Sonderling Sunday – Momo – Meeting Beppo


It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books, or, in this case, the English translation of a German children’s book.

Today I’m going back to Momo, by Michael Ende, the first book I purchased in Germany — and the first chance I got, too.

Last time I looked at Momo, I left off at the start of the Viertes Kapitel (Chapter Four). Since German is the original language, I’ll begin with the German version.

Chapter 4 is called Ein schweigsamer Alter und ein zungenfertiger Junger, but only “Two Special Friends” in English. A more direct translation is “A silent old man and a tongue-ready young man.” (Google translates zungenfertiger as “glib.”)

Here’s the first sentence, a good one to know:
Wenn jemand auch sehr viele Freunde hat, so gibt es darunter doch immer einige wenige, die einem ganz besonders nahestehen und die einem die allerliebsten sind.
= “Even when people have a great many friends, there are always one or two whom they love best of all.”

teilten = “shared”

Beppo Straßenkehrer = “Beppo Roadsweeper”

Ziegelsteinen, Wellblechstücken und Dachpappe
= “bricks, corrugated iron, and tar paper”

gebückt = “bent-backed”

ein kurzer weißer Haarschopf = “a single tuft of white hair”

This is funny how much more the translator put in:
eine kleine Brille
= “a diminutive pair of steel-rimmed spectacles”

nicht ganz richtig im Kopf
= “not quite right in the head”

Ungenauigkeit = “carelessness”

alten, quietschenden Fahrrad = “squeaky old bicycle”

stetig = “steadily”

Besenstrich = “stroke of the broom”

Und man strengt sich noch mehr an
= “And you try even harder”

man kriegt es mit der Angst
= “you panic”

außer Puste = “out of breath” (“out-puffed”)

Wisdom from Beppo:
Man muß nur an den nächsten Schritt denken, an den nächsten Atemzug, an den nächsten Besenstrich.
= “You must only concentrate on the next step, the next breath, the next stroke of the broom.”

Schritt für Schritt = “bit by bit”

wiedererkannt = “recognized” (“again-known”)

mit schrägem Kopf = “with his head to one side”

And the last sentence about Beppo:
Aber Momo hatte ihn lieb und bewahrte alle seine Worte in ihrem Herzen.
= “But Momo loved him and treasured every word he uttered.”

And I’ll stop there tonight. I think the most interesting word tonight was zungenfertiger. May your tongue be ready!

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