19 October 2010

Other Misunderstandings

The number funny of misinterpretations I encounter in Austria grows daily.  The latest is related to the environmental crisis in Hungary (left), which is called Giftschlamm by German-language newspapers.  When I first heard this word I knew that "gift" meant "poison" (interesting?), and I assumed that "schlamm" was equivalent to the English "slam," meaning that the red sludge in Hungary was a "Poison Slam."  Although Poison Slam would be a great name for a SNES video game or death metal band, "Giftschlamm" actually means dangerous mud or sludge, as I was recently disappointed to find out.

Another example is related to emergency exits, which are called Notausgang in German.  When I first arrived, I knew that "ausgang" meant "exit," but not knowing what the prefix "not" really meant, I thought signs for a "Notausgang" meant that a given door was not an exit.  This could have been a very unfortunate misunderstanding indeed.

Luckilzy, European exit signs are more universal than American ones in that they use no written language and therefore they are obvious to illiterates, kindergarteners, and even intelligent animals.  Plus they're green, which may keep people calm during an actual emergency.  Slate has a lengthy and comprehensive article on this topic (here), but beware its length and comprehensivity.  

As a final note, I'm headed to Prague for the weekend to celebrate my extended "Austria Day" holiday in another country.  I'll be back on in Waidhofen on Tuesday.

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