English -> Warning - you may not read further

Warning - you may not read further: you may be offended by some words. Although no such thing is intended. And: The email has not really something to do with genealogy - more or less.

Good morning.

You may know I’m German. Now and then you’ll notice by the way I think and thus behave if not by the way I talk and write. Years ago I stopped thinking in German, translating into English and writing or talking in English but started doing alltogether in English. At least that is what I think I did or do. Maybe the old process is still at work but much faster. Anyway. Usually it works fine. Everyone understands what I mean and is not offended by the … well … mishaps I sometimes produce. Worse: most of the time I don’t realize what I just said or wrote.

But now and then I do realize - mostly a couple of days later when a phrase is repeated and I think it over: „Moment, please, did you really wrote that and that? - Oh, my God, what must they have thought when reading it? Why didn’t they complain? Are they to polite to correct me or complain - maybe simply to the fact that they give me credits for having master a foreign language?“ As my friend Dr. Ernst „Ernie“ Schneider once mentioned: „You pretty often meat people - especially in the afternoon - to talk with but their breath smells foul not to they: it stinks. And what would you do? Would you tell him or stand it?“ He added: „I would be happy if anyone of them would tell me about it.“ So I was honest to him and told him: „Well, right now. Your’s stinks.“ He looked at me most seriously, pressed my shoulder and said: „You’re an honost man although you just behaved like a [well, he used the word for the back exit of human food process]. But I like you.“

Usually this only happens now and then but last week I experienced two of them.

Last Saturday I attended a seminar of PALAM, NY Chapter, where Joe Libie talked about „Kleindeutschland“ in southern Manhattan and about German immigrants fighting in the American Civil War. In preparation for the second I remembered an article I once wrote about a young man, Theodore Schlick, born 1843 in my hometown St. Wendel, emigrated with his family to Dansville, Livingston, NY. He volunteered and served as a captain and in his second term as a major in a New York Cavalry unit and was killed in action in August 1864 near Kearneysville, WV. I had found his grave with monument in a cemetery in Dansville. My friend Bud Higginbotham from Wayland, Steuben, NY, showed me a book called „Where they fell“ by Robert Mascotte and therin I found the story how Schlick died. One of they lines said that his comrades retrieved the body from the battlefield while the battle was still raging „under the music of whistling bullets“. When I put together the article - in German - I took the translated line as a title: „Die Musik der pfeifenden Kugeln“. Last weekend when I translated my article (which has been published 2019 in a book „Kriegszeiten“, vol. 2) back into English I didn’t have my copy of Mascotte’s book at hand thus I re-translated the title into what I thought was … proper. As I had to do it in a hurry, I used the google translator and did corrections by hand. This program has improved very much. Now and then you can read reviews I post on this list - most of them are produced by Mr. Google or Mr. Bing in the first place.

That title was the problem: „Die Musik der pfeifenden Kugeln“ - „The Music Of Whistling Bullets“. A bullet is the thing which leave a gun through the front end and makes it way throught the air pretty fast to the participant. When people started using guns those bullets were round like balls, actually: they were balls. And although „bullet“ translates into „Kugel“, a translation for „Kugel“ can be „ball“ (actually it could be „ball, globe, sphere, bullet, shot, scoop“. I took possibiliy numero uno. So my titel became „The Music of Whistling Balls“.

I had no problem with that title until last Sunday I wrote an email late at night short before cutting off the computer and going to bed. I told that fellow at the other end (America) that I have to go to bed as it was getting late. Well, that is not what I actually wrote. When I write in English I talk loud what I write so hear whether it sounds right or not. Thus I misspelled that last word . Maybe it was because I’ve been tired and was in a hurry. But fortunately before I sent it away I re-read it and changed the „aid“ in „late“ into „ate“. Poooh, that’s been close.

I haven’t had luck with the „whistling balls“ and it was not before this morning under the shower that I realized what I had meant and what I have written and what people should understand and what people may understand.

Which reminded me of (at, about? I don’t like your prepositions) another story 20 years ago. I had been a member of looking-for-crashed-airplanes-of-WW2-buffs and in April 2000 there was a conference on the far of Germany in a small town called Barth, where nearby in during the war had been a prison camp of Luftwaffe, Stalag Luft 1. I live in middle South West Germany near Luxemburg border while Barth is located near Stralsund at the Baltic Sea. I met a veteran of WW2, George Lesko, whose plane - B-24 Liberator - had been shot down about 40 miles south of my hometown just across the border to France in August 1944. He and his son had come visit the crash site, picked me up in St. Wendel and we took the train all through Germany to Berlin where we met a British veteran - Bertram Arthur James - who’d been shot down in 1941 and spent the better part of WW2 in Germany’s prison camp. He’d participated and survived the Great Escape from Stalag Luft 3 and therefore was imprisonded in special camp in the outskirts of the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen near Berlin - where we met him. We went on to Barth, met a bunch of other veterans and a week later I returned home alone. Another week later I started writing down my experiences of that week and posted it in a list called „Heavy Bombers List“ (which ceased to exist a couple of years later when most of the members - former aircrew - died). Someone sent my „narration“ to another veteran and later told me what this fellow said about it. It was: „Great story but funny English.“ Don’t know yet whether I had been honored or „wettened with the liquid result of food processing“.

Roland Geiger, St. Wendel, Germany.

May 2021


Historische Forschungen · Roland Geiger · Alsfassener Straße 17 · 66606 St. Wendel · Telefon: 0 68 51 / 31 66
E-Mail:  alsfassen(at)  (c)2009

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