If It’s “Verboten” Don’t Do It!

For those of you who don’t speak German and consider learning it someday, I’ll let you in on a secret – the grammar is bloody complicated, it is such a magnificently precise language compared to English, and perhaps the most important word to learn is the word verboten, and all its manifestations, permutations, conjugations and the usage of the word in connection with a rule and law.

German is the fourth language I learned and find it just as difficult as Filipino, which is supposed to be my mother tongue, but it isn’t since I learned it as a third language, much to the horror of my teachers. Over time I came to terms with both languages and finally understood by one of the Jesuit philosophy professors translated all the major philosophical works from German directly into Filipino, completely bypassing English. The flexibility and precision in both languages make them a perfect translation pair. Verboten and bawal, therefore carry the exact same weight linguistically, culturally and legally.

My linguistic development in Tagalog is stunted forevermore. German, on the other hand, is a daily tool, and like the virus, it keeps growing and expanding, leading me to discover more new words the longer I live in Berlin during the pandemic. The ability and possibility of stringing two words together to form a single precise word in German is fascinating, and it ranges from the kilometric to the philosophical and back. I don’t think Goethe himself could have whipped any of these up. Some new additions to my vocabulary since March 2020:

Maskenpfllicht: mandatory use of masks
Makenverweigerer: persons who refuse to use the mask or follow the mandatory use thereof
Infektionsschutzmaßnahmen: not a new word as such, but has slipped into the daily vocabulary of every German speaker in Germany, Switzerland and Austria – precautionary measures against infection.
Infektionsschutzverordnung: am not even sure how to translate this without it turning into an entire paragraph – infection precautionary measures order
Mund-Nase_Schutz: literally translated it means mouth and nose covering, but boils down to a mask.
Ansesendheitsdokumentation: call it roll call or log, but basically all hotels, pubs, bars, and restaurants are supposed to log the guests to be able to track the source of an outbreak.
Beherbergungsverbot: This word is so new it hasn’t made it to Linguee yet. Basically it is a lodging ban. As of yesterday, domestic travellers originating from the hotspots are not to be lodged in hotels, BnBs and hostels.
Sperrstunde: essentially this is a curfew for pubs, bars, and restaurants
Kontaktbeschränkung: this translates into social distancing, but in German it carries the additional dimension of limited contact.

Then there are the new COVID-19 catch phrases coined for the precautionary measures:
Mindestabstandes zu haushaltsfremden Personen: minimum distance to be maintained between persons not belonging to the same household.
Bußgeldkatalog zur Ahndung von Verstößen gegen die SARS-CoV-2-Infektionsschutzverordnung: List of fines for violations of the infection protection orders.

Back to my original caveat – if you are learning German or about to, beware of anything that carries “verordnung” or “pflicht” – no ifs or buts about it, you have to follow. In the same manner, if you violate anything with “verbot” or “verboten” you are in serious trouble. Otherwise Germany is a wonderful place to live!

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