German Names Mean Something

The fact that German names almost always do mean something is humorously described by Mark Twain in his book A Tramp Abroad [1880]

German Names Mean Something

by Mark Twain

A little learning makes the whole world kin.--Proverbs xxxii, 7.

In German, all the Nouns begin with a capital letter.

Now that is a good idea; and a good idea, in this language, is necessarily conspicuous from its lonesomeness.

I consider this capitalizing of nouns a good idea, because by reason of it you are almost always able to tell a noun the minute you see it.

You fall into error occasionally, because you mistake the name of a person for the name of a thing, and waste a good deal of time trying to dig a meaning out of it.

German names almost always do mean something, and this helps to deceive the student.

I translated a passage one day, which said that "the infuriated tigress broke loose and utterly ate up the unfortunate fir forest" (Tannenwald). When I was girding up my loins to doubt this, I found out that Tannenwald in this instance was a man's name.

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