Thirdly, I would import some strong words from the English tongue -- to
swear with, and also to use in describing all sorts  of vigorous things in a
vigorous ways. [4]
     4.  "Verdammt," and its variations and  enlargements,  are  words which
have plenty of  meaning, but the SOUNDS  are so  mild  and ineffectual  that
German  ladies can use them  without sin. German  ladies  who could  not  be
induced to commit a  sin by  any persuasion or compulsion, promptly  rip out
one  of  these  harmless little words when they tear their dresses  or don't
like the soup. It sounds about as wicked as our "My gracious." German ladies
are constantly saying, "Ach!  Gott!"  "Mein  Gott!"  "Gott in Himmel!" "Herr
Gott" "Der Herr  Jesus!" etc. They  think our  ladies have the  same custom,
perhaps; for I once heard a gentle and lovely old German lady say to a sweet
young American girl: "The two languages are so alike  --  how pleasant  that
is; we say 'Ach! Gott!' you say 'Goddamn.'"
     Fourthly,  I  would   reorganizes  the  sexes,   and  distribute   them
accordingly  to the will  of the  creator. This as a tribute  of respect, if
nothing else.
     Fifthly, I would  do  away with  those great  long compounded words; or
require the speaker to  deliver  them  in sections, with  intermissions  for
refreshments. To wholly do away with them  would be best, for ideas are more
easily  received and digested when  they come  one at a time than when  they
come in bulk. Intellectual food is like any other; it is pleasanter and more
beneficial to take it with a spoon than with a shovel.
     Sixthly,  I would require a  speaker to stop when he is  done, and  not
hang  a string  of those useless "haven sind gewesen  gehabt haben  geworden
seins" to the end of his oration. This  sort of gewgaws undignify  a speech,
instead  of adding a grace. They are, therefore, an offense,  and should  be
     Seventhly, I would discard the Parenthesis. Also the reparenthesis, the
re-reparenthesis,  and  the  re-re-re-re-re-reparentheses, and likewise  the
final wide-reaching all-enclosing  king-parenthesis. I  would require  every
individual, be he high or low, to unfold  a plain straightforward  tale,  or
else  coil it and sit on it  and  hold  his  peace. Infractions  of this law
should be punishable with death.
     And eighthly,  and  last,  I  would retain  ZUG and SCHLAG, with  their
pendants, and discard  the  rest of the vocabulary. This would simplify  the
     I  have  now  named what  I regard as the most  necessary and important
changes. These are perhaps all I could be expected to name for  nothing; but
there are  other  suggestions which I can and will make in  case my proposed
application shall result in my being formally  employed by the government in
the work of reforming the language.
     My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to
learn English (barring  spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in
thirty days, and  German in thirty  years. It seems manifest, then, that the
latter tongue ought to be  trimmed down and repaired.  If it is to remain as
it  is,  it  ought  to be  gently  and reverently  set  aside among the dead
languages, for only the dead have time to learn it.
     Gentlemen: Since I arrived, a  month ago, in this  old wonderland, this
vast garden  of  Germany,  my  English tongue has  so often proved a useless
piece  of baggage to me, and so  troublesome to  carry around, in a  country
where they haven't the  checking  system  for luggage, that I finally set to
work, and learned the German language. Also! Es freut mich dass dies so ist,
denn es muss, in ein hauptsaechlich degree, hoeflich sein, dass man  auf ein
occasion  like this, sein Rede in die  Sprache des  Landes  worin he boards,
aussprechen  soll.  Dafuer  habe  ich,  aus  reinische  Verlegenheit  -- no,
Vergangenheit -- no, I mean Hoflichkeit -- aus reinishe Hoflichkeit habe ich
resolved to tackle this business in the  German  language, um Gottes willen!
Also! Sie muessen so  freundlich sein, und verzeih mich die interlarding von
ein oder zwei Englischer Worte, hie und da, denn ich finde dass die deutsche
is not  a very copious language, and so when  you've really got  anything to
say, you've got to draw on a language that can stand the strain.
     Wenn  haber  man kann nicht meinem Rede  Verstehen, so  werde  ich  ihm
spaeter dasselbe  uebersetz, wenn  er solche  Dienst  verlangen wollen haben
werden sollen sein  haette. (I don't  know what  wollen  haben werden sollen
sein haette means,  but I notice  they always put it at  the end of a German
sentence -- merely for general literary gorgeousness, I suppose.)
     This is a great and justly honored day -- a day  which is worthy of the
veneration in  which  it  is held  by  the  true patriots of  all climes and
nationalities -- a day which offers a fruitful theme for thought and speech;
und meinem Freunde --  no, meinEN FreundEN --  meinES FreundES -- well, take
your choice,  they're all the same price; I don't know which one is right --
also! ich habe  gehabt haben  worden gewesen  sein,  as Goethe says  in  his
Paradise Lost -- ich  -- ich -- that is to  say -- ich -- but let us  change
     Also! Die  Anblich so  viele Grossbrittanischer und Amerikanischer hier
zusammengetroffen in Bruderliche concord, ist zwar a welcome and inspiriting
spectacle. And what has moved you to it? Can the terse German tongue rise to
the expression of this impulse? Is it
Nein, o nein!  This is  a  crisp and noble word, but it fails to  pierce the
marrow of the impulse  which has gathered this friendly meeting and produced
diese Anblick -- eine Anblich  welche ist gut zu sehen -- gut fuer die Augen
in a foreign  land  and  a far country  --  eine Anblick  solche als  in die
gew:ohnliche Heidelberger  phrase nennt  man  ein "schoenes  Aussicht!"  Ja,
freilich natuerlich  wahrscheinlich ebensowohl!  Also! Die Aussicht auf  dem
Koenigsstuhl mehr groesser  ist, aber geistlische sprechend nicht so schoen,
lob' Gott! Because sie sind hier zusammengetroffen, in Bruderlichem concord,
ein grossen  Tag zu feirn, whose high benefits were not for one land and one
locality,  but  have conferred  a measure  of good upon all lands  that know
liberty today, and love it. Hundert Jahre vorueber, waren die Englaender und
die Amerikaner Feinde; aber heut sind sie herzlichen Freunde, Gott sei Dank!
May this good-fellowship endure; may these banners here  blended in amity so
remain; may they never any more wave over opposing hosts, or be stained with
blood which was kindred, is  kindred,  and always will be kindred,  until  a
line drawn upon  a map shall be able to say: "THIS bars the  ancestral blood
from flowing in the veins of the descendant!"

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