SimonSawSunlight is offline
Join Date: Mar 2008
A Short Guide to the German Language and the Messucherkamera and Other Notes
I am currently sitting at home after a minor surgery earlier this week, which gives me plenty of time to scan my work from two weeks in Japan - and to think about the fact that the German language is a) laden with funny words and b) often mispronounced by fellow international camera aficionados, especially those of the anglophone variety. There certainly is no shame in that at all, we can all agree that if there were a list of all things more useful to a person of this era than learning german pronunciation, it would include all things except learning german grammar.
We will start with five simple words and then add more lessons to the thread as we go along. Suggestions and questions are more than welcome. Let's get started.
Basically like a russian spacedog (See what i did there? Brilliant, I know.) You're doing it right, don't worry about it. Unless you're French. It's not Leyka. It's a Leitz Camera. LAITS!
Actually did turn into a space hot dog, Laika, the first face of the space race. spaceraceface. spfrace.
There's a chance you're doing it wrong. It is a bit tricky because nobody ever tells anyone that "oi" is just pronounced as a straight long "o" in this case. Like good old Berti Vogts (no "i" there, I know. I hope nobody told you it made sense either). While your potential efforts to pronounce "länder" with a nice germanic "AH"-sound (like Deutschlaaaaand) is commendable, the Umlaut "ä" (or "ae") makes it so that it is actually quite close to how you would pronounce the "a" in "Highlander" - unless you actually are from the highlands. And first things last: the "V" is actually an "F", don't ask, just do it. Fogtlendah. There you go, close enough.
The name stems from the Vogtland (formerly written Voigtland) region that spans parts of Thuringia, Saxony, Bavaria and Bohemia. It's quite beautiful, really. But the local accent is weirder than generic German, if you can believe it.
The entirety of Vogtland's largest human settlement, simply called Ort. Town hall / mayor's house, train station / beer garden, grammar police station (left to right). Also a textbook example of ruthless, unregulated gentrification.
That's the german word for "rangefinder camera". A German person might tell you that it is pronounced just the way it is written. Good luck! I will try my best to transcribe it: mess (literally like a mess) - zoo(sound of guttural scoffing)er - kah-meh (Kamehameha!)- ra. It's a guttural "r". You can get away with a tongue-rolled "r", some Germans do it.
But more importantly: yes, triple "s"! Back in the day it would have been Meßsucherkamera but the e is short and open ("Berlin") rather than long and flat ("Nordsee") and the powers that be turned every sharp "s" ("ß") following a short vowel into "ss", and every sharp "s" (ss) following a long vowel into "ß" in an orthography reform some twenty years ago. It's Fußball not Fussball. Oh by the way, ß is never used at the beginning of a word. If you do, you're out. Sounds complicated? That's because it is. Now imagine that reform kicking in while you're in elementary school and having to forget half of what you just managed to learn and doing it the other way. The Swiss generally don't bother with it and don't even have "ß" in their regular keyboard layout. An argument could be made that they do have way bigger issues to deal with in their version of German than some sharp Ss though.
It's not a B by the way. It has absolutely nothing to do with a B. It may look a bit like the Greek letter Beta but again, not a B. Want to know why it looks that way then? No? I'll tell you anyway: While some people just call it "scharfes S" (sharp S), others were taught the name "SZ" ("Esszett") because that's where it actually comes from. It's a combination, a "digraph", of an old long "s" and a tailed "z": ſʒ -> ß. Fascinating.
Not Erfurt's famous Schlobftrabe, but the other one.
Alright that's one letter done, moving on to the rest of the word. As you probably have noticed, it actually consists of three words. German compounds are a thing and they are great. The last word usually defines the actual thing you are talking about, so a Sollbruchstelle, a predetermined breaking point, is a point or location (Stelle) where breakage (Bruch) is supposed to (sollen) occur. What's a Messsucherkamera then? It`s a camera with a searcher (Sucher not a finder! Der Weg ist das Ziel!) that can measure/meter (messen) things. What does it measure? Well, it measures distance of course, but an Entfernungsmesssucherkamera must have been excessive even for German engineers, so they did the one thing nobody expected them to do. They simplified to the detriment of precision. Weak.
Severed head trophy of Johnny 5, currently displayed at the Old Voigtland Museum of Natural History, train station and beer garden, rooms available, no smoking.
Page 8 of "Ausführliche Anleitung Leitz Leica M2" (the "extensive manual") rectifies that blatant lack of precision to a degree by introducing us to the...
("ß". It's an old Anleitung.)
It would be perfectly acceptable for that to be Leuchtrahmenmesssucher, but it seems they wanted the word Leuchtrahmen to stand out, so this works fine. Leuchtrahmen are framelines. I have never heard a german person use the word Leuchtrahmen in this context. Everybody says "framelines", and that's your fault, people, or Sucherlinien or Sucherrahmen. That might be because "leuchten" means to glow and they don't exactly glow like neon lights. They're just there and you can see them in the Sucher. Rahmen means frame or frames. Sometimes plural forms are the same as singular in German. Get used.
So Leuchtrahmen-Messsucher means Glow-Frame-Measure-Searcher (again the Entfernung is implied) and the Leuchtrahmen part is basically pronounched loycht-japanesenoodles. But wait, this "ch" is not the same as the guttural scoffing sound in "Sucher". It is... a different guttural scoffing sound! With more resignation and tenderness to it, while the previous ("Sucher") scoffing sound was more closely related to a light snore. Try scoffing gutturaly while imitating air escaping from a bicycle tyre this time. That's it, moving on.
More German talk of severed limbs. And censored lewds.
Come on, you can do it! The Automatische Bildfeldsteuerung is either
a) the automatic selection of the correct framelines
b) the automatic frame counter reset
c) the instinctive knowledge that Sauerkraut does not belong on Currywurst and the consequent disposal of such an abomination in an almost automatic gesture without even looking at the damn thing.
Either way, it is fairly easy to pronounce "automatische". Think of it as a slurred gobbledygook of a vehicle, your grandmother and tables. Auto, Oma and Tische. Swallow one of the o's. Good. It means automatic. Now to the hard part.
Bildfeldsteuerung! Jawohl! Bild is fairly straightforward, so is Feld. (Oh, by the way, the german word for Sergeant is Feldwebel. Feld means field but I will die not knowing what a Webel ist. It doesn't mean anything and I certainly won't go around looking up the etymology of the word Feldwebel on German Wikipedia.
Alright Webel comes from Weibel which is an old word for usher and Feldwebel is technically a field usher with a gun. Are you happy?)
Steuerung is pronounced shtoy-eh-roung, also not too bad but now try saying Bildfeldsteuerung three times and fast.
The Antwort to the quiz is a), the automatic picture-field-control of course. The frame selector is the Bildfeldwähler. No. One. Says. That.
Bild, Feld, Joystick. Nailed it.