Advent Calendar 9 – “Lord of the Flies”

Hallo ihr lieben,

day 9 of our Advent Calendar and today you’re in for some serious

brain wrecking

with a little riddle. A sentence riddle.
We all know that German, by dint of cases, flexible structure and sheer infamy, can create some abominations of sentences. Just take a look at Hegel.
Today we’ll look at one of the craziest sentences German has to offer.  And it’s only 9 words long.
Nah, kidding. I meant 90. Wait… actually I wasn’t kidding. It’s really only 9.
But they’ll give you hell :).

First, I’ll just read it to you. If you can understand it then you’re a true master.
The next step is, I’ll give you the transcript, but without capital letters and punctuation. Then, I’ll give you the proper version, and then a break down of the grammar.

Viel Spaß :)

Audio:

 

 

***

no punctuation/spelling:

 

wenn hinter fliegen fliegen fliegen fliegen fliegen fliegen hinterher.

***

proper spelling:

Wenn hinter Fliegen Fliegen fliegen, fliegen Fliegen Fliegen hinterher.

***

grammar:

And here’s a grammar chart I made.

grammar-of-flies

 

Yeah… I know… it looks like the flies are actually also flying inside the chart.
Anyway, this was our little riddle for today and if you’re like “I would never have been able to figure that one out” then don’t worry…  a native speaker of German who hears this tinker for the first time will need some time to process it, too.
I’m curious… were you able to figure it out right away? Or once you had the spelling? Or not at all?  Oh and do you have something like this on your mother tongue? Let me know in the comments below and maybe win today’s little give away.
Schönen Tag und  see you tomorrow.

for members :)

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tohaklim

“*pointless loop” lol

simon0204
simon0204

I managed to understand, but only because I know a couple in English which use a similar trick “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo”, and “Fish fish fish eat eat eat”

berlingrabers

The buffalo one is pretty well known, though I’ve never actually heard or read “buffalo” used as a verb apart from in that sentence.

aoind
aoind
aoind

Just found this one:

Wouldn’t the sentence ‘I want to put a hyphen between the words Fish and And and And and Chips in my Fish-And-Chips sign’ have been clearer if quotation marks had been placed before Fish, and between Fish and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and Chips, as well as after Chips?” This sentence is much easier to read because the writer placed commas between and and & and and and And, & and and and And & and And and and, & and And and and & and and and And, & and and and And & and And and and, & and And and and & and and and.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Even fish that fish that fish eat eat eat! They’ve all got to eat! Even the fish [that {the fish (that fish eat)} eat] eat. Some fish are eaten by fish that fish eat and those fish eat too.

berlingrabers

I was in a German class at one point with a guy who was a linguist at Uni Potsdam, and he did (as a presentation) an experiment in the class where he had the teacher read a sentence in German and me (I think I was the only native English speaker) read one in English quickly, then tell him whether it was grammatically correct or not. It was way easier for the German native speaker – I think his research had shown the German grammar, at least regarding Relativsätze, really is quite a bit more efficient than English. :0

Judith Walters
Judith Walters

Not only the punctuation helps, but the stress, tone and pauses of the spoken language help too. I’m not good at this, but my mother (whose Muttersprache was German) always said that the tone of voice expressed meaning too. Not only the words (or punctuation).
Wenn HINTER Fliegen — Fliegen fliegen (low tone)– ,fliegen FLIEGEN — Fliegen HINTERHER. (or something like that).

marionhaftel

Ich kriege Kopfschmerzen. :-D

Franziska
Franziska

Ich bin sprachlos……..

Yvonne Wittmann
Yvonne Wittmann

I agree with Judith Walters (above). It helped to hear the sentence spoken first, although it still took some time to figure out. And of course the sentence with proper punctuation at the end helped clear it all up. On the other hand, I don’t think the buffalo sentence or most of these other English ones can be easily figured out even with proper punctuation. Hooray for capitalizing nouns, I guess.

Yotam Alon
Yotam Alon

In Hebrew there is this sentence:
אישה נעלה נעלה נעלה נעלה את הדלת בפני בעלה.

Which translates to:
A woman of prestige, wore her shoe and locked the door in her husband’s face.

and it is spoken:
Isha na’ala na’ala na’ala na’ala et hadelet bifney ba’ala

And it even rhymes!

Andrew Aulino
Andrew Aulino

I got the sentence right off!

Andrew Aulino
Andrew Aulino

….which is something of a surprise granted my garbling of Maria and her ex-roomate’s dress?

cam147147
cam147147

hahaha some of these with a million repetitions of “and” and “had” are making my brain hurt. So much so that I just can’t even bother to figure them out. I have spent time dissecting the “buffalo” sentence on two different occasions, and so I think I was ready for the corresponding trick in your German sentence, and the sentence beginning with “wenn” helps to indicate that the two fliegen’s in the middle are very likely to be verbs, so after staring at it for a long time without punctuation I was able to get 90% of the way there but the punctuation really really helped. I’m gonna take a stab at adding more to it…let me know how I do…

wenn hinter fliegende fliegen fliegende fliegen fliegen fliegen fliegende fliegen fliegende fliegen hinterher.

Maybe the adjectives make it easier to parse out what’s going on, but…lots of words!! … or maybe I just wrote something completely wrong. :)

GG
GG

Well that esculated quickly XD
It took me a while to work out, but with the punctuation it does make sense. I am going to try this out on my German classmates on Monday and see how they go…. if I can get the emphasis and that stuff right XD

Also I am loving the advent calendar :)

cam147147
cam147147

hahaha oops, yes those were silly n’s to miss…plural adjective ending…no article…dative…so complicated…yeaaa…. >.<

I must say, you lost me with your addition. I guess we reached the end of my German knowledge at the moment ha ha. Prepositions are hard…and I'm not totally on top of them yet… Can you break it down? Or maybe even just a translation…?

cam147147
cam147147

I read the head-final posts, and those were excellent! Extremely helpful in sorting out sentence structure, since I prefer not to be a rule-abiding citizen. :)

Will check out participle 1 construction…reading material for the weekend! Thanks!

Anonymous
Anonymous

In a similar vein, but completely different, I liked this poem.
I think it is a Limerick.

A flea and a fly in a flue
They did’nt know what to do
Said the flea “let us fly”
Said the fly “let us flee”
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

Charles Gleaves
Charles Gleaves

Buffalo is not a rare verb. “Don’t let him buffalo you.” Is a sentence that most any at least American English speaker would understand.

Ziixxxitria

What a hilarious sentence! Your chart does make sense, but I may have looked like I was rolling my eyes while following all those loops.