Thursday, July 22, 2010

Französisches Schießen

Random fact: I chugged a vicious-looking apple cinnamon soy smoothie for breakfast just before leaving my apartment this morning, and now I can't get the dreadful taste out of my mouth. Oh, the things I do for my daily dose of spirulina...

After the smoothie, on my way to work this morning, I suddenly burst out laughing―prompting all the other commuters in Gwanghwamun to consider me insane, I'm sure―because, for some unknown reason, I remembered a funny story from lower year:

A classmate in my first-year German class at Andover was presenting her essay on her favorite hobby: shooting (rifling). The verb "to rifle" in German is schießen, but poor Katja made the honest but unfortunate mistake of reversing the "i" and the "e", transforming the arguably innocuous verb into the much more offensive scheißen, which means "to shit". Thus, her well-written essay caused a gradual riot of embarrassed laughter; first Frau Svec doubled over, and then, when the rest of the class realized that scheißen is related to the expletive Scheiße, laughter erupted from everybody in the room.

I don't remember exactly, but I think the intended meaning of Katja's essay―I'll spare you the French-flavored version, so you'll have to use your imagination and replace all the "shoots"―went something like this:

« My favorite hobby is schießen. On weekends, I go to a range with my whole family, and we all shoot together. I enjoy shooting because it relaxes me; when I am stressed, I shoot for hours. When I first started shooting, I wasn't very good, but as I practice, I am becoming more accurate. I plan to shoot for many years to come. Maybe one day we can shoot together. »

If Mark Twain had been German―ironically, he dreaded the German language―I think his famous quote about lightning and a lightning bug would read, "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between schießen and scheißen."