Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Deutsche Wortschatz des Tages: Siebensachen

Last night in language class, we learned the expression alle meine Siebensachen which was used to indicate whatever you take with you when you move, literally your 7 things. The instructor told us that the Austrian/Bavarian variant on this term is sieben Zwetschgen, which
not only didn't explain WTF that was about, but also led to a difficult conversation in broken German about why, if the correct spelling of Zwetschge is that way, why is it *always* spelled with a K (Zwetschke) anytime you're buying plums? And what's wrong with using the pre-existing German word for plums, anway? (Pflaumen). Not even getting into the discussion about who the hell takes a bunch of plums with them when they go somewhere.

I did a little research today into this peculiar Redewendung, and learned that it's probably 7 because 7 is the traditionally significant number in German lore, and also makes a nice alliteration with Sachen. Beyond that, there is some debate about if there are, in fact, 7 specific items summarized by this expression. Glasses, prayerbook, shoes, hat, and assorted other bits and baubles are supposed. Maybe an onion, although I couldn't find any back up on that one.

The other thing I learned is that this expression has equivalents in French (emballer son saint-frusquin or emballer ses frusques), Dutch (zijn biezen pakken or zijn matte oprollen), and English (to pack up one's traps). Several of the usage notations I found suggest that this is an imperative, which if translated into modern colloquial English, would be something along the lines of "Pack your shit" with an unspoken component of "and then get out. Now." Siebensachen are the few important things you absolutely have to have with you when you're fleeing, escaping, or being ejected.


Rufus said...

I don't know if I've ever seen the French ones. I have see "Emballez, c’est pesé !" I think it means something like "Pack it up, you 're done!" although it's weird.

Holly said...

Personally, I dig the second Dutch one, which clearly means "roll up your mat". I don't know why I dig that, but at least it makes more sense than the plums.

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