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Lesson Transcript

Chuck: This is Intermediate Series Lesson 8.
Judith: Willkommen zurück.
Chuck: Welcome back for another intermediate lesson. In the Intermediate Series you’ll be able to improve your German grammar and expand your vocabulary. And lessons won’t be dry like a textbook cause we’re using songs. So what’s today’s song?
Judith: Well, so far we’ve been doing all of mainstream, pop rock and evergreens.
Chuck: Could we do something, maybe something a little more upbeat, like fast or something, like maybe hip hop or something?
Judith: Actually, yeah. Today is the time to do some German hip hop.
Chuck: Cool.
Judith: Today’s song is called MFG and it’s by Die Fantastischen Vier. This song is not the very latest in German hip hop, but it’s a song that every German hip hop fan will know. In fact, it was so popular that even many non-hip hop fans know it, like my mother.
Chuck: Let’s see. MFG. I understood the word “gay”, but not the other ones so I think this is going to be a pretty tough song to understand. I thought you’d pick something that’s a little easier for foreigners.
Judith: These are not actually words. It’s spelling out M, F and G.
Chuck: But MFG doesn’t stand for anything.
Judith: Yes, it does. In German it does. It’s the German acronym for Mit freundlichen Grüßen, the equivalent of “yours sincerely”, it’s an expression that is abused in official letters. You’ll notice that almost the entire song is a list of abbreviations, and it’s very funny like that. And though there’s a message in the way that they are grouped, and of course in the chorus.
Chuck: I bet Die Fantastischen Vier disliked the fact that so many things have complicated German names that have to be abbreviated.
Judith: Maybe. Anyway, so we have to change our mode of operation a bit today. I suggest first covering some basic facts about how acronyms are used in Germany, and only then diving into the song. And then we can skip the cultural section as well because the song is one big cultural lesson, covering so many things you will encounter in Germany.
Chuck: Alright, alright. Let’s get on this ASAP. Can you tell us the German names of letters briefly as a review?
Judith: Of course, I’ll just say the entire alphabet. A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z. And of course the German special letters are Ä Ö Ü and ß.
Chuck: Wow, that took a while. But there’s something you should know about acronyms. When you come across an acronym in German, usually you pronounce each letter.
Judith: Yeah, each letter on its own. For example, PKW. PKW means Personenkraftwagen. It’s a car.
Chuck: You wouldn’t say Pkw.
Judith: In this case it’s not possible, but there are also some acronyms where it would be possible to pronounce them like this and they are not. In fact, there’s only one exception to this rule that I can think of right now, and that would be TÜV. T Ü V - it's a German agency that makes sure that your car is road-safe. So people would say Ich muss mal wieder zum TÜV, “I have to go to the TÜV again, once more”. And they complain about it because it’s likely that they will have to give up their car, it’s no longer safe to drive.
Chuck: Oh well.
Judith: And one more thing to know about acronyms is that the plural is always formed by adding S, no matter what the plural of the underlying word would say. We had the example of PKW, Personenkraftwagen, and you know the plural of Wagen is still Wagen, but the plural of PKW is PKWs.
Chuck: At least something’s easy in German.
Judith: It means that you don’t have to actually look at what the underlying words mean, you can just add an S.
Chuck: Ah, so that’s it? Alright, let’s get to the song already.
Judith: ARD, ZDF, C&A.
Chuck: Let’s see. ARD and ZDF are both public TV stations if I remember correctly.
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: And C&A is some kind of store.
Judith: Yeah, it’s like a clothing chain. Not one of the really fancy ones, more like a cheap stuff.
Chuck: Alright.
Judith: BRD, DDR und USA.
Chuck: Ah, BRD, Bundesrepublik Deutschland.
Judith: Bundesrepublik Deutschland, yes.
Chuck: Yeah.
Judith: Current Germany or West Germany before that.
Chuck: Deutsche Demokratisches Republik?
Judith: Deutsche Demokratische Republik yes, not Demokratisches. Die Republik. It’s East Germany.
Chuck: And USA, I think I know this country.
Judith: Yes, on a new topic because each like approximately has a different topic. BSE, HIV und DRK.
Chuck: I know BSE is “mad cow’s disease” but I have no idea what it stands for in German.
Judith: Oh, it’s a really long awful thing you don’t want to know. It’s mostly Latin anyway.
Chuck: Well, HIV is pretty obvious. And DRK, I don’t know this one.
Judith: DRK is Deutsches Rotes Kreuz, “The Red Cross”.
Chuck: Alright.
Judith: Ok, next line. GbR, GmbH, ihr könnt mich mal.
Chuck: GmbH is a company.
Judith: It’s a limited company, yeah. GbR is also a form of company, but a very loose community of two companies get together and do a project together.
Chuck: Ihr könnt mich mal, I don’t get that.
Judith: It’s not an abbreviation. Well, the thing is they leave out the verb because it would be so vulgar, but they’re saying “You could… to me”.
Chuck: Alright.
Judith: THX, VHS und FSK.
Chuck: Well, VHS is obvious. FSK, I know I’ve seen that’s something with movies.
Judith: Yeah, it’s on every DVD you buy you will find FSK. It stands for Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle, “voluntary self-checking” or something like that. It’s a group formed by the movie industry to make sure that they’re not selling movies to kids that shouldn’t be watching them, so if you see FSK on a DVD it refers to the movie ratings that are given out by this association. They determine what age you have to be in order to watch a movie.
Chuck: Movie ratings. Now I finally understand what those letters mean.
Judith: And the thing is in Germany movies are rated differently than in the States. The interpretations are different. For example, I remember the movie “Sex and the City” was rated FSK 12 so you have to be 12 to watch it despite all the sexual references, you’ll find that sex is very low on their ratings list. You don’t have to be very old, but if it’s very gore-y, if it has a lot of violence then you will see it’s restricted to 18 and over.
Chuck: Alright.
Judith: RAF, LSD und FKK.
Chuck: LSD is pretty obvious. FKK we actually had in the last lesson, Freikörperkultur, right?
Judith: Yes, exactly, the nudists. And RAF, in German it stands for Rote Armee Fraktion, and that’s a terrorist group.
Chuck: Ah, ok.
Judith: DVU, AKW und KKK.
Chuck: The KKK is the same as the states, right?
Judith: Yeah.
Chuck: The other two I have no idea.
Judith: AKW. Atomkraftwerk. Nuclear power plant. And DVU is Deutsche Volksunion, it’s an extreme right wing party.
Chuck: Can we do a song by Kraftwerk instead? These acronyms are getting to me.
Judith: No, you’ll have to bear with me. There’s a lot of information you’re learning in this, not just vocabulary. You know, these will come up all the time in German texts and newspaper articles and everything, so you’re learning vocabulary but also you’re learning about all this culture business.
Chuck: Actually that sounds like this lesson will be a very, very good one to get a premium membership to actually be able to read all these acronyms, right?
Judith: Yeah, maybe. It would be good if you have at least a basic membership so you can see the lyrics. Or you could just go to the Internet and find another site that has the song lyrics. Then you don’t get the translation and the vocabulary and other advantages, but you can at least read along. RHP, USW, LMAA.
Chuck: USW I’ve seen before. It’s und so weiter, right?
Judith: Yes, und so weiter, etc.
Chuck: The other ones I have no idea.
Judith: RHP is a rap group and LMAA is an acronym for a really, really vulgar thing to say.
Chuck: Leck mich am Arsch.
Judith: And actually what we said earlier, ihr könnt mich mal, also refers to this. Back to safer ground, PLZ, UPS und DPD.
Chuck: PLZ is Postleitzahl, it’s basically a zip code or the postal code.
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: Most of our listeners probably already know, UPS is…
Judith: Yeah, you should know.
Chuck: DPD is that… that’s a political party, right?
Judith: No, it’s also something like UPS, it’s a German package delivery service.
Chuck: Oh, ok, that must be… Oh, I'm getting it mixed up with SPD, SPD.
Judith: Yeah, German Social Party.
Chuck: Which I first found when they were giving out free condoms on the street. Interesting. After that I never forget the SPD party.
Judith: BMX, BPM und XTC.
Chuck: BMX is obvious, BP… beats per minute?
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: Alright. And XTC I don’t know.
Judith: In English you have it too, except in English it’s obvious. If you say XTC, ecstasy, it’s a drug.
Chuck: Oh, ok.
Judith: Except if you say in German, XTC it’s no longer obvious.
Chuck: Alright.
Judith: IMI, CBS und BMG.
Chuck: Ah yeah, these big guys.
Judith: Music people, publishers, record labels. Next line ADAC, DLRG, ohjemine.
Chuck: Let’s see. ADAC isn’t that like a service that helps you with your car?
Judith: Well, officially it’s a club for German car drivers, but they’re a big influential club, they’re more like a lobby. And yeah, they will offer to help you if you’re in an accident or something, if you are a member.
Chuck: I have no idea what those last two are.
Judith: DLRG is the Deutsche Lebensrettungsgesellschaft, the lifesavers. They also organize courses to teach you swimming and stuff. And ohjemine is just an expression, it’s “Oh dear God”. EKZ, RTL und DFB.
Chuck: RTL is a television channel, I don’t know the other two.
Judith: EKZ is Einkaufszentrum. This abbreviation nowadays is not as common because people just say shopping center. And DFB is the German soccer association. ABS, TÜV it’s actually TÜV und BMW.
Chuck: ABS, it’s even an English acronym for anti-break system.
Judith: And TÜV we already discussed, and BMW, yeah, yeah, you know.
Chuck: Yeah.
Judith: Km/h, ICE und Eschede.
Chuck: Kilometers per hour?
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: ICE, which is the fast train, I certainly know about that.
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: And it’s interesting because on the ICE you can go up to 300 km/h.
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: Which is about 180 miles per hour. The last acronym I don’t quite get at all though.
Judith: They make it sound like an acronym in the song, but actually Eschede is how it’s normally pronounced and that’s a city where a famous ICE crash took place.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: PVC, FCKW, ist nicht ok.
Chuck: No idea.
Judith: PVC is polyvinyl chloride and FCKW is hydrocarbons, basically the things that you don’t want in the air because they’re destroying our climate.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: Now I’ll take a break from those acronyms. There’s a chorus to translate.
Chuck: No more acronyms then.
Judith: MFG
Chuck: Hey, I thought you said you were not going to say any more acronyms.
Judith: They are explaining it immediately after so it doesn’t count. MFG, mit freundlichen Grüßen, die Welt liegt uns zu Füßen denn wir stehen drauf.
Chuck: “The world is under our feet.”
Judith: “It’s at our feet because we’re standing on it.”
Chuck: Oh.
Judith: And this is actually double meaning because auf etwas stehen means also “to like something”, “to dig something”. It’s very colloquial. Wir gehen drauf für ein Leben voller Schall und Rauch.
Chuck: “We get on for our…”
Judith: “We die”.
Chuck: Ah.
Judith: It’s a colloquial expression again, draufgehen. Wir gehen drauf für ein Leben voller Schall und Rauch.
Chuck: “We’re dying because of…” How would you translate this?
Judith: Wir gehen drauf für ein Leben voller Schall und Rauch, “We’re dying for a life full of noise and smoke.” Anyway…
Chuck: So “We’re dying because of the life of smoking mirrors” or something like that.
Judith: Bevor wir fallen, fallen wir lieber auf.
Chuck: “Before we fall we’d rather fall.”
Judith: No, “we’d rather get attention”.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: Auffallen is “to draw attention”.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: Now there’s more acronyms. HNO, EKG und AOK.
Chuck: EKG is something about brainwaves right? The other ones I have no idea.
Judith: HNO. Hals- Nasen- Ohrenarzt. So there will be a doctor for anything related to throat, nose or ears. And AOK is a health insurance company. LBS, WKD und IHK.
Chuck: IHK is some kind of school, right?
Judith: It’s more like a professional association of all businesses in the area and industries.
Chuck: They have classes, right?
Judith: Yeah, but mostly you also have to go there for registering. It is the Industrie- und Handelskammer.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: And LBS is a savings bank, and WKD, Wirtschaftskontrolldienst, service for checking the economy. UKW, NDW und Hubert K.
Chuck: Think you’ve lost me.
Judith: UKW. Ultrakurzwelle. NDW, Neue Deutsche Welle. A movement in German music and Hubert K is one of the stars of this Neue Deutsche Welle. Ah, and here you can do a double interpretation because UKW was also the name of a band in the Neue Deutsche Welle. BTM, BKA, hahaha.
Chuck: Well, I believe I understand “ha ha ha”.
Judith: BTM, Betäubungsmittel, anesthetics, but also drugs because you’re maybe arrested for possession of Betäubungsmittel, they say. They don’t say Drogen.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: And BKA, Bundeskriminalamt, the German FBI, so they might be doing the arresting. LTU, TNT und IRA.
Chuck: Is LTU another health company?
Judith: No, it’s an airline.
Chuck: Ah, ok.
Judith: And the other two you should know. They’re the same in English, come on.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: TNT and IRA.
Chuck: Yes.
Judith: NTV, THW und DPA. It’s a TV news channel. Technisches Hilfswerk, that might be helping out in a bomb situation or generally emergencies. And DPA is a news agency. H&M, BSB und FdH.
Chuck: They like their clothing chains, that would be the H&M.
Judith: Yeah.
Chuck: The other ones I don't know.
Judith: BSB, Backstreet Boys. FdH is Friss die Hälfte, it’s a recommendation for a diet. Actually, some people follow this diet. It consists of just eating half your normal portions.
Chuck: Doesn’t sound too healthy.
Judith: Yeah, it is not. Well, it is Friss die Hälfte.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: SOS, 110, Tatütata.
Chuck: SOS is obvious.
Judith: 110.
Chuck: Ah, that’s the emergency number, right?
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: Someday I should learn that.
Judith: And tatütata is the sound of an emergency vehicle according to German children. SED, FDJ und KaDeWe.
Chuck: KaDeWe is Kaufhaus des Westens, where you can get lots of American goodies. We’re not advertising for them, just stating the fact.
Judith: SED is the East German Communist Party and FDJ is the East German Youth Organization. FAZ, BWL und FDP.
Chuck: BWL is marketing, right?
Judith: Management, study of management.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: FAZ is a large series newspaper and FDP is a German party. They call themselves liberals, in America they would probably not be called that. They’re basically against government interference in the economy and they’re considered very right in Germany. EDV, IBM und WWW.
Chuck: EDV is an older form of IT, right?
Judith: Yeah, it’s what they used to say… a German abbreviation instead of the English IT.
Chuck: And IBM is obvious. Oh, what is this WWW? I don’t think I have heard this before.
Judith: Yeah, you of all people wouldn’t know. WWW is how we say it in German and it’s more convenient to say than WWW, tongue twister. WWW. HSV, VfB, ole ole.
Chuck: First I don’t know, the last one like “Ole, ole, ole!”
Judith: Yeah, exactly. HSV is the soccer club of Hamburg, and VfB is the one of Stuttgart. ABC, DAF und OMD.
Chuck: I think that ABC they mean the station.
Judith: No, we don’t have a station called ABC in German.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: ABC they just mean the alphabet. DAF, Deutsch als Fremdsprache.
Chuck: That could be important.
Judith: Yes, if you’re looking for a course in Germany, and maybe at university you want to learn some German, then you can look for DAF courses. Sometimes they don’t’ even spell it out and you have to be able to identify that, yeah.
Chuck: That seems kind of counterproductive to me but oh well.
Judith: OMD is a British pop group and I don’t know why they put it in combination with German as a foreign language.
M2: Ich weiß.
Judith: Ah, weißt du?
M2: Ich weiß.
Judith: Ok, so our studio manager just had the idea that ABC and DAF also were bands. However, they’re definitely not what comes up in mind now.
Chuck: I don’t think they are his ideas… I think he’s actually right here. It still sounds like Deutsch als Fremdsprache is useful to know.
Judith: Yeah. TM3, A&O und AEG.
Chuck: AEG looks very familiar but I can’t place it.
Judith: It’s a brand in household electronics, you probably saw it on your dishwasher or something.
Chuck: Oh, those kind of electronics.
Judith: Yeah. And TM3 is a women’s TV channel, and A&O is a 70s supermarket chain. Ok, last two lines. TUI, UVA und UVB.
Chuck: TUI is an airline company, right?
Judith: Yeah, and it’s another of those abbreviations that you just pronounce one go. TUI.
Chuck: TUI. So you sort of say it immediately.
Judith: Yeah, TUI. And UVA and UVB are two types of ultraviolet light. Last line, THC in OCB ist was ich dreh.
Chuck: It’s what turned?
Judith: Yeah, turned or… THC is an active ingredient in marijuana and hashish, and OCB is a brand or wrappings, cigarette wrappings but which are also used for hashish, so basically it’s implying, “Ok, I'm doing, drehen, in the sense. I'm doing THC.”
Chuck: All these acronyms are turning my head. I just can’t take it anymore. Could we stop already?


Judith: Yeah, actually this was the end. It was just the chorus coming up a couple of more times. See, there’s a lot of abbreviations, but you have to know that, like, 90 or 95 percent of them are known by every single German and that means that you should know them if you’re hoping to understand German texts or announcements, or company names or anything. The thing is that you should learn them if you really want to understand German and understand Germany, you’d also know more what Germany’s about, what kind of words we have, what kind of things there are in Germany. Maybe look at the PDF later and…
Chuck: PDF, no!
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: Not another abbreviation!
Judith: Maybe look at the PDF and see how many of those abbreviations you know and see what the others mean.
Chuck: I don’t know how much more I can take. I am going to just leave. I can’t take anymore. So I will see you later.
Judith: It’s fine. I was planning to stop now anyway. Bis dann.
Chuck: Tschüs.