Friday, 10 April 2009


The internet has done such wonderful things to our perception of concepts like "private"  and  "personal"...

3:44pm Psychopompous

you won't believe what i am doing now

actually you will but you won't approve

christ,  i don't approve

3:45pm John


3:46pm Psychopompous

you know that guy last night i said i was slightly obsessed with?

3:47pm John


3:48pm Psychopompous

well I'm working on removing the "slightly"

this is so unhealthy

I'm internet stalking him.  It's turned out to be incredibly easy

I was introduced to him exremely fleetingly at the queer film festival by a guy whose blog i read

i found a comment by him on that blog

it links to his own blog profile

he ran his blog for two years (2006 and 2007) but it's still all up there and he used it to basically tell the story of his entire life up to that point...

I am excercising a tiny bit of self-discipline by not actually reading all of it

especially the stuff about his early life

he's even got a link on it to a flickr feed for crissakes

3:51pm John

I think you may have a problem...  hehehe

3:51pm Psychopompous

honestly,  when people are going to make it this easy...

the good news:  I seem to be an amazingly good judge of people

this guy is SOOOO my kind of guy.

the bad news:  i am seriously fucked up

3:53pm John

LOL I kinda always guessed that to be so

3:53pm Psychopompous

you know i even found a photo on his flickr site which features an american guy i knew in berlin.  [Ed.:  probably incorrect - pretty sure it's just an uncanny resemblance.]  i'm thinking if i keep looking through i'll see my own fucking self on there...

the dude spent a couple of years in europe

3:54pm John

mmmmm cultured

3:57pm Psychopompous

he has similar interests to me, similar life history (long-term girlfriend check,  spanish boyfriend check,  time spent in europe check -  and it goes on [Ed.:  but still doesn't get much less superficial than this]),  and he's even been hanging out in the same places and with the same people!

3:58pm John

It must be destiny then...


3:58pm Psychopompous

only problem is i'll find out so much about him that i'll get bored and move on without ever actually talking to him :)

Friday, 3 April 2009

Newsflash: word borrowed from German into English!!

The G20 summit in London has highlighted a recent borrowing of a German word into English,  an occurrence sufficiently rare these days to warrant trumpeting it.  Plenty of words get borrowed from English into other languages,  but borrowings in the other direction don't seem to happen a lot anymore.

This one is not just a borrowing,  but that subtle breed of borrowing known to linguists as a calque,  or loan translation.  This is a rather nifty pair of terms for it,  since "calque" is itself a loanword from French,  whereas "loan translation" is even more apt,  being itself a loan translation from the German word Lehn├╝bersetzung.

The marvellous term in question is "to kettle",  with its derived noun "kettle".  The Word Spy website (devoted to English neologisms) defines the verb as "to maneuver protesters into a small area using a cordon of police personnel and vehicles."  The idea is for police to contain groups of protesters - usually those thought to be most likely to "cause trouble" - by effectively sealing them off into a small space,  and holding them in that space for several hours, up to a whole day in some cases.  The noun refers to the tight circle of frustrated protesters thus created.  In German the verb is "einkesseln";  the related noun is usually "Einkesselung".  It's a term I'm personally very well acquainted with in German from street protests in Berlin about five or six years ago.

There are two things that tell us the term was borrowed from German into English and not the other way around:  in German its meaning is broader,  and is used to refer not only to police operations but also and originally to military manoeuvres,  where in English one would say "encircle" or "surround".  It's very commonly the case when a word is borrowed that its meaning in the original language will be broader than its meaning in the adoptive language.

Also, the word is very well-established in German,  going back decades if not centuries in its military sense,  whereas the first instance in English that Word Spy could find is from 2006.  The form in which it then appeared,  namely "kettling in",  is further confirmation of its German origin;  the "in" seems to have dropped off since.  When I first read the term a few weeks ago,  I thought it might have made the leap during the protests in Heiligendamm against the G8 in 2007,  but evidently international solidarity among European protesters has deeper foundations than that.