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How Do You Say "Faux Pas" in German?

By rusty in News
Tue Feb 01, 2000 at 04:52:58 PM EST
Tags: (all tags)

Sometimes I just don't know when to shut up. I spent this past weekend in Germany, meeting with business partners, mostly, and also wandered around Aachen a bit, and saw the cathedral where Charlemagne crowned himself.. err, was crowned. (Holy Roman Empire: Neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. Discuss.) I was on my guard, of course, because one must be on one's best behavior when meeting with the people you need to give you money. Nevertheless, I managed to shove three distinct feet in my mouth-- a neat trick when you only actually have two feet. Read on to feel my pain.

Blunder #1:

I got started early. We hadn't been on German soil more than 30 minutes, when my coworker, Christopher, mentioned to the guy giving us a ride to Aachen that we had had a rough ride over the North Atlantic. I piped up,

"Rough ride, nothing. My grandfather got sunk in the North Atlantic! A little turbulence is nothing compared to... ahh..."

Here's where I realize that, of course, my grandfather got sunk by the Germans in WWII in the North Atlantic. I finished up lamely, with something like,

"Err, he was in the merchant marines... umm, nice weather here, huh?"

Summary: Totally unnecessary. You'd think I was trying to embarass myself. 1.8 out of 2 bright red cheeks.

Blunder #2:

This one's not quite so bad. It's my first day there, and people kept asking me what I thought of Germany. Well, what the hell am I supposed to say? I'd only been there like 3 hours! The cars are small and the street signs are funny, just like the rest of Europe.

Finally, the third time I was asked "So, what do you think of Germany?" (by Markus, the president of our partner company, and the man at whose home I was staying, by the way), I just said,

"It reminds me a lot of France."

No one asked what I thought of Germany ever again.

Summary: Harsh, but effective. If you want to make an omelette, you gotta break a few eggs. 1.1 out of 2 bright red cheeks.

Blunder #3:

The two preceeding blunders were fairly culture dependent. They wouldn't be insulting except for where I happened to be. This one's global though.

Christopher and I and our hosts were sitting around chatting about the internet and such, and Markus' wife mentioned that she gets an unreasonable amount of spam every day. She said that lately they seem to be cloaking porn sites in what look like perfectly innocuous, even interesting, URLs, so you click on them and get redirected to porn hell, and browser windows keep popping up everywhere and whatnot. So what does yours truly, he of the ever-suave, Wildean bon mot chime in with?

Wait for it...

"I've never gone to a porn site by accident."

Genius. They shoulda drowned me in a sack when I was still a kitten.

Summary: Good Lord. I don't even have the excuse of culture differences for this one. 4 out of 2 bright red cheeks. (Yes, all four of them)

Answer to the dep't line: So the Germans can march in the shade.


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