False Friends Explained – “art vs Art”

art-false-friends-german-enHello everyone,

and welcome to a new episode of False Friends Explained. As usual, we’ll take a pair of false friends, see  what went wrong with their friendship and then, in an epic, tear-ridden finale we’ll reconcile them.
Meh… okay, I guess we can’t make them friends again. But it’s definitely gonna be super epic because today, we’ll look art, old and contemporary, English and German. Ladies and gentlemen, get ready for

art vs (die) Art

A famous man once said

A poem, a fart, 
everything is art.

In  English, this statement is controversial.  In German not so much. 

die Art

In German, everything has some Art to it because the core idea of die Art is “how something is/is done“. The real translation highly depends on context and there are many option like way, type, kind, manner… oh and species.

These examples all focused on how something is. And here are some that revolve around the idea how something is done.

And of course if we talk about Art, we have to mention artig as well. As a standalone, it’s a slightly out of date option for well behaved. What makes it really useful is that you can add it to nouns to create a word with the meaning “like that noun”.

And let’s also not forget eigenartig which literally of its own kind, unique  but which has shifted has shifted toward  strange.

So… looking at all these examples (and there are actually more related words, though not as common) we can but say that German Art is actually really really really freaking useful. Much more useful than, say… uh…  a balloon dog. They have one thing in common though, German Art and a balloon dog…
they’re not art.
Ooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…. burrrrrn.

die Kunst

Whether the balloon dog of Jeff Koons is art is not for us to decide (#irony). What’s sure, though, is that at least the name Koons sounds like art, the German word for art, that is.. die Kunst.

And this word comes from a very famous verb: können. The verb that describes ability. And that makes sense. I mean, creating a piece of art does need inspiration but just look at Michelangelo or Goethe or Debussy… there’s always a lot of skill involved.
And thing you can do well was the original idea of  die Kunst.  This sense is still visible in words like Schmiedekunst (the profession of smithery) or Braukunst (art of brewing) and it’s also the bridge to the other big idea of the Kunst-family today: the idea of being man-made as opposed to natural. or in one word, artifical.

There’s a whole lot of Kunst-compounds like Kunstfaser (artificial fibre), Kunstrasen (artificial lawn) but the best one of them is Kunststoff which means  plastic, synthetic material.  Kind of cool name actually, “artificial stuff”.
Anyway, so we’ve seen that die Kunst and art do line up perfectly while die Art doesn’t mean art at all. That leaves us wondering… who screwed up?

So… what happened?

When you know Spanish or French or another Romance language, you’ll know that the art-words also exist there and that they roughly have the same meaning as in English. That’s because it comes from Latin. Back then, it was still about the idea of general skill, piece of work  so the evolution is exactly like the one of die Kunst. That’s why you can make a Bachelor of Arts in economy.
Now,  from the thing that is made to how a thing is made it’s not THAT far. German has pulled way crazier stunts. So we could assume that German, and a few other Germanic languages like Swedish or Dutch for that matter,  just imported it and messed up the meaning at some point.
But in this case, it actually wouldn’t be fair to blame German. Why not? Because the origin of German Art is not entirely certain.

The thing is… about 1000 years ago, there was a word art but that was about the idea of  “tilling the field”  and it belonged to a completely different family than English art. A few hundred years later, this art had shifted toward the idea of “area where you live, home”  and even more general “where you belong”. And from that meaning it’s really not too far to meanings like species and type and the general idea of “how something is“, that the word has today (and has had for a few hundred years). The reason why this is unclear is that there isn’t enough source material for etymologists to make a definite statement but what’s pretty sure is that it’s not just a standard scholar import from Latin that got twisted.
German does have words however that are directly related to English art. The word der Artikel for example. And artikulieren (articulate).  And Arm.
Now you’re like “Whaaaaat? What do these have in common?”.

Well, the whole art family goes back to the super ancient European Root ar- and this root was about the simple idea of joining things. Think about it. An Artikel brings together words and ideas, artikulieren is about joining sounds, an Arm is made up of three joined parts. And art… well, we’ve already learned that it originally was about skill and pieces of work. Making a chair or a boat or a house… it’s always kind of about bringing things together, joining things.  And now listen to this:
We already mentioned the Bachelor of Art, right? What’s the other big type of bachelor? Exactly, science.
We learned that art comes from joining. Now guess, where science comes from?
From separating, dissecting, shedding – same family as shit.
Ohhhhhhhhh… 
drops mic

….



*picks mic back up
Yeah… so… uh… that’s it for today :). This was our look at the pair art and die Art. English art means die Kunst, German die Art means type, way, species, kind and it’s definitely a word you should add to your active vocabulary.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions about

** vocab **

die Kunst – the art
der/die Künstler(in) – the artist
kunstvoll – artful
künstlerisch – artful

künstlich – artificial
Kunststoff – plastic
Kunst+noun – artificial noun

die Art – the way/type, species, kind, the manner (in which something is done)
artig – well behaved (rare)
X-artig – X-like

eigenartig – strange
abartig – disgusting
ausarten – get out of hand (for parties or meetings or the like)
die Unart – bad manner/bad habit

der Artist – the acrobat

for members :)

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pwmusic

Instead of “The problem wasn’t what he said but how/the way he said it.” I would say either “It’s not what he said but how he said it” or “It’s not what he said but the way he said it”.

Tschüss!

berlingrabers
berlingrabers

– Das Problem war nicht, was er gesagt hat, sondern die Art und Weise.
– The problem wasn’t what he said but how/the way he said it.
(is there a succinct way to say this?Native speakers please help)

Beides geht. Besser hätte ich’s nicht übersetzen können. :)

Sie bewegt sich gazellenartig.
She moves gazelle-esque.

Zumindest auf Englisch gilt “-esque” nur als Adjektivendung. Wenn du den Satz unbedingt anders formulieren möchtest als “She moves like a gazelle”, dann vielleicht “She moves in a gazelle-like way.” Eigentlich kann “gazelle-like” als Adverb funktionieren, wobei “She moves gazelle-like” für mich ein bisschen komisch klingt. Als Teil eines längeren Satzes könnte es allerdings schön sein: “She moves, gazelle-like, through the tall grass” oder sowas.

Hier einige ganz unterschiedliche Fragen…

Also “Art und Weise” hört man ziemlich oft als fixe Phrase, wie “auf eine _______ Art und Weise” – kommt “Art” häufiger vor, wenn nur eins von dem Paar verwendet wird? Gibt es Fälle, in denen man lieber “die Weise” benutzt?

Weißt du, ob das Adjektiv “arm” (Gegenteil von “reich”) auch etwas mit *ar- zu tun hat?

Mir ist aufgefallen, dass “der Artist” in der Vokabelliste steht, du hast jedoch gar nichts im Post drüber geschrieben. Hat der Begriff auch mit der aus *ar- stammenden “Arm-artikulieren-Artikel”-Bedeutung zu tun oder wie?

Geop67
Geop67

It should be “artful”, not “artfull”. (Second and third items in the vocab.)

berlingrabers
berlingrabers

By the way, does “eigenartig” mostly just mean “odd/strange/not quite right,” or can it mean “eccentric”/”idiosyncratic” with reference to a person?

That’s another one of those words that I feel like indicates a difference between German and American mentalities. To me, “eigenartig,” “merkwürdig,” and “wunderlich” all sound like they ought to have positive connotations…

katherinehlchan
katherinehlchan

Hi, the pdf link isn’t working.

Kathy

It’s like calling someone “different” in Minnesota I suppose. You assume there just wasn’t much else good to say.

berlingrabers

Or (also in the South) saying, “bless his heart!”

Dave M.
Dave M.

Your Youtube link is strong son. Impeccable use of OOOOHH Burn!

Dave M.
Dave M.

I live in the south and I can attest to bless his heart. Usually it is said as a soothing addendum to something terrible. Zum beispiel, he is dumb as a box of rocks, bless his heart. and to up the Youtube game … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLep-GmP83M

John Loftus

Thank you for these articles; I love them, and your English writing skills are brilliant. If I may make one small correction – we say ‘gets on my nerves’, not ‘goes on my nerves’.

berlingrabers
berlingrabers

Oh, just thought of another “Art” phrase this morning while staring groggily at my Greek yogurt – or, more accurately, my “Joghurt nach griechischer Art” or “Greek-style yogurt.”

You don’t hear that phrase a lot in conversation or anything, but it’s pretty common to see written on food packaging or restaurant menus. “Nach Art des Hauses” is in the post already, but “nach ______ Art” is probably worth noting as a general way to say “à la _______” or “_______ style.”

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Anonymous
Anonymous

Thanks so much for these incredibly informative and fun posts. They’ve helped me a lot.

Mind if I ask if there is there a reason you opted for “…goes on my nerves” instead of “…gets on my nerves”?

Duaa
Duaa

This was so much fun to read :D
A while back I was reading an article about a famous circus and there was a sentence like “Sie können das Leben eines
Artisten kennenlernen” it seemed off for me, why would they call a circus worker “an artist” at this point? but I reasoned performers are kinda artists & let it go. Now I see it actually meant “acrobat” XDDDDD

Sarahswids
Sarahswids

This now got me curious about the reason we use the word bachelor to describe both single men and degrees… what are your main sources when you look into etymological roots in German and English?

Danke fur ein andere fantastisch Artikel Emmanuel!