Posts tagged ‘Culture’

September 9, 2012


No swearing allowed, “egats1” should be alright, pic:

I haven’t heard that in a while and when I read it in a blog the other day I thought “wow, that is a good one and so quaint!”

One uses the expression “egads!” in place of another swear word or expression of profanity which would be much worse or offending.  In polite conversation, or in business it is rarely opportune to swear or use profanities and so a word with a reduced level of objectionable quality might just be what is needed.  especially since people will generally know what you really want to say and will understand that you feel rather strongly about that topic.

The good old “egats” is said to derive from the expression “oh, god” – itself not a profanity but in a society that is so sensitive to the slightest hint of disrespect against religion (at least some) still not something to be said lightly, casually or frequently.

Other such words include “shoot” for the good old “sh..” – you get it,  frigging or flipping  for the f-bomb, and heck for hell.  Examples are abound: “let’s get the heck out of here”, “Shoot, it’s starting to rain and I forgot the flipping umbrella.”

If you want to check out an example for egads have a look at the blog I found it in.

September 3, 2012

Mad Stuff

I just started a new blog about expats (us) returning home (maybe) which you can find here.  In my first post I used the word loony bin.  Since I wasn’t even sure how to write it (loonie vs. loony) I thought I better say a few words about it.

Probably the most famous movie about a “loony bin: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, pic:

A loony bin is where you end up if you have gone certifiably insane or in more politically correct word if you suffer from a serious mental illness.  Since we are already politically correct let’s get it over with and use the proper term for such an institution which is something along the lines of mental health facility, mental health institution.  I am sure there are even more politically correct terms for such places, used especially when a famous or somewhat famous person publicly ends up there – something like “rehabilitation facility” or alike.

Just like other languages, too, – I can vouch for German – there are many words, mostly unkind and politically not correct for mental institutions.  Here are a couple more English one:

nut house – being crazy is also called “being nuts”

funny farm – not sure why it would be so funny

The loony bit is derived from lunatic which is an adjective used to describe mad people (based on the old believe that a full moon will make people crazy, or turn them into werewolves).  Why bin?  I don’t know but since a bin is something where things are kept in a somewhat unorderly fashion the expression probably means just that: place where crazy people are kept.

August 30, 2012

Guy’s guy

I just thought about an old friend and how to best describe him and the term “guy’s guy” came to mind.  That is definitely one worth explaining.

This guy really doesn’t look much like a guy’s guy, pic:

So a guy’s guy is a heterosexual man who prefers the company of other man and favors  in masculine activities.  Playing rugby is definitely a guy’s guy activity, so is cutting down trees, fixing up old cars, many forms of extreme sports, notably those which require lots of strength and power.  Ball room dancing – despite the fact that requires a lot of endurance, is not a typical guy’s guy activity.  Another important aspect is that to be a guy’s guy the guy has to be admired by other men.

The gy’s guy opposite is the “Ladies’ Man” – any major achievements in ball room dancing are more likely to make you the latter, building a barn with your bare hands and a few tools over the weekend will definitely make you more of a guy’s guy.

Another expression saying pretty much the same thing is “man’s man”.

August 28, 2012


As a DIY-er, Left Coast liberal, environmentally conscious do-gooder I had to come across the term “upcycling” sooner or later.  It was rather later than sooner to my surprise as I found the term – not too long after I had heard or rather read it for the first time here in the US – in a mainstream German women’s magazine.

Upcycling at its best: a purse made from drinking pouches,

As for a definition, upcycling is the re-purposing of a material into a product of higher quality.  Examples of upcycling include purses made of all sorts of materials such as drink pouches or candy wrappers, coasters from wood scraps, fancy dressers from old drawers and, I guess, my recent project of making a lamp shade from leather strings and copious amounts of fabric stiffener (I also used – and ultimately had to sacrifice – my son’s inflatable pool ball. Oh well, the summer is almost over anyway).

Upcycling seems to be quite the trend around here, especially in San Francisco but I am sure the New Yorkers have their share of the movement – and apparently so does germany.

Here are some of the websites/blogs I recently looked at and thought inspirational:

Have a look, maybe you’ll find your own favorite project to be creative nd work with your hands after a day spend hammering away on the computer.

So, and now I’ll go and make cutesy little tea light holders out of old lace, balloons and – you guessed it – copious amounts of fabric stiffener.

August 16, 2012

…And The Rest Is History

“.. and the rest is history” is another little (American) English phrase that can be very useful in conversation.  The phrase is used to refer to a story or event everybody is familiar with and therefore does not need to be repeated.  Everyone is not necessarily everyone in the world or even the country or town but everyone (or almost everyone) taking part in that particular conversation.

I just recently used the phrase (or rather would have used it had this conversation happened in English) in the following context: My oldest girl-friend was telling my son how she move from one country to another when she was only 10 years old and how she had to leave her best girl-friend behind. To give the whole story a optimistic spin she then continued to say “but then, two years later, I met your mom in school” to which I would have added “and the rest is history!” meaning everybody around the table knows that we have been best friends ever since and knows many stories about our adventures – both silly and serious.

I like this phrase, it seems like it is the closest thing to telling an insider joke without actually telling a joke.

No picture this time, for the life of me I couldn’t come up with a picture to illustrate this phrase that wasn’t completely cliche or unrecognizable.



August 9, 2012

In Defense of Californias Elementary Schools

I have pretty much given up blogging about the California school system and it’s shortfalls, specifically the political correctness which often lies like a sticky blanket on everything that should be fun from candy to a good playground fight.

Mobbing is nasty, pic:


Today, though, I have to raise my voice in defense of the political correctness and mollycoddling which surprises no-one more than me.  I have spent the last four weeks with my family in my native German town.  My parents live in a small, save cul-de-sac with kids my son’s age around.  “Perfect”, I thought to myself, “‘precious only son’ will have some buddies (or should I say mates) to play with and I will get to do – whatever.”  What I never even considered was the fact that the lovely little neighborhood brats would gang up on my child, whose only crime it is to be a stranger


with the occasional strange idea about how German language should be used.  Five of them mobbed him, were absolutely nasty from the first moment on, stole his toys, refused to include him in their games, shoved dirt down his shirt and similarly nasty stuff while their parents sat by looking and saying smart and enlightening things like “that’s just how kids are”.

Now I hate to say this but where we live every parent would be mortified by such behavior and every teacher would call a conference with the parents if they observed such despicable acts.  Kids would be impressed upon that mobbing is unacceptable and that message would be delivered in no uncertain terms.  Kids learn in Kindergarten to be open and tolerant of others.  This is part of the curriculum.  Does it always work and do we have a bunch of little angles floating three feet off the ground in California?  No, of course not, but at least a serious attempt is made to train them from an early age to be caring and inclusive,  call it mollycoddling if you like but at least it isn’t mobbing and indifference.

I am very glad, I have to say, that the first day of my son’s third grade will be in a political correct school in politically correct California.


July 16, 2012


Where we live we have play dates for our kids.  They don’t just go out and visit their friends’ and classmates after school and homework as we used to do, no, generally, you have to make a “date” for such an important event.  This involves two parents – mothers, mostly – taking out their smart phones and scroll through their and their busy off-spring’s  calendars.  A conversation like this ensues:

Parent 1: “Monday and Thursday Jimmy has soccer training, Tuesdays is piano class and afterwards  we go to the library, Friday is his Chinese class and Saturday morning a soccer game.  We could do a week from Wednesday but not before 4:30 because of art class every other week.”

Parent 2: “Let’s see, a week from Wednesday … that won’t work, Danny has swim practice.  Maybe Friday after Jimmy’s Chinese class and Danny’s chess club.  Or maybe on Saturday between 2 and 4 pm – before the birthday party at 4:30 pm.”

The Fallacy of play dates, (c

So a date is set for a week from Friday at 4:45 pm for an hour or so before Jimmy or Danny has to run off again for some special event or another.  Chances are, though, this play date will get canceled at some point before Friday: “i am sorry , we won’t be able to make it on Friday after all, Jimmy has an extra chess club training event to get ready for the tournament.  Maybe we could reschedule for four weeks from now when the tournament is over.”

The funny thing is, almost all the parents I ever ask about that practice hate it (admittedly most of them are either Europeans or from India – given where I live and whom I hang out with) and all fondly think back to their childhoods when they would come home from school, eat, do homework, do whatever else kids have to do and the jump on the bike or run on over to the neighbor’s house, or go to the local park where a bunch of buddies were already kicking or tossing a ball – or whatever kids would do.  All without calendars and schedules and a multitude of enriching afternoon activities.

Yet, the play dates continue unabashedly.

November 17, 2011

Another crazy day …

No such a thing in Californian schools, pic:

… in the California school system.  I haven’t written about this in a while.  Kind of decided that it won’t get any better if I make a big fuss over it and have by and large been able to ignore whatever craziness came my way but today is one of those days when my son tells me a story and I just stare at him and say something along the lines of “you got to be kidding, right?”

“No, mom” he says and I say

“But this story you just told me isn’t true – you made it up?  Right?”

“No it is true, the teacher said it.”

So the story he told me was the following.  Along with such words as underwear, stupid, dumb and lame (I get the last three, no complaints there) the latest word to be banned from the class room is “easy”.  “Easy” as in not difficult.

A reasonable question in this context might be: “why on earth is ‘easy’ a bad thing to say?”  which is exactly what I asked my child.  He, looking earnestly, said “the teacher said because it might hurt someone feelings who does not think the task is easy.”  WHAT?  How far do we have to drive this craziness?  Some kid finds this easy, others that and that’s just a fact of life.   Shouldn’t they get used to that?  Isn’t that normal and a good lesson to learn?

So here we go again – another thing I need to remember when doing homework with him.  Can’t say “hurry up, you can do this quickly, it is easy.”  That just might be an insult to somebody out there.

Where, oh where, did all the common sense disappear to?

October 23, 2011

Baker’s Dozen

Modern version of the baker's Dozen - the glazed donut dozen, pic:

My husband asked me about this expression today and I knew the correct answer but had no idea where it comes from so I thought this might be a good blog post.  A Baker’s dozen is not – you guessed it – 12 but 13.   My original notion, namely that it was some clever marketing ploy to get people to buy at your bakery, not another by giving them 13 bagels for the price of 12 proved to be overly modern.

The expressions seems to be predating modern marketing ploys and date back to the 13th century.  An interesting but historically dubious explanation is that in the England of Henry III bakers who short-changed their customers where severely punished.  We are not talking stuff like jail time or a fine here, we are talking having your hand cut off by an axe.  To avoid such unpleasantness – so the story goes – bakers would bake a 13th of whatever with the dozen thereby reducing the risk of being one short.

Another explanation is that it is easier to bake 13 – as this makes an nice arrangement on a tray 3+2+3+2+3.  I find this unconvincing – baking 13 doesn’t mean you have to sell them all at once – but maybe I am thinking modern marketing again.

October 11, 2011

Anecdotal Evidence

I was looking for the German equivalent for anecdotal evidence and had to conclude – after consulting the internet and two more native speakers – that there isn’t such as thing as a translation of that expression, which – of course – makes it an interesting one.

That vaccination causes all sorts of mental health issues is based on anecdotale vidence - at best. pic:

The expression “anecdotal evidence” is used when referring to evidence from anecdotes.  This implies a small sample – too small to be statistically relevant and therefore the data is unreliable.  That does not mean the fact for which one has anecdotal evidence is necessarily wrong – just that the available set of data isn’t strong enough to support the conclusion in a scientific sense.  Frequent problems are a biased sample or cherry-picked cases.

The expression does not necessarily have a negative connotation as it implies hat the person using it is aware of the potential issues and does not try to hid them.  If you say something like “What I am saying is based on anecdotal evidence” everybody will know that you aren’t making any scientific claims about the accuracy.

So, as long as one notices that what one is presenting is anecdotal evidence by nature and states this there is no issue.  The problem is people who mistake anecdotal evidence for real, scientific evidence and particularly those who are trying to sell us anecdotal evidence as the real thing – which is happening more often than we should like, especially by politicians to further their agenda.