Mangling German (was: Cats)

Philip.Belben at Philip.Belben at
Fri Jul 21 11:29:01 EDT 2000

Britta, quoting me:

>> I do sympathise.  But the name Blitzen (as has been pointed out) is an
>> 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...
>> But more to the point, why shouldn't a person or animal have a plural name?
>> I've met plenty of (literary) horses called "Socks", for example.  And
>> stereotyped crooks called Fingers.  Not to mention Blyton's "Big Ears"...
> But Blitzen *isn't* the plural of Blitz! *Blitze* is!

Which I didn't realise.  Oops!  Entschuldigung!

So this leaves Britta's question "Why 'Donner und Blitzen'?" still unanswered.

Does _anyone_ know where it comes from?  It is _the_ exclamation that the
stereotyped German villain (this stereotype probably left over from war
propaganda!) uses when thwarted by the (usually British) hero - or at any other
time he needs an expletive - in any number of cheap dramas.

The only origin I can think of at present is a back-formation from that awful
song that I mis-attributed (thanks for the explanation, Melissa) in my last
mail.  Far-fetched, or what?

>> PPS [*] Santa Claus has always struck me as a mixed-language name.  Does
>> know if there is any language in which both halves of the name are natural
>> of the words ("Saint" and "Nicholas" in case you hadn't twigged)?
> Well, the German version of Nicholas is Nikolaus - so Sankt Nikolaus
> (or even Niklaus) could have become Santa Claus...

I had certainly been assuming that Klaus or Claus for Nicholas would come from a
Germanic language.  But I wouldn't have expected to find Santa for Saint except
in a Latin language, where it looks very strange for a masculine saint anyway...

Paul wrote:

> And with that in mind, I recall reading something along the following
> lines: Dutch settlers in America, bringing tradition of Sinter Klass;
> other people can't pronounce it so good, and over the years it become
> Santa Claus.

Given, iirc, a large number of German settlers in the US, I can see how Klass
became Claus.  And I suppose a Spanish influence could turn Sinter into Santa.

So the conclusion in that case is that it _is_ a mixed language name.  Dutch,
German and Spanish.  Oh well.


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