AW: AW: OT: rambles about translation

Belben Philip Philip.Belben at
Tue Sep 21 09:45:07 EDT 2004

Bettina replied to me:

>> Technically, a shotgun fires a large number of small lead pellets 
>> (shot) in a single charge.
> Yes, that is what I thought a Schrotflinte is, lead pellets = Schrot. I 
> don't knwo if there technically is a Flinte that doesn't fire Schrot. Is 

According to Brockhaus, Flinte = Schrotgewehr.  Apparently it gets its name
because early Flinten used to fire stone shot.  Yup, Flint.  Flint splinters
really nastily - I'd hate to get shot with one of those.  (I'd hate to get
shot with any gun.  Once with an airgun - luftgewehr - is quite enough,
thank you.)

> a rifle also a gun? I connect the rifle=Flinte notion I had to 

Yes, a rifle is definitely a gun.  AFAICT the German word that specifically
distinguishes a rifle from other sorts of gun is die Buchse.  It seems to
have so many meanings not connected with guns, though, that it probably
sounds a bit odd to use it just to describe a man taking his gun when he
goes out for a walk.

> Huckleberry Finn in a very hazy way. Anyway, after you explained the 
> shooting gallery scene, I understand the difference and the translation 
> problem. The translator probably didn't know about guns and didn't 
> bother to check. That's not good work, but I think translation "you'r 
> fishing for compliments" as "Du fischst nach Komplimenten" is worse, 
> because this expression simply doesn't exist in German and sounds very 
> strange.


> Counties?  Does Grafschaft have the same connotations in German that 
> County does in English?  I thought the nearest German equivalent of a 
> county was a Landkreis.

Erm. Now you've got me. What connotations? Roughly speaking a Grafschaft 

In Britain, well, England Wales and Ireland anyway, a county is an
administrative unit roughly equivalent to a Landkreis.  It has a county
council that we elect.  England has roughly 50 million people and 50-odd

In some places (I think the key to several maps, but not the one British map
in my briefcase today) "County" in this sense becomes "Grafschaft" in

AFAIK we have never had noblemen called Counts in Britain.  Unless they were
foreign noblemen, I mean.  Counties were originally the territory of Earls.

The matter of administrative counties is a bit cloudy at the moment, because
each county is/was divided into districts, each with its own council.  A few
years ago we were all allowed to vote whether to keep the two-tier system,
or have a single local authority, whose territory would correspond to the

Apart from a lot of changes that had been made in 1974, being undone by the
voters, quite a number of cities opted out of their counties.  This means,
for example, Leicester (the city) is not administratively in Leicestershire
(the county).

I first came across the phrase "kreisfreie Stadt" on a German map the other
day.  That describes these cities very well!

It also explaines why, when I drive home from work, I pass a sign saying
"Kreis Recklingshausen", but when I drive to work, I don't see one saying
"Kreis Gelsenkirchen".

> is a smaller territory ruled by a Graf. Graf was originally (ca. 
> 700/800) an office, given, together with land, by the king. Later, in 
> Germany the vassalls swore allegiance only to the next higher nobles, 
> which lessened the king's influence. From my knowledge of English 
> history I gather the earls were very influential in some periods (Magna 
> Charta?!) - in Germany they never had that kind of influence, that would 
> be the Herzöge/Fürsten, especially the Kurfürsten who elected the king. 

This sounds similar to England, with Graf corresponding roughly to Baron,
except that our feudal system didn't take on many continental
characteristics until the 11th century.  Herzog is usually taken to be the
same as Duke (I wonder if Herzog comes from ziehen as Duke comes from
ducere); as far as I know there were no dukes in England until some time
after the Magna Carta, and very few until 1300 or so (or do I mean 1400?
Bother!).  So it is quite reasonable for earls to have had the sort of power
that dukes had on the continent.

That said the idea of kurfürsten electing the king sounds quite similar to
the system we had before the Norman conquest.  I expect we got it from you
with the Saxon invaders.

> Landkreis is a modern term, probably not dating back more than 100-150 
> years (well, "modern", I suppose). It is linked to 
> Kommunalverwaltung/Kommunalrecht and the idea of democratic self 
> governance of smaller units. A Landkreis covers a small area, without 
> the bigger cities that are "kreisfreie Städte", and fullfils 
> administrational tasks the smaller communities cannot manage alone. 
> Baden-Württemberg, the Bundesland I live in has 10 Mio. inhabitants 
> (third largest federal state), and consists of 25 Landkreisen and 9 
> Stadtkreisen (same thing, instead of covering an area, it covers a town) 
> The Landkreis Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald, covering the area around 
> Freiburg (Kreisfreie Stadt, v. complicated system, that's admistration 
> for you) consists of 50 small communities. Okay, I stop now... ;-)

Yes, I'm getting quite confused.  In Britain we have "civil parishes" as our
third tier.  These could be as small as a village with a few hundred
inhabitants, or as large as several villages or a small town.  Parishes were
originally the territories of churches - who ran our local government until
frighteningly recently! - and I guess would correspond to your

We seem to be drifting a long way off topic.  Other people please tell us to
shut up if we go to far!

>> The earldoms in Dalemark are sometimes called Marks.  I take it the 
>> word is the same in German?
> Yes. But Mark seems a more northern/north-eastern term to me, as in Mark 
> Brandenburg and Uckermark.

I see.  I think.

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