AM -- Dictionaries

Täuschende Wörter: kleines Lexikon der Volksetymologien [Deceptive Words: Concise Lexicon of Folk Etymologies]. Heike Olschansky. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2004. 253 p. 16 cm. ISBN 3-15-010549-8: EUR 12.90 [05-1-016]

Folk etymology is a phenomenon that exists on the border between linguistics and folklore, often generally de?ned as the tendency in all languages to connect exotic sounding, obscure words with those that are familiar. Olschansky’s lexicon is an unchanged new printing of her 1999 publication of the same title, also issued by Reclam. The main part of the lexicon contains 288 folk etymologies. It also includes a thorough list of references, with 132 titles, a chapter about folk etymologies outside standard German, and a chapter about the meanings of names. A special section of the book is devoted to examples from non-German languages. An index with 1,125 entries brings together all the words discussed in the lexicon.

Olschansky’s dissertation about German folk etymology, published in 1996 by Niemeyer, is the standard work on the subject. Her lexicon is intended for a broader audience, which accounts for the book’s emphasis on its collection of examples. The majority of the examples correspond to descriptions found in popular etymological lexicons such as Friedrich Kluge’s Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache [Etymological Dictionary of the German Language] (Berlin, 1957) and Wolfgang Pfeifer’s Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Deutschen [Etymological Dictionary of German] (Berlin, 1989). Olschansky places erroneous and correct etymologies next to each other so that etymologically unrelated pairs of words appear together.

Olschansky presents no new research results but lives up to the publisher’s blurb by being entertaining to read. Readers in serious pursuit of information about German folk etymology must consult a more substantial etymological dictionary. [wh/rm]

Duden, Fremdwörterbuch: auf der Grundlage der neuen amtlichen Rechtschreibregeln [Duden, Dictionary of Foreign Words: Based on the New Official Rules of Orthography]. Ed. Dudenredaktion. 8th newly rev. and expanded ed. Mannheim: Dudenverlag, 2005. 1,104 p. 20 cm. + CD-ROM. (Der Duden in zwölf Banden, 5). ISBN 3-411-04058-0 (book): EUR 21.95; ISBN 3-411-71632-0 (book + CD-ROM): EUR 27.95 [05-1-017]

Dictionaries of foreign words tend to lose the distinction between linguistic and factual explanations. Technical or professional terms have no pure linguistic meaning, rather, they convey specific technical concepts. The challenge confronting lexicographers of foreign word dictionaries is deciding in which sphere to include their information.

The present work contains about 90 percent technical terminology, the remainder belonging to educational and general language. In contrast to the Rechtschreibduden [Spelling Duden], all words are de?ned, sometimes unnecessarily in the area of general language. For example, schick [chic] is given three almost identical definitions that could easily be reduced to one. The technical terms are succinctly and accurately defined. In some cases, a bit more information regarding the origin of words would be welcome. Aside from 160 sidebars containing information about word origins, etymological details are limited to the mere naming of the languages on which a word is based. As in Dudenverlag’s other publications, all masculine expressions for people are given feminine counterparts, even when the term is never used.

The dictionary’s preliminaries state that the German spelling reform will not affect technical language; however, the dust jacket states that the work accounts for all spelling variants of foreign words, in accordance with the compulsory new rules of orthography. The publisher neglects to mention that the new rules are compulsory only for schools. Some words are entered under new spellings that no one uses, e.g., Biofonetik (usage is Biophonetik) and Spagetti (Spaghetti).

Pages are arranged in three columns in a very fine and faint font, creating more eye strain than Dudenverlag’s earlier publications. In addition, a blue font is used that is distinguishable from black only under favorable lighting conditions. Although almost every entry begins on a new line, legibility has suffered. Nine double pages spread throughout the dictionary contain essays about foreign words. The motive for this peculiar presentation is unclear, given that no one reads such a publication from cover to cover. Printing errors are very rare. [ti/rm]

Die deutsche Rechtschreibung [German Orthography]. New ed. Gütersloh; München: Wissen-Media-Verlag; Berlin: Cornelsen, 2005. 1,200 p. 20 cm. (Wahrig, 1). ISBN 3-577-10082-6 (Wissen-Media-Verlag); ISBN 3-06-060013-9 (Cornelsen): EUR 14.95 [05-2-275]

Bertelsmann’s answer to the German orthography reform of 2004, this 2005 edition of Wahrig’s Die deutsche Rechtschreibung is being published a year later than Duden’s new orthographic dictionary and is therefore more up to date. Several ancillary sections add to the value of this work, e.g., a sample curriculum vitae, verb conjugation tables, a concise grammar, as well as an explanatory restatement of the rules after the listing of the official rules. There is also a History of Orthography by Lutz Götze, who is named as an editor but whose role is unclear. As an indication of the still unsettled nature of the orthographic reform, Götze uses spellings in his history that are not sanctioned by the new orthography. For example, he writes "weiter gehend" whereas the new rules stipulate "weitergehend." Indeed, inconsistency of interpretation and implementation of the new rules encountered in the previous edition of Wahrig’s dictionary (see RREA 9:27) still plague this one, though perhaps less so.

The issue of writing associated terms as a single word or as two separate words remains problematic. In this and the previous edition, "wiederherstellen" is written as one word, "wieder herrichten" as two, with no explanation given. The list of similar inconsistencies is long. Several hundred combined forms are reinstated, e.g., "zufriedendstellend," and specious reasons are given for this course of action. And "wohlgesinnt" is actually missing in this edition; looking for guidance about its use under the term "gesinnt" yields no answer, even though the 1996 edition contained "wohlgesinnt." The decision to write words together or separately sometimes contradicts the lexical content of the formulation. For example, "Silben bildender" is written as two words, despite the fact that the logic of the phrase and the application of the rules should produce "silbenbildend" because the "-en" ending here is not a plural ending but a combining form instead.

The capitalization of foreign words and phrases is contradictory to the point that multiple spellings are permitted or no acceptable rationale is provided for the preference of one form over another, e.g., "Desktop-Publishing" versus "Desktoppublishing" or "Chapeau Claque" versus "Chapeau claque," even though "Pommes Croquettes" is the only spelling of this phrase considered acceptable.

Another major facet of the new spelling reform focused on syllabification and led to confusing hyphenations such as "Kore-akrieg," "Radi-oapparat," and "Res-pekt." Although the rules haven’t changed, fewer examples of such odd hyphenation are found in this edition of Wahrig. And even though the recommendation is that words of Greek and Latin origin be hyphenated according to their morphologic components, the actual practice is inconsistent, leading to word divisions such as "E-xuvien" and "E-xodus," and confusing, in that both "Sy-nästhesie" and "Syn-allage" are given equal status. In addition the selection of personal names that cause spelling difficulty is still less than desired. The names Hitler, Goebbels, and Göring are missing, but Stalin and Mao Ze-dong are present. And the transcription of foreign names is inconsistent, e.g., "Reykjavík" but "Guarani."

As the preceding discussion suggests, new editions of dictionaries published to deal with the spelling reform of 1996 find themselves in a situation of one step forward, two steps back. Or more generously, two steps forward, one step back. The new orthography is still in the process of being solidified in this 2005 edition of Wahrig’s Die deutsche Orthographie. The inconsistencies, reversals, and reinterpretations of rules evident in this edition of Wahrig, as well as in Duden and other dictionaries, are and will continue to be part and parcel of a multi-year zigzag evolution from the old orthography to the new. [ti/jb]

Next Section
Previous Section
Table of Contents

Comments, suggestions, or questions
Last update: March 2009 [BG]
© 2009 Casalini libri - VAT no. IT03106600483