“But she’s so cute when she says it!” My friend, soon to be former if she didn’t watch out, gushed.
“Yes, but only for the first three times,” I responded, as that was my tolerance for so-called cute children who repeated words. I had just dropped Beatrix, my five-year-old niece, back at her parents’ condo and Alexa was driving me home; Beatrix and I had spent the last three weeks traipsing across Germany together. My brother Shane and his wife Myrtle (who names their kid Myrtle in the 21st century?) had sent Beatrix along because she had taken up German from the time she was three. They thought it would be good practice for her and figured I’d make a good sherpa. For some reason I agreed and pretty much spent the time carrying her stuff and pointing out places of interest as she rushed ahead of me. I was hoping that Alexa would understand the horror of my experiences, since Beatrix had decided to enlighten her as soon as we had gotten in the car.
“Auntie Alexa!” Beatrix had piped, “Do you want to know my favorite word in German?”
Before I could sound the alarm, Alexa smiled broadly. “Of course, sweetie! What is it?”
“Fußgängerzone!” Beatrix said, for what would be the first of at least 20 times she said it on our ride from the airport. She had seen the word on a street sign in Berlin and had adopted it as though it were a long-lost friend. She didn’t care what it meant but preferred instead to say it every time we saw a similar sign on a roadway. She even took to saying it in time with the rhythm of the railway car on our three-hour ride from Berlin to Frankfurt; Fußgängerzone Fußgängerzone she intoned, sometimes under her breath, but even in her sleep it seemed. I kept hearing it from her as we traveled across the country. As we prepared to leave I thought she was over it, but then she shared about her favorite word with our seat partner on the plane all the way home. I was hoping that Alexa, who had never seemed particularly interested in languages, would just offer a that’s nice, dear and change the subject.
“Oh! So what does that mean?” Alexa asked, dashing my hopes.
Beatrix warmed up to her subject. “Well, Fußgängerzone is used to designate pedestrian zones. Do you know what a pedestrian zone is?” She did not wait for a response. “It is a place where only people are allowed to walk. There are no cars in pedestrian zones. There are Fußgängerzone in all sorts of places, but that’s what it’s called all over Germany. You can see the word on signs just about everywhere.”
Alexa looked proudly at Beatrix. “That’s nice, dear.” I rolled my eyes, which prompted a pinch from Alexa. And this is why I don’t do kids. Or understand the lure of pedestrian zones.
This week’s For the Promptless asked us about logomania; if the word Fußgängerzone had been a person, I would have married it during my one semester of German while an undergraduate student. For some reason, it’s curves and trema (the two dots over the “a”), and its melodious awesomeness caused me to fall immediately in love. I have actually heard the word occasionally outside the confines of an elementary language classroom–once in a movie, at which point I grinned with delight.
So there you have my logomania secret. What’s yours? Click below to share and tell.