Let's Talk German-Russian with Ernschtina un Hanswurscht
Book review by Edna Boardman, Bismarck, North Dakota
Here is a wonderful book reflecting Prof. Arnold Marzolf's deep
understanding of the special mix of words and dialects that was
the language of the German-Russians. It is designed to be nibbled
and savored, chuckled at, and disapproved of, with shaking of the
head. To get the most out of it, it must be shared, with shouts
of "Remember when Grandpa used to say this?" and "I can't believe
he'd put this into a book." Prof. Marzolf says his book is "Dedicated
to our German-Russian ancestors who suffered valiantly in Germany,
in Russia, and on the prairies, but still knew how to smile, joke,
Prof. Marzolf knows standard High German, having taught it at
the university level. As a descendant of German-Russian immigrants
who settled near Anamoose, North Dakota and minister to churches
that contained substantial numbers of German-Russians, his ear was
always tuned to the nuances of what they said, how they said it,
and what it meant to them. Over years, he kept notes about the language.
The brief verbal sketches in this book--one to four to a page--show
the settings in which words, phrases, and sayings were used. When
Prof. Marzolf ran out of steam, he put the leftovers into lists.
I especially enjoyed his list of food words and the list of Russian
words that became part of the German-Russian dialect.
Prof. Marzolf has performed such a valuable service, as he not
only records the language as it was "talked" (spoken suggests too
much formality for him), but the thought patterns and the way of
life in which it flourished. At the end of the book, he gives an
example of how the language worked in conversation, and, in a brief
academic essay, teaches a lesson on the German language and its
dialects. There may be too many "Lausbubageschichten" (mischievous
stories) for some, but most of us who grew up with this dialect
will love this book.
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