Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blame it on the fairy tales

German word of the day: Wort (word)

There is one thing about the German language that really annoys me. All of the nouns are capitalized.

For the last week of class I kept thinking that it must just look like my teacher is capitalizing random words.

My mistake....

Like a good student, I was doing my homework last night. As David looked over my work, he told me to capitalize the nouns.

Me: Why? The staaten (state) isn't a proper noun.

David: All nouns are capitalized.

Me: What? Weird. Why?

David: I don't know. I know more about English grammar than German grammar. Ask your teacher. He'll know.

So today I asked my teacher about why all nouns are capitalized and I got a story worth sharing.

Apparently, the first German dictionary was compiled by the Grimm Brothers. Grimm like the fairy tale guys. When they took the dictionary to the editor, they were told that there were too many worts (words). ( Uh duh, it's a language. The breadth of any language isn't short. Sorry for the aside, I just need to add in my two cents here.) The editor told them they needed some way to distinguish between different types of words. So they capitalized the nouns...and it stuck.

Danish (and one of the other Scandinavian languages) also used to be like this. Then, after WWI, they wanted to deGermanize their languages and took out the capitalization of all nouns. During the communist era, many leftists in Germany tried to rid the German language of the old, bad ways. It didn't work. So here we are today...capitalized nouns.


  1. As awesome as It is to have a Dictionary compiled by the Brothers Grimm, I think I would find the excessive Capitalization annoying. The Criticism that There was too many Words (in a Dictionary?!) is inane. Must stop. Am already starting to get a Headache.

  2. I'm gonna quit following Kristy to the Blog -- she's so in my HEAD.


    I've stolen that -- cause on my GH message board when we like what others have said, we quote their post and write WORD.

    I'm gonna use Wort.



    *tee hee*

    I'm all over this.

    Wort. Amy. Wort.

  3. Amy, this is why you just don't questions, just accept it and move on, you should know that, it's a founding principle here at Tech.

  4. That would annoy the hell out of me. I already have to put up with some (very stupid) people who use capital letters for every word. Although, I'm glad you told me this. If I was ever reading something in German (you know, if I actually knew how to read German), I would be so confused as to why only some worts (*nudges* see what I did there?) were capitalized. I would never catch on that it was only the nouns...observational skills are not my forte.