Nicht rauchen

“No smoking.”

The only sign I saw 20th-century Germans disobey.

The post-W.W.II history of how cigarettes were marketed to Germans might contain some answers. 20th-century German cigarette ads were a bit of a puzzle to this nonsmoking foreigner. I never grokked the feelings of rebellion and addiction that might be being felt by German smokers. After trying to understand their tobacco brands’ ubiquitous billboards for years, I decided the ads seemed to say somehow that smoking was the social equivalent of smiling and making friends, that it signified you were socially approachable. An extreme was the Gauloises ads, showing relaxed, bien-dans-sa-peau Frenchmen smoking outdoors in a tree-shaded piazza in good weather, while wearing pyjamas in public.

(Nichh t   r-r-r OW! chh en.)

Berliner Schnauze

Berlin lip, snout, mouth, mouthiness. Both the Berlin dialect and the cheeky irrepressible attitude.

(Beah LEAN ah   sh NOW tsah.)


Evidence room.

Supposedly, according to a 2011 article describing results from the then-unpublished Humboldt University sports history study on unethical performance-enhancing drug use in West Germany from 1950 to 1990, some researchers in the early 1970’s were investigating the sexual side-effects of steroid use. They had an instrument called a “phallograph” but couldn’t find enough film material for their studies because pornography was illegal in West Germany at the time. Police in Düsseldorf helped by supplying confiscated films from their Asservatenkammer.

(Ossah VOT ten com ah.)


Jack of all trades, renaissance man. Also called a “Wunderwuzzi” in German.

(T OW! zend zahss ah. VOO n dare VOO tsee.)


“Songbird voice.” From a charming review of a new volume of the translated and commented collected works of Czech poet Vladimir Holan who, writes the reviewer, managed to maintain standards during his country’s most difficult times (1937 to 1954), adding “who cannot benefit from the luxury of having this bilingual edition and marvel at the immense opportunities for play in the succinct, richly colored, singing Czech language; you have an œuvre before you that countered the ravages of the genociders and suppressors with an almost defiant, tragi-beautiful songbird’s voice.”

(ZING foh gell SHTIM eh.)

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