Mark Twain German Joke

My friend Kamren gave me once an audio, in German, from a great talk which Mark Twain was asked to give in German. In that talk, Twain teased a bit about the quircks of such a complicated language, although making clear how much he loves it.

Yesterday I found a fun quote, quoted in turn by Mark Herman in the ATA Chronicle (April 2012 issue).
From Mark Twain’s Notebook:
[In German] A dog is “der Hund” [masculine]; a woman is “die Frau” [feminine]; a horse is “das Pferd” [neutral]. Now you put that dog in the genitive case, and is he the same dog he was before? No, sir; he is “des Hundes”; put him in the dative case and what is he? Why, he is “dem Hund.” Now you snatch him into the accusative case and how is it with him? Why, he is “den Hunden.” But suppose he happens to be twins and you have to pluralize him –what then? Why, they’ll swat that twin dog around through 4 cases until he’ll think he’s an entire international dog-show all in his own person. I don’t like dogs, but I wouldn’t treat a dog like that –I wouldn’t even treat a borrowed dog that way. Well, it’s just the same with a cat. They start her in at the nominative singular in good health and fair to look upon, and they sweat her through all the 4 cases and the 16 the’s and when she limps out through the accusative plural you wouldn’t recognize her for the same being. Yes, sir, once the German language gets hold of a cat, it’s goodbye cat. That’s about the amount of it.
I need to read that book. And Mark Twain at large. I found it hilarious. And that explains why I have such trouble with the German grammar, a language which I otherwise love.

2 Comments on “Mark Twain German Joke

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