Adventures in making jokes in German
I have read somewhere that the last thing you really acquire when learning a language is the sense of humor. What I have not read is how face-palmingly embarrassing it can be when you try and rush that process.
So I was out with Johanna and we we’re talking about the German word “Kissen” which means pillow. “Küssen” means kissing. It is fun to talk about German with her, she laughs easily and often, and I suppose I seem like some sort of dim man-child to her when I speak. We began (jokingly) working on titles for German children’s books that I plan to write as exercises for practicing my German.
“Zauber Sauber” - Magic Clean
“Verwirrt und Verwitwet” - Confused and Widowed
“Die bequem Zwiebeln” - The Comfortable Onions
I promise, once pronounced in German these are all funny sounding. To me, at least.
Yes, like a dim man-child I really enjoy words that sound like other words. In fact, I’ve already decided that law firm that will represent this publishing endeavor is:
“Löffel, Schussel, und Schlüssel” - *Spoon, Bowl, and Key”
So extremely rudimentary wordplay is on the table. I though I’d be very smooth while I was at ikea buying a pillow. I sent a picture of the pillow section, and texted Johanna “Nicht meine Liebling Kissen Art.” Literally “Not my favorite type of pillow” though the joke was intended to be “Not my favorite type of kissin’” Johanna’s response was strange, and understandably so. In what in my stupid idiot brain was a clever bit of English-German word play just seemed like the most boringly dull text one could possibly send. Here is a wall of pillows, I do not like any of them, end of report.
When it was clear that this garbage text should have been emphasized with the smartphone equivalent of a shitload of eyebrow waggling, and a stiff elbow in the ribs I apologized to Johanna and got to use what is quickly becoming one of the most well worn bits in my vocabulary. “Ich bin peinlich.” I am embarrassed. Johanna attempted to make me feel better with a simple German idiom:
“Ich auf dem schlauch stehe.” - I am standing on the hose
Quit literally I’m blocking what you’re trying to do. However I didn’t know this idiom, and I’m trying not to google translate every god damn word anyone sends to me. So now everyone is confused. Alle ist verwirrt.
As I work every morning on my German I keep thinking about the actual building blocks of conversation. Not just language. Vocabulary and grammar. That’s language. Context and tone, that communicating. Understanding and culture. That’s conversation.
Until then, Ich werde auf meine eigenes Schlauch stehen.