Monday, August 20, 2007


International News Roundup

Whoever said that Americans are uninterested in important current events in other parts of the world? The following are from (See here and here, to prove that I am not making any of this up.)
Bears eat man at beer festival

A 23-year old Serb was found dead and half-eaten in the bear cage of Belgrade Zoo at the weekend during the annual beer festival.

The man was found naked, with his clothes lying intact inside the cage. Two adult bears, Masha and Misha, had dragged the body to their feeding corner and reacted angrily when keepers tried to recover it.

"There's a good chance he was drunk or drugged. Only an idiot would jump into the bear cage," zoo director Vuk Bojovic told Reuters.

But only a diabolical genius would drug someone and leave him inside the bear cage. What about that, Mr. Zoo Director? You are not as clever as the German police, as we see in the next item.
11 hurt at Tom Cruise film shoot

Eleven people were injured when they fell off the back of a truck during the shooting of Tom Cruise's latest film in Berlin, police said on Monday.

In "Valkyrie," Cruise plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who fronted the failed attempt by a group of largely military conspirators to assassinate Adolf Hitler in July 1944.

The 11 fell from the truck when a side panel burst open as it drove around a corner in central Berlin on Sunday evening, police said. One of them was seriously hurt and had to remain in hospital. Filming was halted after the accident.

"We have no findings to suggest anyone famous was involved in the accident," said a police spokesman...

If anyone famous had been involved, CNN would have had to upgrade the story from World News to Star news.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


The Leader

To German speakers, "Fuhrer" is a generic word meaning "leader." Of course "the Fuhrer" (actually, "der Fuhrer") is, to German speakers, Hitler. But the historical fact of Hitler hasn't removed the word "fuhrer" from normal German vocabulary in its generic sense. Thus, my amusement in a former post when I encountered this sign at a tourist locale, which I translate as "enter only with [tour] leader."


This has gotten me wondering why, if Hitler is known by Germans with a phrase that literally translates as "the Leader," we English-speakers know him as "the Fuhrer"?

To me this is the linguistic equivalent of those scenes in WWII movies, where Germans are speaking to one another in English with a German accent.

If we English speakers referred to Hitler as "the Leader," we'd be using the true English equivalent, conveying something of the sense of the phrase Germans get from "der Fuhrer." Moreover, we'd convey more meaning by capturing the creepiness, the sense of giving oneself (and one's language) over to a totalitarian dictator that is inescapably part of the designation "der Fuhrer" (his official title, if I'm not mistaken).

By calling him "the Fuhrer," however, we subtly distance ourself from that meaning. It's much easier for English speakers to laugh or scoff at "the Fuhrer" than "the Leader." What's more, "fuhrer" suggests the pun with the English "furor," slyly conveying the national hysteria that we English-speakers contend was the reason Hitler came to power. I can understand the need, during WWII itself, to belittle Hitler in that way to get a morale boost. But that trick has less justification for historians and those of us whose humanity obligates us to understand the phenomenon of Hitler.

At bottom, using the label "the Fuhrer" rather than "the Leader" signals a view that Hitler's rise to power was an essentially German problem. No worries -- it couldn't possibly happen here!

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