Sunday, May 18, 2014

Veiling the world in English mystery

I have been back in Germany for some time now, and after well over five years abroad, there have been a couple of things that I had to re-adjust to. 

One of them has been that Germans really, really like the English language, especially when it's about marketing and advertising and product names. It's not always necessary for those words to really be English words - as long as they look it, the assumption is that customers will just accept the modern and innovative aura that English is supposed to lend to the product. And the hope also seems to be that English will create some kind of semantic distance between the word and its actual meaning (because it's not perceived as unusual to use a foreign name for something you're trying to sell) so there is much less of a need to really have any meaning behind your text.

In many cases, this happens when someone is too lazy to think of an interesting way of saying something dull - hey, an English word will make it sound like so much more than it really is! 

An example: You have a big German chain of supermarkets and decide you want to introduce some pricier products in addition to the cheaper food you already sell under your supermarket's brand name. And one of those luxury foods is French cheese. You sit down and think about how to make your customers understand at a glance that this product is worth the higher price. What do you do? Exactly: You take the French cheese, which has been produced in France and packaged for sale in your German supermarket, and inexplicably write "Finest French Cheese" on it. In English. Twice. You still write the actual product description in German, just to be sure people know what they will find inside. You probably fear that not enough customers will read French well enough, so English is a perfect compromise to take your product way beyond plain Käse.

And, continuing to explain my point in supermarket logic: What if you have a product that everybody wants, yet nobody likes to truly think about? Like toilet paper?

In Ireland, I was quite fascinated to see that apparently, Irish people like to imagine cleaning themselves with soft, furry animals. You even have a choice of polar bears, kittens and puppies - even though I must say I question the wisdom of rubbing my behind against a polar bear, even while he appears to be asleep. Kittens also have a lot of pointy ends. But fluffy things are definitely nicer to think about than digestive products.

Germans don't have to come up with anything fluffy - distraction from digestion is so much easier when you just have to write something English on the packaging! (This also illustrates quite well that Germans aren't too orderly when it comes to adopting English words: "Happy End" is generally accepted as the official German translation of "happy ending".)

I would really like to know how the meeting went when this product name was agreed on. "What do you usually associate with a visit to the toilet? A beautiful meal reaching its happy ending? Yes, sums up our product perfectly!"

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My current playlist in my sketchbook

For the past weeks (yes, plural!), I have had three songs stuck in my head - or rather, just one line from each of them. I suppose it is nice that at least it's three different ones so I (and people near me) don't get annoyed. 


In other news, I now really want a horse mask, the reviews are excellent.

(#1 - #2 was brought on by a photo - #3, in case you were wondering).

Monday, February 11, 2013

Spring, already!

Frühling im Februar, originally uploaded by ankonym.

While the news show pictures of snowed-in America, my street greets me with the first leaves. (I've also seen snowdrops and a tree in full pink bloom.)

Even for Ireland, that seems unusually early - not that I'm complaining, I just hope that no frosty night will put an end to all this floral friendliness!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Buying is boring

Ah, a chance to show off our mantelpiece in the
background, in a blurry, subtle way
A niche I discovered last week: A class, maybe twice a week, that will help you make your own wedding dress. (Yes! I am still talking about wedding outfits! It is clearly the week of the Brautfit, a contraction of bride and outfit in German which amuses me endlessly. Be very glad that this is the English blog or there would be a lot more of such humor. German humor! Rarely spotted in the wild!)

I digress. I thought that it would be fun to make my own, except that this full-time job of mine would get in the way, and I would need some hand-holding from someone who has done it before if I were to assemble something that complicated out of possibly pricey material. 

There is no such class (not that I looked hard for it) and I think my dress is quite brilliant, but I still wanted to make something by hand. The project of choice is now a fluffy, light loop scarf (Mohair Bias Loop pattern) that is brilliantly simple to knit (good for long phone calls or mediocre Netflix movies) and will keep my shoulders warm even in exploration of medieval catacombs (which may actually happen on my wedding day). I'm halfway done already, so we'll see what other things I come up with. 

One obvious idea would be some kind of head adornment. (It may be a consequence of three years in Ireland that make me think a fascinator is a definite possibility.) When trying on dresses, I was a bit confused that a simple head thing that looked like something made with a cheap plastic comb, a cheap plastic flower, a bit of Russian veil netting and a glue gun should seriously cost €89. It definitely wasn't an advanced piece of millinery; in fact, it made me think that it would probably inspire a lot of comments à la "There's an unexplained fake flower stuck to your head! Why o why?" in pragmatic, sensible Germany. 
I think I can do better. After I finish the pink fluffiness, and find a source of ivory-colored fascinator supplies.
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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Not quite done yet...

So finding a wedding dress was quite easy. Now, shoes... that's a much more difficult matter! And since these aren't top secret (at least in my superstitious logic), it opens the field for pre-marital disagreement(*). So much to choose from, and only two feet!

I did buy a pair of shiny ballerinas for when my feet start rebelling against potential heels. (That part of sensibly-shoed Germanness has not yet been influenced by all the Irish monster stilettos around me.) But what to wear for the more official part of the day?

(*) I would like to declare, just in case anyone was now questioning our taste in footwear, that neither of us is serious about our suggestion. Even though I may be a wee bit more serious than he is. I mean, white patent leather Doc Marten's! Yay ...maybe. (Yaybe?)


On my last birthday, I took Mr. Boyfriend westwards - a birthday in rainy Dublin did not seem all that tempting when places like Killarney and Dingle are just a few hours away. Little did I know that the original plan (to soak in the jacuzzi of our luxury B&B room after a long day of walking through November rain and wind, maybe sip a bit of champaign at midnight to celebrate my aging process) had secretly been changed to include things like a diamond ring and a midnight proposal. But now, with a newly sparkly ring finger, I am getting used to the concept of bride-hood and all the organizational and decorative masterpieces that calls for.

As a good former student of history and other text-based subjects, of course my first reflex was to look for a book that would introduce me to the mysterious world of wedding planning. However, all I found  in German book shops was literature on wedding speeches, crafts, and games - except for one disturbingly pink, glittery, overpriced binder. I read through parts of the one short chapter for the groom (because it was in neutral colors that did not hurt my eyes as much) and learned a few fascinating things, namely:
  • The act of placing a ring on a woman's fingers changes her personality forever: It turns her into A Bride, which, it appears, is a mythical creature that leads a parasitical life in all women since early childhood and will take over all aspects of life when brought in contact with a sparkly ring.
  • Bride-hood is a full-time job, a year during which nothing matters to the woman except the question whether the invitations should be printed on cardstock in eggshell, ivory, off-white or cream. These, I learned, are the hardest and most important decisions that the bride has made in her life so far, and she should make sure to be prepared for the job.
  • Weddings are only about the bride. In fact, it sounded a bit as if the man's attendance to the event was optional. This is because women dream about nothing but weddings since the day they were born, and have them planned out since before kindergarden.
  • The man should stay out of all wedding-related decisions. If he must feel modern and involved, he should limit his actions to manly things (organizing a fancy car), and listen quietly to the bride agonizing over wedding matters, even when there's a football match on TV.
Astoundingly, this was not a reprint from the 1950s. And it's also not limited to Germany - I also did field studies by going to a bridal fair in Dublin, which was just like the book, just bigger and in 3D and with more people telling me that you can't marry without getting your teeth straightened and whitened so you can then rot them in style with a €600 cake. The event also confirmed the theory that marriage is not for men: The mediocre magician who tried to make people hire him was full of jokes about this. "These are the three rings of marriage: The engagement ring for the bride, the wedding rings for both, and the suffering of the husband." OH PLEASE MAKE IT STOP. I could neither identify with the bridezillas staring greedily at horrendous customized airbrushed wedding champaign flutes nor with the "most wonderful day in the life of the bride, worst day in the life of the man" narrative. (ALSO let me point out that if that were true, it's all downhill for the woman afterwards, so who wears the suffering then?) In kindergarden, my life goal was to be a cowboy, fireman, or tightrope walker, not a bride. And I find the groom quite central to a wedding, and he should not approach it like it's the end of his life.  

What I got out of the event, however, was a 2 pound magazine full of atrocious wedding couture. Apparently, modern brides should show lots of cleavage (in some cases, making me wonder how much double-sided tape would be needed to keep the dress in place), compete with the cake for fluffiness, have unexplained tulle protrusions in awkward places, and should be covered all over in crystals. 
I already pictured myself spending the next few weekends driving to remote places in Ireland to find something that did not look like an exploded, glittery cupcake. 

Then I noticed a small ad with the first dress in a few hundred that I could imagine wearing. I googled the designer and saw that they had a whole collection of dresses that weren't just not-horrible, but actually actively pretty. AND I found a Dublin shop that had an event for that designer last weekend, AND I was lucky enough to get on the waiting list for an appointment and then have someone cancel.

And so the story of finding a dress was really short:
Get up early on the first sunny Saturday of the year, take a bus across the city, try on two dresses, pick the first one. DONE! In about 30 minutes! I have all the following weekends back! 

This whole wedding thing seems far less daunting than the pink binder thing made it seem. (That was full of checklists, which look really silly and simplistic next to my Google Docs masterplan spreadsheet full of graphs and data.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gro(w)ing Grobot

iGrobot, growing
I'm quite impressed with how quickly the little grobot started sprouting his green mane - it seems to shoot up over night now, adding a centimeter or two per day. (Maybe that will inspire my hair to keep up? It would increase the options for wedding hairstyles...)
I also added a few cables in its vicinity, thinking that these might make the little bot feel more at home.