A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sprechen Sie Deutsch, Herr Claremont?

Stelok, a new poster over at the Comics Should Be Good forum, had a few things to say recently about the use of German in Marvel comics. With his permission, I'm reposting some of his comments:


Fabian Nicieza typed in X-Force Vol.1 #8 that Baron Strucker greeted to Cable and his gang, "Guten Tag, mein Freunds". That is wrong. There is no such German word as "Freunds". Nicieza should have typed "Meine Freunde". Obviously he has never studied German once in his life.

Mein Freund- masculine, singular, nominative
Meine Freundin- feminine, nominative

Meine Freunde- plural, for both males and females, nominative
Meine Freundinnen- plural, for females only, nominative

There is another book called "Captain Amerca: Medusa Effect", written by Roy Thomas. In that book, Helmut says "Mein Mutter". He should have typed "Meine Mutter", not "Mein Mutter".

"Mein" is the masculine German article of "my" while "meine" is the feminine German article of "my."

And I also think Bucky is supposed to ask Helmut the informal question "Sprichst du Englisch?" instead of the formal question "Sprechen Sie Englisch?"

Fabian Nicieza also made a typographical mistake with a German word in X-Force's 1999 Annual. The correct German word for "experiment" is Versuch, not Vershuct.

Take my advice. Don't learn German phrases from Marvel comics. Don't learn them from an English-German dictionary, because just a dictionary is not adequate enough. I know it, because my German teacher noted some German words in all of my English-German dictionaries were not accurate. Learn them from a German tutorial class instead.


Now I wouldn't expect comic writers to go to the lengths of taking night classes just to get their foreign phrases right. But in the age of the internet, it's all too easy to find someone fluent who could do that translation for you. I imagine that's how Alan Moore got the Arabic right in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Stelok also passes along a link to Nightcrawler's Marvel Wiki page, which has a short section on erroneous words and phrases that have been put in Kurt's mouth.

And on an unrelated note, reading this reminds me of my own time in college learning German, and how, as in Spanish, I came to despise the notion of "genders." Every noun is declared, more or less arbitrarily, to be male or female (or in German, neutral), which essentially doubles the number of things to memorize and unnecessarily complicates lots of conjugations. My German teacher once said that Germany was perhaps moving to use the neutral gender for everything; I don't know if that went anywhere, but it would sure make the language easier and do away with an utterly silly and useless complication.