About a year into our marriage, my husband shared with me that I had hurt his feelings on several occasions by telling him to shut up. He had learned that “shut up” was extremely rude so he thought every time I said it I was really disrespecting him. This was our first lesson in the difference it can make when English speakers sing to emphasize their feelings. Germans, of course, rely strictly on words rather than a combination of words and sounds so you always know exactly what they mean whether the language is written or spoken. In this way, I think German is a far superior language. Germans’ Facebook conversations must surely go a lot smoother than English ones since you often have to actually hear a person speaking in English to understand the heart behind the message.
I explained to my husband the differences between, “awww, shuuuuuuut uuuuuuuuuup”, and “oh, you shut up!”, and “SHUT UP!” He was bewildered. The fact that you can say the same exact words many different ways and mean many different things astonished him.
Last night, we were lying in bed talking and giggling and being silly. I started to get sleepy and struggled to get my eyes back open after blinking, and in his silliness, my husband over-exaggerated the face I made. I replied, “You always mimic the faces I make and over-exaggerate them so I look like a total idiot.”
The German: No. You don’t look like a TOTAL idiot!
Still in good fun and knowing he would never actually call me an idiot, I said, “That is SO mean! You need to be nice to your wife!”
The German: What??? What did I say?
Me: Ohhhhh yeahhhhh… I forget that you don’t sing your language so you don’t realize that by emphasizing the word “total” it’s basically like saying, “Yeah, you DO look like an idiot, but not a total one!”
The German: Ok. Then I guess I should say “You don’t LOOK like an idiot.”
Me: (I couldn’t stop laughing) Yeah, honey, you can’t emphasize the word “look”, either. That’s like saying, “Even though you don’t look like an idiot, you’re still an idiot.”
The German: Ok. YOU don’t LOOK like A total IDIOT! How’s that?
Ha! At that, I was sent into a tailspin of sleepy giggles. We have a very dangerous language, folks. It’s no wonder people lose friends over innocent Facebook messages or email conversations!