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The Awful German Language

American author Mark Twain wrote the grippingly hilarious and sometimes sexist “The Awful German Language.” Ah, the liberation of intellect. This small excerpt deals a feature not present in English. All nouns in German are assigned a gender (male, neutral, or feminine) that effects their usage. With that bit of info masticated upon, read on…

Every noun has a gender, and there is no sense or system in the distribution; so the gender of each must be learned separately and by heart. There is no other way. To do this one has to have a memory like a memorandum-book. In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has. Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what callous disrespect for the girl. See how it looks in print — I translate this from a conversation in one of the best of the German Sunday-school books:

Gretchen: Wilhelm, where is the turnip?
Wilhelm: She has gone to the kitchen.
Gretchen: Where is the accomplished and beautiful English maiden?
Wilhelm: It has gone to the opera.

–Mark Twain