Category Archives: Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation: The Wesen of Grimm #2

Even though I am still not caught up with the show – again -, I’ll continue with looking at the different names for their Wesen in terms of what they really mean and what they should have been called to turn the names/terms into proper/actual German.
This is of course not meant to offend anyone involved in the show, but as a German native that really likes the German language, this just bugs me whenever I watch the show and they use it.
But let’s have a look at the different words, so you can form your own opinion.

Jägerbar

Another frustrating thing about Wesen-names in Grimm are the missing dots (Umlaut), as the German bear is still a Bär after all.
But even with the Umlaut the word doesn’t make more sense.
Though, first let’s have a look at the actual term before we get into that.
Jägerbar consist of the words Jäger and Bar, while the first is the German term for hunter the second – without the Umlaut – is the word we use for bars/pubs, turning the name of a creature in the name of a pub for hunters. If you go a step further and use the Jager-version (Jagerbar) that I’ve seen on a picture, you get an even more alcoholic meaning (Jagertee is an alcoholic beverage created by hunters)…
Other meanings of Jager also include the name of a certain sail or the offspring of a Jaguar and a Tiger. 😉
Still, I don’t think either of these were the intended meaning.
So let’s add the Umlaute and make it Jägerbär (as they are named in the German version).
Here we now have Jäger and Bär, the Hunterbear, which feels a bit redundant as bears – from what I know – are natural hunters anyway…
In addition to the double meaning there is also the Roh-Hatz, the initiation ceremony of the Jägerbars, but before I get to that I feel the need to digress into the plural of bear…
One bear is a Bär, two bears are Bären, to create plurals we barely add an -s at the end of a word, we are more friends of the -e/en (incidentally the German plural of Bar is Bars too, but I guess that’s because we took that word from English), therefore the actual plural would be Jägerbären, which sounds even more ridiculous.
Anyway, let’s take a look at the raw-Coursing, which is the literal translation of Roh-Hatz. Just like saying the bear is a hunter the creators of these words felt the need to accentuate that what you are hunting/coursing is raw (meat). I would never have guessed that.
For clarification a Hatz (Coursing) is/was a kind of hunting (alternative translation Raw-Hunt), where three or more dogs chase after a certain prey to catch/kill it – much what the Jägerbars do with their human prey – but it is mostly forbidden to do that any more.
Still, it’s a fitting name for the ritual – at least the Hatz part.
I’m still certain that if you only used variations of  Bär and Hatz you’d have basically the same things.

Ziegevolk

This is one of the names that miss a letter to make it understandable for a German native, as the grammatical correct way to write Ziegevolk would be Ziegenvolk, meaning a population (Volk) of goats (Ziegen) or goat-like things (similar to what I told you about the German name of the Hässlichen last time – alternative meaning of Volk: nation).
Speaking of German names; in my initial Grimm Review I wrote a bit about the Ziegevolk:

The “Ziegevolk” […] became the “Ziegendämon” (Goat Demon”), while still portrayed as the original version in the Grimm Diaries

I do believe the demon sounds a bit more fitting, yet I don’t really see them as demon’s either. Still, Ziegenvolk for me sounds like a herd of these Wesen and not an individual.
Interestingly the plural of Ziegevolk seems to be Ziegevolk as well even though the plural of Volk is Völker (nations -> Ziegenvölker), which strengthens my association with the word being used for a herd.
As I’ve already mentioned the Grimm Diaries, let’s have a look what their entry actually (frustratingly) reads:

Die Ziegevolk, die manchmal auch als Bluebeards, sind eine Ziege-wie geschopf, das sah ich mit meinen eigenen Augen in München im winter 1805. Scheinen sie nicht gewalttatig. Die Gefahr kommt aus ihre instinktive Notwendigkeit der Rasse und scheinen sich nicht zu kummern. Menge uber die Qualitat.
Sie haben kurze Hörner wie eine Ziege.
Why frustratingly?
I’m literally covering my eyes at this monstrosity over here, as it sounds like a translation run through Google translate… – I only understood part of it through thinking the English-way and reading the translation provided on the Wiki itself (Ziege-wie? o.O ZIEGE-WIE???!! Seriously?! o.O ).
Well, this is how it should read:
Version 1 (changes in [ ] -brackets):
Die Ziege[n]volk, die manchmal auch als Bluebeards [(Blaubärte) bezeichnet werden], sind eine [ziegenähnliche G]esch[ö]pf[e], d[ie] sah ich mit meinen eigenen Augen in München im [W]inter 1805 [gesehen habe]. S[ie s]cheinen sie nicht gewaltt[ä]tig [zu sein]. Die Gefahr kommt aus [der] instinktive[n] Notwendigkeit der Rasse [sich fortzupflanzen(?), es scheint sie nicht zu stören] und scheinen sich nicht zu kummern. Menge [ü]ber die Qualit[ä]t.
Sie haben kurze Hörner wie eine Ziege. (<- The only correct sentence…)

Version 2 (easier readable version):
Die Ziegenvolk, die manchmal auch als Bluebeards (Blaubärte) bezeichnet werden, sind ziegenähnliche Geschöpfe, die ich mit meinen eigenen Augen in München im Winter 1805 gesehen habe. Sie scheinen nicht gewalttätig zu sein. Die Gefahr kommt aus der instinktiven Notwendigkeit der Rasse sich fortzupflanzen, es scheint sie nicht zu stören. Menge über die Qualität.
Sie haben kurze Hörner wie eine Ziege.
English:
The Ziege[n]volk, sometimes referred to as [Blaubärte (Bluebeards)], are goat-like creatures as I saw with my own eyes in Munich in Winter 1805. They do not seem to be violent. The danger comes from the necessity of the race [to repopulate, which does not seem to matter to them]. Quantity over the Quality.
They have short horns like a goat.
I still do not know what they mean by „necessity of the race“ I do believe there are a few words missing like „to reproduce“, „to repopulate“ or something similar to it that’s why I added the „fortpflanzen„, which is the German term for it, but the last few sentences of that paragraph are lacking any kind of information anyway, so it’s all a bit of hit and miss here (with more miss than hit to be honest).

So, yeah: Missing letter, completely wrong description, right now I feel like they don’t even care about being anywhere near correct usage of the language…
Not to mention the absurdity that is their Geruck gland, which would actually be the Geruchsdrüse (smell gland, the s being a letter indicating that it is a gland for smell). I’m aware that the English pronunciation of the German ch sounds like a ck, but spelling it out does not improve this.
Though, I do have to say that I like the Bluebeard connection as that is quite an interesting Tale (if your German is good enough) in itself.

Reinigen

Where Hässlich was based on an adjective Reinigen is based on a verb, which makes as much sense – or not. Anyway etwas reinigen means to clean something and as Reinigen are based on rats, it seems to be quite a far stretch as rats usually aren’t really associated with being clean, even though they are in fact quite cleanly (reinlich). Still, Reinigen to me feels like someone has to clean something up (Grimms cleansing the world of Reinigen perhaps?) and not like the name for a species – or whatever exactly a Wesen is.
In German they tried a different approach by calling them Nagerstein. It makes just as much sense.
Nager or Nagetiere is the German term for all kinds of rodents (including rats, mice, guinea pigs,…), as for the Stein (stone): No idea how that happened. I know Stein is occasionally used as reference to places, but I do not see any reason why this would be in the name for this Wesen. Besides: Nagerstein either sounds like a weird village or something for rodents to chew on.
For some reason the word „Ratigan“ is stuck in my head when I think about these Wesen, I know it’s the name of a Disney villain, but well, it does seem more fitting than Reinigen…
Interestingly enough the Reinigen have two other terms associated with them: Reini-bashing and Riesen-Ratte. The first is basically a word play on Reinigen-bashing, so not much to do there.
The Riesen-Ratte is a strange „spelling“ of Riesenratte or riesige Ratte (basically meaning giant/large rat, the first being actual animals). The term is used for several Reinigen merging together into a giant entity to attack a foe. An alternative name for this is Rattenkönig (rat king), which in folklore and real life is basically a bundle of rats whose tails are intertwined, so they didn’t do that much wrong with this one at least.

Eisbiber

There is not that much I can say about Eisbibers, accept that it feels like another redundant name and the plural being wrong, again.
While beavers (Biber) aren’t that much known to live in ice (Eis) water and are more common in rivers, one can argue that the water in the river is indeed quite icy, so you’d at least have some reasoning for the name (and actual beavers mate during winter when their dams are frozen over). Still, as with the German version of Hässlich (Rattentroll) you could also argue that it sounds that there are more kinds of Bibers (Flussbiber/Riverbeaver or Tropenbiber/Tropicalbeaver, perhaps?).
Then again, we don’t really know the ancestral family tree of Wesen, so who knows?
Like I said before is the German plural rarely formed with an -s and in case of the Biber it even remains the same word.
Incidentally – and on an entirely different note – do I remember a trip from primary school where we took a river tour and one of my classmates asked whether we’d see „Bibers, Adlers“ and others using the wrong plural for either of them. I do believe Beaverers and Eaglerers would be a sufficient way of showing what Bibers and the like feel like to a German native.

Bauerschwein

Another missing letter here with the Bauerschwein as the grammatically correct usage of Bauer (farmer) would be Bauern- (as in Bauerntöpel/farm idiot or bumpkin), making it Bauernschwein, the farmer pig – or peasant pig as it’s officially translated. You could use this word to describe them, but you don’t have to. It sounds like it’s describing an animal on a farm and not a creature walking around outside of them, but that seems to be a basic issue with these names.
And just like I said before: It also implies there are different kinds of pigs (Schweine).
Which might be the case as there is the mention of a Wild Schwein (actually Wildschwein, meaning wild boar), but no one is entirely sure if Monroe simply used a different name or is actually referring to a different Wesen…
Though there could be an entirely different take on the word Bauernschwein as well, as Schwein in German – just as pig/swine in English – doesn’t only stand for pig but also for nasty person and thus making the name refer to a nasty farmer or even farmer bastard (farming bastard? bastard farmer?). Not entirely sure, but this seem to be a more fitting usage to their character, even though it’s basically an insult.

References and Notes

Well, that’s it already.
I hope you enjoyed this little excursion into the usage of my native language in this particular television show.
My major source for names and appearances of the different Wesen is this  Grimm Wikipedia and obviously my experience with the show itself. (Did I ever mention that I really like Wikipedias? Oh, yes, I did.)
As you can see from the title is this post part of the Lost in Translation-series. If you’re interested check out what other shows toy with the German language or culture. If you watch/ed a series or movie where German was/is involved, let me know and I will check out if they have done it justice.
Do you have a Wesen or phrase you want covered? Let me know and I’ll make sure to add them in one of the next parts.
Otherwise I’ll just keep going through the episodes adding the new Wesen to the list.
PoiSonPaiNter

Lost in Translation: The Wesen of Grimm

It’s been a while since I started watching NBC’s Grimm, and as you can see from the lack of comments for it in the What’cha Watching Wednesday do I still have a lot of catching up to do regarding the last few episodes. Still, the more I watched, the more I was inclined to ramble about their usage of German terms and names for all the supernatural going ons in the series. (And as I am currently a bit stuck when it comes to write new stuff I felt like finally finishing this draft from last year.) As I mentioned in my Grimm-Review do they use quite weird and often grammatically incorrect names for their Wesen and I’d like to talk a bit about what the names really mean and what they should have been called to turn the names/terms into proper/actual German.
This is of course not meant to offend anyone involved in the show, but as a German native that really likes the German language, this just bugs me whenever I watch the show and they use it.
In my review I already talked about the fact that if the actual Brother’s Grimm had anything to do with the naming of the Wesen, their works would not have become literary classics. In fact I do even believe they would turn over in their graves, if they knew about some of them; especially Jacob who worked on the first German dictionary until he died. I know hearing/reading some of them made my skin crawl…
But let’s have a look at the different words, so you can form your own opinion.

Wesen

While this most used term is grammatically correct it is totally mispronounced.

No German-native would understand it. It took me a while to do so at least and I had to read it at some point before it made sense to me.
The way the cast pronounces it, the word means “whose” not “creature”.
They add an extra “s” to it and make it a (possessive) question [wessen], rather than a noun…
[From the Review]

The word sounds quite different in German as the focus is on the E and not the S and the S in turn is one of those buzzing S’s instead of the sharp ones (In German we learn the different pronunciation of them by comparing them to bees – summen/buzzing and snakes – zischeln/hissing).
So, in a way it is actually pronounced more like you would start to pronounce WEst and SENse, just with a much shorter and less melodic first E and a buzzing S.
And if you are now totally confused by this explanation: Feel free to check Leo.org for a computer reading or contact me to personally tell you the difference. 🙂
By the way: The German term not only means creature, but also refers to the nature of things, like if you say someone is kind/nice/lovely (in nature), you could say that s/he has a liebenswürdiges Wesen. So regardless of the verbal usage does the term fit perfectly for creatures whose true nature can only be seen by certain people.
Now that we cleared that one up, let’s have a look at the actual Wesen used in the pilot.

Blutbad

The name of the most prominent Wesen makes little sense, especially in regards to the plural.

Blutbad is the German term for bloodbath.
Blutbaden however doesn’t really exist…
The Blut would still be blood but the baden…well it does suggest that it is the action of bathing in blood, making the translation bathing, but that does not really make sense.
So basically [for them] the plural of a bloodbath is the action of bathing in [blood].
[From the Review]

Well, the actual plural of Blutbad is Blutbäder, but they don’t really like those silly dots above the A either, but I will get to that in a later guide.
But the German version doesn’t really make more sense either – they changed most of the names to turn them into proper German, but it doesn’t work all the time:

[Blutbad and its plural] Blutbaden became [both] Blutbader (Which would more or less translate to Bloodbather – someone who is bathing in blood. Trying to find a translation for bader I discovered that there was a medieval profession by that name, someone that had some kind of medic role for the poor people[, but it is highly likely that they did not mean this]. Look for “Barber Surgeon” for more information.)
[From the Review]

So we now have these three version – I skip the other languages, as I’m not the right person to cover them – that all have to do with blood and bathing, but even though they cause bloodbaths and they need blood as nutrition, I still think there would be a more fitting name, probably something with wolf (Wolf)…

Hexenbiest/Zauberbiest

While the name for this second (or third?) most used Wesen in the show is technically correct it does sound a bit weird.
Hexe (Witch) itself is already occasionally used as an insult beside the obvious usage to describe magical women, but Biest (Beast) also refers to something ferocious (when used for humans it usually refers to females, where Biest means something like a minx – if I’m not mistaken) and/or monstrous, so it is a bit doppelt gemoppelt (the same thing said through different words – you might remember a case of this from the famous „Assbutt“ used in Supernatural).
Zauberbiest on the other hand doesn’t make sense. It’s one of those halfway through names that seem to lack some letters. Zauber can refer to a (certain) spell or enchantment, while Zauberer means Sorcerer. To make this one the male counterpart for Hexenbiest it therefore should have been Zaubererbiest. Well, actually Hexerbiest would be the male version as Hexer is the version of Wizard/Warlock that has as negative a connotation as Hexe. The original name also sounds more like a magic creature than a magic user, even more so in English: Spellbeast.
Either way are their official plurals wrong, as the plural of Biest is Biester not Biests and using the English plural (beasts) doesn’t really fit – even though Hexenbiester sounds pretty fun and like a really mean clique of girls…
Well, both sound ridiculous and they probably would have fared better to simply call them Tote Hexe (Dead Witch)/Toter Hexer (Dead Wizard/Warlock) because of their looks…

Hässlich

This is another thing that bugs me: They aren’t consistent in naming the creatures.
While the majority derives from nouns some get a more or less descriptive adjective as a name.
In case of the Hässlich its name literally translates to ugly – which they are, but well who would want to call themselves that? (It is by the way interesting to see that the Wesen accepted and use the names given to them by the Grimms – maybe some of them told the Grimm the name they came up with for themselves, but we haven’t really heard about the creation of the names – at least not to my knowledge)
As hässlich is an adjective creating a plural is difficult, so how do we call more than one Hässlich?
We call them Hässlichen.
You know as in: Die Geschichte vom hässlichen Entlein (The Fairy Tale of the ugly duckling).
It’s a declination, yet without a noun it doesn’t make sense to a German native. Technically, hässlich doesn’t either, but you can point at something and say it’s ugly without saying the things name, but usually we use hässlich in combination with Viech (critter) or other derogatory terms (hässliches Viech – again declined).
In German they are, by the way, called Rattentroll, a combination of rat(s) and troll. Technically this is a specification of what kind of troll it is, as in Gebirgstroll would be the mountain troll, making the rat(s) (Ratten is the plural of Ratte, but it is also used to say things are rat-like – rattenhaft) the descriptive element of the name. Though while this sounds a bit nicer I don’t think they have a lot in common with rats or are otherwise affiliated with them. It also implies that there are other races of trolls, but that does not seem to be the case.
So: Nice try, but still not really fitting.
Depending on when this thing was named – in-universe – they might have just called it a Troll.

Skalengeck

Like Wesen the pronunciation of this name gets an additional letter, here it is an L, at least that’s what it sounds like to me. Other than that is this name a mistranslation.
A Skale is in English a scale, yet not the one you can see on the Skalengecks skin – or on other reptiles for that matter – but the one used for measuring things. The word one would be looking for in German would be Schuppe.
Geck on the other hand is a bit more difficult. On the one hand it is an old word used for fashion-interested people (fop/dandy), on the other hand it might be a shortened version of Gecko the name of the little reptiles/lizards. The latter makes more sense, as Skalengecks don’t seem to be that fashionable.
So correctly translated they might have been called: Schuppengecko(s).
In German they call them Natterngecko(s) that refers to their reptilian like appearance by combining the German names for Colubrids (Nattern) and Geckos. It does fit quite well, though I’m not entirely sure that they are capable of clinging onto walls like their little reptilian namesakes and their snake-like features end with the tongue…

References and Notes

Well, that’s it already.
I hope you enjoyed this little excursion into the usage of my native language in this particular television show.
My major source for names and appearances of the different Wesen is this  Grimm Wikipedia and obviously my experience with the show itself. (Did I ever mention that I really like Wikipedias? Oh, yes, I did.)
As you can see from the title is this post part of the Lost in Translation-series. If you’re interested check out what other shows toy with the German language or culture. If you watch/ed a series or movie where German was/is involved, let me know and I will check out if they have done it justice.
Do you have a Wesen or phrase you want covered? Let me know and I’ll make sure to add them in one of the next parts.
Otherwise I’ll just keep going through the episodes adding the new Wesen (Wesen is by the way both the singular and the plural for creature) to the list.
PoiSonPaiNter

Lost in Translation

For a couple of years now I watch series primarily in English. At first it was Anime with English subtitles, later there were many different shows that I wanted to check out.
Though I do believe I decided that I should watch more in English because I utterly failed at understanding Sherlock in A Study in Pink. He just talked way too fast for me.
Now several series later, I can understand him quite well and my next goal is Vicky Pollard from Little Britain. >_<
Anyway, what I discovered is that some shows like to include German elements into their plots – be it names, characters or other things – and as a German native that really likes the German language I consider these moments to be quite interesting.
Though in most cases they are also quite frustrating.

Let’s add some German things!

We Germans are fully aware of our past and as I mentioned in the post linked above, is it often still shoved into our faces, even though we are three or four generations after those who fought in the war. So it is not surprising that the most characters with German backgrounds that are included in shows and movies are Nazis or somehow involved with them.
Personally I think this is really annoying and whenever a show had this plot point I considered turning it off and lost a little respect for the show. I mean in shows that cover historic elements it is good – and necessary – that they also deal with that part of the worlds history as it should not be forgotten, but in shows that focus more on entertainment than on, well, teaching, it just subtracts from its credibility if they have to use Nazis to fill episodes.
If that wasn’t enough are the actors portraying the supposed German people rarely even natives.
Whenever I notice that the language spoken isn’t English and sounds remotely like German, I listen again to understand it better. On the one hand is it difficult to switch between the languages, on the other hand is the pronunciation often really weird and hard to understand. Especially if they simply choose English native actors, give them some German words to learn and let them play a German character.
So far – if I remember correctly – I only came across three (!) German natives that portrayed characters with German background (all Nazis, but, well, I can’t be that picky…): Thomas Kretschmann  in Dracula (the series) and Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ludger Pistor and Wilfried Hochholdinger in X-Men: First Class. With Daniel Brühl there will be a forth when Captain America: Civil War airs (Basically: Marvel does a good job at casting the right people).
Still, not all English natives are bad at portraying a German accent.
Reed Diamond’s German accent as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Daniel Whitehall, for example, was so well done that I had to look him up, to check if he was German and I’m still highly impressed by it – and I don’t give this complement often.
But even if they do it well, what is said does not always need to be correct…

They don’t talk like we do?

Apparently beside not wanting to cast actual German natives are those responsible for the dialogues fans of literal translations and don’t really care about using actual German grammar for the things the characters have to say.
Though you don’t really hear complains about this from the actors or people involved.
But after having to order someone to

Schieß dem Fenster! (grammatically totally wrong: Shoot the window)

in Die Hard and being informed about its wrongness afterwards, Alan Rickman, for example, decided to never again take up a role of someone speaking German.
It is way easier to translate things word by word and not use the actual meaning of it – and we German’s aren’t spared from that as most people’s English is not the yellow from the egg – but I believe that in a show/movie viewed by thousands of people there would be time and effort put into properly translating phrases in a different language.
Besides German; Spanish and Russian – just as Japanese and Chinese – are used as foreign languages, but my Russian has become too bad for me to notice mistakes and my Japanese was never that good to begin with and I never learned the other two, so I can not say how well/bad they are doing with those languages.
(If anyone is interested: Mr. Rickman should have ordered the other guy to „Schieß auf’s Fenster“ to make it understandable)
It is also interesting how English natives seem to think German’s talk. I for one can’t watch a certain scene in Sherlock’s The Blind Banker without getting utterly annoyed and being really disappointed in the show…
Still, this gives me stuff to rant about.

Lost in Translation

For a long time I have contemplated how and if I should do this, but I have decided that I just want to get this out of my mind. I really like the German language, so it pains me if it is used poorly.
Starting with this one I will publish posts about the portrayal of the German language or culture in series and movies. I’m not sure how entertaining this will be for English natives, but I do believe those of you that want to learn a bit German (culture) might find this an interesting view on what writers actually throw at their audiences.
Definitely covered in this post-series will be:

  • The Wesen of Grimm and other words that are barely German
  • The infuriating tourist from The Blind Banker
  • The court scene from Sherlock’s Many Happy Returns
  • The repeated appearance of a certain historic figure (e.g. Doctor Who – Let’s kill Hitler; Grimm – The Three Coins)
  • The polite Daleks in Doctor Who’s Stolen Earth (thanks to hexenadia for reminding me of this one!)

If you watch/ed a series or movie where German was/is involved, let me know and I will check out if they have done it justice.
PoiSonPaiNter