Friday, February 23, 2007

Mark Twain on the German Language

I was gradually coming to have a mysterious and shuddery reverence for this girl; for nowadays, whenever she pulled out from the station and got her train fairly started on one of those horizonless trans-continental sentences of hers, it was born in upon me that I was standing in the awful presence of the Mother of the German language. I was so impressed with this, that sometimes when she began to empty one of these sentences on me I unconsciously took the very attitude of reverence, and stood uncovered; and if words had been water, I had been drowned, sure. She had exactly the German way: whatever was in her mind to be delivered, whether a mere remark, or a sermon, or a cyclopedia, or the history of a war, she would get it into a single sentence or die. Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.

Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, 258-9 (chapter 22).

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