Thursday, April 27, 2006

German Translations Gone Wild

Today was a beautiful day in Cloppenburg. It did not rain. The sun came out. The thermometer broke 70, AND my client cancelled his English lesson for the day. I am telling you, it was enough to make a girl giddy.

The German and I went into town and ate our first ice cream of the season. It was a million calories, and I loved every minute of it. We were walking around town and I was cursing that I did not bring my camera. I promise many pictures of Cloppenburg to come.

In an effort to be a good businesswoman, I said, "Schatz, let's go by my office just to see if Nice German Customer faxed me the rest of the placement tests." I should have listened to the voice in my head: "Danger Wil Robinson! Never go to the office when you are enjoying the first nice spring afternoon of the year."

We got to the office and the fax machine was out of paper. I put more in and as it was printing out the last page of the fax, it stopped. The thing was out of ink. (I swear that damn fax machine is quickly replacing the washing machine as the bane of my existence!) I looked at my watch. It was 6:00pm. "Normal" working hours in Germany go until 8:00pm. But this Cloppenburg, and anything but normal. I knew I needed a new ink cartridge that evening in order to make sure I had the entire fax and could speak with my customer in the morning. I gave the German my "Please don't hate me" look. He sighed and he put on his coat. We would have to drive the 30 minutes to Oldenburg to go to Staples.

The drive was actually very pleasant. We kept commenting on how the trees, seemingly over night, sprouted leaves and turned green. To get to Oldenburg from Cloppenburg, you have to take a two lane county road to the main highway. Usually you only have to spend about 10 minutes on the county road. But spring has finally come to Cloppenburg. And that means only one thing . . . shit.

No, seriously, the farmers have dragged out the manure in order to get the fields ready for planting season. (I have heard bickering in town about how the corn should have been in the ground last week. Do not complain to me about this. Your insight is lost on a city girl like me.) Planting season means more tractors on the roads and more Guellemachine. If you get stuck behind one of these things on the county road, your 10 minute trip becomes 20.

"Claire, what's a 'Guellemachine'?" I am glad you asked.

"Guelle" is the German word for manure. A "Guellemachine" looks like a gas transporter. Farmers drive it around their fields to distribute the manure. It looks kind of like this:

I teach English to many companies that make farming equipment. It was inevitable that one day one of my students would ask me, "Claire, what is 'Guellemachine' in English?"

They asked ME . . . the city girl . . . the girl who is amazed by the size of sheep's balls . . . the girl who studied political science.

"I have no idea. "Shit machine" maybe? "The Shitter?""

Yup. That is probably why I never became an official UN translator.


Jacob said...


I believe the American equivalent of a "Guellemachine" would be a "manure spreader". I remember this from my many trips to see relatives who are farmers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Claire,
It's been a while since I've checked in so have a lot of catching up to do...Brendan informs me that in Ireland the Guellemachine is call a "great big slurry tank"-he should know-they spread loadsa shit where he comes from.
See you soon-Eimear XX

Anonymous said...

Back in the olden days, when I was doing my duty in Germany, the farmers didn't have machinery like now-a-days. They had big tub-like things on wheels that they pulled with oxen. We used to call them "honey wagons". Perhaps your grandfather-in-law would remember that. I doubt if Carl Heinz would even know about them. To my knowledge there was nothing quite that here in the USA. With a "manure spreader" the stuff was more or less in a solid state just the way it came from the barn. When I was a boy, one of the jobs I had on the farm was a pilit[no, I didn't fly an airplane]. I had to take the manure out of the barn and pile it on the manure pile to save untill spring when it would be distrubited on the fields.
I don't think that practice is still in great use, as there aren't many diary farms around here anymore.
I'll bet that's more information than you really needed!

Love, Grandpa

Dixie said...

I love the further explainations but I have to say that "the shitter" really does say it all!

Mike B said...

Shit happens, and then you go to Germany and it really happens in spades.

But any day you get an ice cream is a good day.

Karl said...

Manure spreader is right. I never knew how to translate that for the longest time either until a friend of mine, who grew up in a rural area, gave me a heads up.

PapaScott said...

I grew up in farm country and went to ag school, so I know that the technical term is "liquid manure tank spreader", which is the simplest method of liquid manure field application.

"Shitter" is OK, but belies the true intensity and concentration of the substance.

You're welcome.

christina said...

Oh no, no the G├╝llemaschine! That means it's going to be in OUR town soon. Mmm...I can almost smell it. The term "liquid manure" has always given me the creeps.

I wonder if there really is more shit in Germany or if we're just imagining things. I mean, the stuff is everywhere - streets, fields, playgrounds. Bleh.

Haddock said...

The shit smell was with us yesterday as well. I don't actually mind it as I spent a lot of time on farms as a kid.
In England we refer to the 'shitter' as the 'Muck Spreader'. I think Shitter sounds better though! :)

Mikey said...

How about "Dung Flunger?"

Just another American Expat said...

Humm...How about "Honey Wagon"

Just another American Expat said...

Yeah...I just saw the top comment. I guess Grampa agrees.;-)

EuroTrippen said...

We lived in Chandler, Arizona for two years... and what finally drove us away was the smell of cow crap permeating EVERYTHING on any day above 90 degrees (which is about 300 days out of the year)