Why Germans Can't Say "Squirrel"

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    Mar 11, 2012 5:26 AM GMT
    In an episode of the British TV show "Top Gear," host Jeremy Clarkson jokingly suggested that asking people to pronounce the word would be a surefire way to identify undercover German spies. "No German, no matter how well they speak English, can say 'squirrel,'" Clarkson asserted.



    "The solution is to say skwö first and then Roll. If the speaker then also manages to avoid saying (1) sh for [s] and (2) [v] for [w], and uses the vowel in the first syllable of getan [German for 'done'] instead of (3)ö in the first syllable and instead of (4) o in the second syllable, and (5) makes the r like the English r and (6) the l like the 'dark' l of English, the result will be quite acceptable,"

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/09/squirrel-germans-say-pronounce_n_1334998.html?ref=science
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    Mar 11, 2012 12:57 PM GMT
    I just tried it and it's really hard icon_lol.gif

    I sound hilarious
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    Mar 11, 2012 12:59 PM GMT
    Love this. German accents make me wet. icon_redface.gif

    Another word I think German speakers may have a tough time with: mirror (Spiegel).
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    Mar 11, 2012 1:04 PM GMT
    I pronounce it as one syllable.. just like "whirl" or "girl".. try it like that
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    Mar 11, 2012 1:17 PM GMT
    I pronounce it "dinner."
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    Mar 11, 2012 1:17 PM GMT
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    Mar 11, 2012 1:33 PM GMT
    I wasn't aware that undercover German spies speaking English was a major concern, following the demise of Communist East Germany.

    True story: I had a couple of Germans employed in my US Army office in West Berlin in 1979 (termed "LN" for local national). And often a third LN from another office would join them for a paper bag lunch at their desks.

    This third LN would sometimes ask me odd questions, like how should he dress if he ever traveled to the US and wanted to look like a native. And how should he speak to not give away his German background.

    While those could be innocent tourist questions, I just felt uneasy, alarm bells going off in my head over the way he made these inquiries. Plus we were warned that East German spies were all around us.

    So to be safe I went to our command's Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (DCSI, that we referred to as the "Dixie"). And I was taken into a secure room, that was resistant to Soviet electronic eavesdropping, with a flashing red light over the door once we were sealed inside this veritable vault.

    I related my concerns, and the Dixie Intelligence Specialist surprised me by saying:

    "Oh, we know all about him, he's an East German spy. We have him under surveillance. But he's a total incompetent, so we let him stay there, lest he get replaced by someone better skilled. We feed him disinformation. It's important you not tip him off that you know he's a spy, nor tell anyone else. Just act casual with him, and be careful what you say in front of him."

    Well, fuck! Now I'm supposed to play act with this guy, who's coming regularly into my office. I don't want this stress, afraid I'll let some intelligence slip out. And not appear like I suspect anything. I didn't have to apply the "squirrel" test on him (which I never heard about before), his German accent in English was already dreadful.

    Oh, God, my crazy adventures, even including Communist spies. And my wife at the time, another Army Officer, headed her own office that handled even more sensitive secrets. That sometimes she could tell me about, and sometimes she couldn't. As she would classically say to me: "If I tell you I'll have to kill you." "Yes, dear, but do give me a kiss before you shoot me." It's no wonder our marriage collapsed as quickly as it did, regardless of my being a gay in denial. icon_confused.gif
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    Mar 11, 2012 1:43 PM GMT
    Art_Deco saidI wasn't aware that undercover German spies speaking English was a major concern, following the demise of Communist East Germany.

    True story: I had a couple of Germans employed in my US Army office in West Berlin in 1979 (termed "LN" for local national). And often a third LN from another office would join them for a paper bag lunch at their desks.

    This third LN would sometimes ask me odd questions, like how should he dress if he ever traveled to the US and wanted to look like a native. And how should he speak to not give away his German background.

    While those could be innocent tourist questions, I just felt uneasy, alarm bells going off in my head over the way he made these inquiries. Plus we were warned that East German spies were all around us.

    So to be safe I went to our command's Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (DCSI, that we referred to as the "Dixie"). And I was taken into a secure room, that was resistant to Soviet electronic eavesdropping, with a flashing red light over the door once we were sealed inside this veritable vault.

    I related my concerns, and the Dixie Intelligence Specialist surprised me by saying:

    "Oh, we know all about him, he's an East German spy. We have him under surveillance. But he's a total incompetent, so we let him stay there, lest he get replaced by someone better skilled. We feed him disinformation. It's important you not tip him off that you know he's a spy, nor tell anyone else. Just act casual with him, and be careful what you say in front of him."

    Well, fuck! Now I'm supposed to play act with this guy, who's coming regularly into my office. I don't want this stress, afraid I'll let some intelligence slip out. And not appear like I suspect anything. I didn't have to apply the "squirrel" test on him (which I never heard about before), his German accent in English was already dreadful.

    Oh, God, my crazy adventures, even including Communist spies. And my wife at the time, another Army Officer, headed her own office that handled even more sensitive secrets. That sometimes she could tell me about, and sometimes she couldn't. As she would classically say to me: "If I tell you I'll have to kill you." "Yes, dear, but do give me a kiss before you shoot me." It's no wonder our marriage collapsed as quickly as it did, regardless of my being a gay in denial. icon_confused.gif


    That's a pretty awesome story!
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    Mar 11, 2012 2:12 PM GMT
    ^ his stories are real doozies.. he should write a gay book
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    Mar 11, 2012 2:29 PM GMT
    GreenHopper said^ his stories are real doozies.. he should write a gay book

    Don't think I haven't considered it. Not gay necessarily, just my autobiography. But not being famous I doubt anyone would read it, just one big TL;DR. icon_sad.gif
  • hallyhallo

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    Mar 11, 2012 2:36 PM GMT
    hm, i don't have a problem pronouncing it..
  • HollywoodHist...

    Posts: 403

    Mar 11, 2012 2:55 PM GMT
    hallyhallo saidhm, i don't have a problem pronouncing it..


    Post a short vid of you saying "Squirrel" so we can see icon_wink.gif

    My best friend, from Brazil, has nearly no accent at all but there are a few words that he can't say. The phrase "rear view mirror" is nearly impossible, lol.

    PS - LOVE your profile "About Me", beautiful written and all sentiments that I share.
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    Mar 11, 2012 2:55 PM GMT
    Art_Deco said
    GreenHopper said^ his stories are real doozies.. he should write a gay book

    Don't think I haven't considered it. Not gay necessarily, just my autobiography. But not being famous I doubt anyone would read it, just one big TL;DR. icon_sad.gif


    Three words, Kindle Quick Books. People buy those dollar ones up like candy!
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    Mar 11, 2012 3:09 PM GMT
    My wife, who is a German citizen, can pronounce it perfectly. Her excuse is that she's lived in the US for 30 years.
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    Mar 11, 2012 3:23 PM GMT
    hallyhallo saidhm, i don't have a problem pronouncing it..

    It doesnt matter how you pronounce anything. In fact, you dont have to talk at all. .... icon_biggrin.gif
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    Mar 11, 2012 3:30 PM GMT
    Squirrel btw comes from two greek words meaning "shadow tail."

    I dont know if it's because:

    1. The tail is shaped like the body and follows it like a shadow

    2. There really isnt much too it, just a rat's tail with bushy hair, like a shadow has nothing to it

    3. It can arch over the squirrel's body and provide shade
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    Mar 11, 2012 3:32 PM GMT
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    Mar 11, 2012 3:38 PM GMT
    I suppose that is the German's shibboleth.icon_confused.gif


    I can't speak a word of German, so I'm not going to make fun of a German who can speak English, even badly.
    icon_cool.gif
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    Mar 11, 2012 3:42 PM GMT
    Most Germans I know speak better English than most Americans I know.
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    Mar 11, 2012 3:46 PM GMT
    Haaretz saidMost Germans I know speak better English than most Americans I know.


    QFT!
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    Mar 11, 2012 3:46 PM GMT
    StudlyScrewRite said I suppose that is the German's shibboleth.icon_confused.gif


    I can't speak a word of German, so I'm not going to make fun of a German who can speak English, even badly.
    icon_cool.gif

    German is a very polite language. They put the verb at the end of the damn sentence so you cant interrupt cuz you dont know what the hell they are saying until they finish! And DONT get me start on separable prefixes!!!! icon_evil.gif
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    Mar 11, 2012 4:33 PM GMT
    I think the Brits pronounce it squiddle.

    Try saying it that way in a sentence,, sounds British...
  • HollywoodHist...

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    Mar 11, 2012 4:41 PM GMT
    Haaretz saidMost Germans I know speak better English than most Americans I know.


    Very true! Also my ex's from Brazil and Mexico spoke better English than most Americans I know. Even better after they knew me icon_wink.gif
  • HollywoodHist...

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    Mar 11, 2012 4:42 PM GMT
    beneful1 saidI think the Brits pronounce it squiddle.

    Try saying it that way in a sentence,, sounds British...


    When I hear a Brit say it, it sounds more like "square-elle"
  • MikemikeMike

    Posts: 6932

    Mar 11, 2012 4:43 PM GMT
    That is why Arnold never said "I'll be baaack...for that squirrel."icon_lol.gif