Mangling German (was: Cats)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Thu Jul 20 20:33:35 EDT 2000


On Thu, 20 Jul 2000 21:21:50 +0200 (CEST), Britta Koch wrote:

>> I do sympathise.  But the name Blitzen (as has been pointed out) is an American
>> one, admittedly from the German phrase "Donner und Blitzen", which was used,
>> probably by Robert May, to give names to two of Santa's reindeer [*].
>
>Why "Donner und Blitzen"? "Donner und Blitz", or "Donnern und Blitzen",
>to use the verb forms...

Whoever it was wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (oh, sidebar--I was always
quite certain it was Clement C. Moore, but recently read an article on how
it's possible he wasn't the author, very curious indeed) invented both the
"eight tiny reindeer" and made up these names, and the "en" suffix is what
makes the poem both rhyme and scan properly:

"Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen!
On Comet! On Cupid! On Donder and Blitzen!"

He predates Robert May (the author of the story "Rudolph the Red-Nosed
Reindeer," and there's another long story there) whose brother-in-law,
Johnny Marks, wrote the song "Rudolph" and was the one who changed the name
of Donder to Donner, apparently because of that misapprehension that
"Blitzen" was indeed a translation of "lightning".  Seems he figured
"Donner" (thunder) was a more natural companion there.

According to my source, the Urban Legends Reference Pages, Blitzen "takes
his name from the German word for 'lightning'" rather than being a direct
translation (as Britta pointed out).  They also say that "Donder" is the
*Dutch* word for thunder, but that that was probably coincidence.

The web site--just to give all y'all something to do when you should be
working--is

www.snopes.com

It cites urban legends by category--Christmas, humor, college,
etc.--researches the truth or falsehood of each, and codes them according to
whether they're true, false or unprovable.  It also cites the sources for
the research.  Lots of fun, of course, but also well-documented.

Melissa Proffitt
(and I have no idea what this has to do with German any more)
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