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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Liebhaber | Mistranslation Monday

Liebhaber. What a beautiful word. Or at least I thought it was until an embarrassing situation with the German boyfriend happened recently.





Marco and I recently played the computer game Spore together. In the game, you can choose to make your character an aggressive killing machine by killing all other species. You can choose to be a peaceful ruler by simply studying the other species. Or you can choose to be something in the middle.

We had already played through the game once, and our character ended up somewhere in the middle. Since it was pretty fun, I wanted to play it through again, but instead get each of the other scenarios.

So, I told Marco that he can play as a Mörder (murderer) and I would play as a Liebhaber.

You see, Liebhaber is a compound word composed of Lieb (Liebe = Love) and Haber ("Have-er," like someone that has something). Love-Haver.

"You're going to play as a what?!" Marco replied in a tone of voice I wasn't expecting.

"A Liebhaber!"

"What do you think that word means?"

Like most new words I hear in German, I had simply guessed the meaning from its root words. Although, as I had already experienced with the word vermöbeln, this method is not very reliable.

Anyways, I don't always learn from my mistakes, and I had interpreted Liebhaber as "love-haver" - like someone who has a lot of love for something. Like a philanthropist or peacemaker.

I was wrong.

"A Liebhaber is a lover - like someone a married person has an affair with," Marco explained.

Oh... that's not what I meant.

P.S. I did look it up myself, and Liebhaber can also mean "enthusiast" (not just lover). But anyways, that is also not what I meant.

7 comments:

  1. I love your mistranslation series! :)

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  2. Ha, thanks. I like writing them. Sometimes I think "won't I run out?" but they just keep happening...

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  3. When I saw the word, I immediately thought the exact same thing as well!!! I personally think it is a great definition ;)

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  4. I've got some good news for you, Courtney - you are both right.


    In German, "Liebhaber" is still (perhaps not as commonly anymore) correctly used also for what you had in mind, like in "er ist ein Liebhaber guter Weine" (a wine connaisseur) or "sie ist eine Liebhaberin edlen Designs" (she loves high end Design).


    Thus "er ist ein Autoliebhaber" means just that - he's a car lover, and *not* that he's someone with a thing for backseat adventures.


    Happy belated 4th of July!

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  5. Hey! I am an American expat living and working in Germany as an Au Pair. I laughed out loud at this post, because I ALWAYS infer the meaning of German words or try and make up words or just plain say an English word with a German accent, and it usually ends in failure. Thanks for sharing :)

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  6. I have a friend who would add "-ieren" to the end of any english verbs and assume it worked in German. For example: "ich jumpiere" "ich climbiere" :)


    Just using a German accent when saying an English word is also a good strategy. I work in a tech/digital environment, and that is basically how all my Germans coworkers talk anyways when they are discussing technology.
    "Hast du die Maintenance schon gemacht?"
    "Wir müssen es noch upgraden und uploaden."

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