Flat-Rate Mitarbeiter

Late in the workday today, Herr B. stopped by my office (shared with 3 other colleagues) to inquire whether my desk neighbor R. had already left for the day or would be back. It was a little odd; pretty much everyone knows R. starts his workday early so he can leave early too.

“Ist R. noch da?” Herr B. asked me. I pantomimed looking at my watch and with an exaggerated expression, replied “Och nee, R. ist schon längst heimgangen.”

“Und Sie? Sie machen als Flat-Rate Mitarbeiter ruhig weiter, nicht wahr?”

I had to chuckle at that — I’d never heard the term Flat-Rate Mitarbeiter before, but I kinda liked it.

“Na, bin koa Flat-Rate Mitarbeiter. Ich haue jetzt auch gleich ab.”

“Einen schönen Abend und eine gute Besserung wünsche ich Ihnen dann.”

I haven’t had so much as the sniffles in quite a while, so the fact that I’ve caught whatever cold was going around here seems to have raised some eyebrows…once they’re sure it’s not swine flu.

But that started me thinking. What other inventive uses of English words have surprised you in your Daily German Life context?

Oh, and this next question is posed to the readers out there who, like me, came from a “salaried” job in the home country where overtime was like a bad joke and comp time was hard to justify to one where every minute on (and off) the job is counted, overtime carefully measured, and only rarely gets paid out (but more often results in big comp time blocks). Isn’t that weird? I was kind of offended at first (in 2004) when they explained to me how to fill out my monthly timesheet, since I’d not had to do that since leaving my food service and mall jobs, but dang…Considering what I stand to lose (at least in the short term), becoming a true Flat-Rate Mitarbeiter can wait, if you ask me.

dander grammar up — plural or emasculated husbands

Are we too afraid to admit that our husbands are male in English?

The article Times Square confetti to contain New Year’s wishes at CNN.com says:

“Another person wrote that they wanted their husband to get a green card so that they could join them here in the states,” Tompkins told WABC-TV.

Look, I know we’re all squeamish about gender-specific pronouns (let alone common nouns) in English. But this article is about husbands — people who are necessarily male. Hello, English speakers? Speaking on behalf of all husbands (I feel I’m qualified here), it’s OK for you to refer to us using pronouns indicating our gender. In fact, we like it and encourage it.

I don’t know if I can really blame CNN here; presumably this awfulness came directly from Tim Tompkins, the Times Square Alliance spokesthem.

this is not just because I’m the son of an English teacher

From a CNN article:

Pop star Boy George was due to appear in court in London on Thursday accused of falsely imprisoning a 28-year-old male escort by chaining him to a wall.

See, there would have been no problem had he simply conformed to accepted principles for imprisoning one’s escorts. I presume he should have chained him to the floor, or used zip-ties or something like that.

From another one:

Police seized Khan last week after he appeared at a student rally at the University of Punjab in Lahore, police said. He had been on the run after escaping from house arrest days after the November 3 emergency order was imposed. He faces anti-terrorism charges.

ol_perve.jpgI thought ol’ buddy Perv was our ally in the war on terror. Strikes me as weird his opposition would face anti-terrorism charges.

I know, I know. I have such high standards and low resistance to hairsplitting.

But somebody does get paid to write this stuff.

Ay-ay-ay; i.e., “ie” or “ei”?

It bugs me when English speakers get the German pronunciation of sounds made by the vowel combinations “ie” and “ei” wrong — especially those English speakers who have lots of interaction with Germans and by extension lots of opportunities to practice reading these sounds. My much more tolerant wife explained to me why this happens so often:

  1. Those sounds are not represented consistently in English (think “receive” versus “achieve”).
  2. Not everyone knows the simple rule English speakers can use to pronounce “ie” or “ei” correctly everytime.

I can’t do anything about #1, but I can help you with #2, so here goes:

The sound that the combination “ie” or “ei” will make is always the same of the English name of the 2nd letter.

Thus, the electronics conglomerate is pronounced “see-mens” and not “sigh-mens” and the intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era is prounounced “zyte-guy-st” and not “zeet geest”. Likewise, it really is “franken-styne” and not “franken-steen,” despite what Gene Wilder’s character proclaims.