Advent Calendar 17 – “Quality”

Quality

Hi everyone,

day 17 of our German Advent Calendar, we’re entering the final (and best) stretch, and the inspiration for today came when I got my Flat White from my interns, because that was … pure TORMENT!!
Nah, I’m kidding. The coffee was fine, great effort guys, keep it up.
“Thanks. Will you pay us now!”
Aw, come on… do I look like Money-Jesus?
“Money-Jesus isn’t a thing, and it’s offensive, Emanuel.”
Look, let’s talk later, okay. I’m in the middle of the Advent Calendar.
So, I actually got the idea when I was writing about Quark, because the German word for torment is

die Qual

Torment belongs to the same family as extort, torture and torque and it goes back to the awesome Indo-European root twerk which was about shaking that primal boota… wait, hold on, I mixed something up, I’m sorry. The root in this case was terkw-, and the core idea was twisting.
Qual on the other hand comes from the root *gu̯el- which was about the idea of (stinging) pain. And German Qual is of course not the only offspring. In  Russian for instance, there’s the verb жалить (“zhalit”) which is what mosquitoes do. And more importantly, it’s also the origin of the Slavic words for pity, compassion…. like the Bulgarian word for “I am sorry”  Съжалявам (“sezhalavam“), which literally kind of means “I pain/sting myself.”

And also English has descendants from that root. Namely to quell which is a softened version of the old English cwellan; and to kill, which is the non-softened version.
The German Qual is kind of in the middle and means agony or torment.

  • “Wie war das Date?”
    “Die reine Qual… so langweilig.”
  • “How was the date?
    “Pure agony… so boring.”

  • Wer die Wahl hat hat die Qual.
  • The more choices, the harder it gets to choose.
    Lit.: “He who has the choice has the torment.”

  • “Hefe oder Pils?”
    “Uff… die Qual der Wahl.
  • “Wheat beer or pils?”
    “Uff… the agony of choice.”

These last two expressions are a little bit weird by the way. I mean…  the agony of choice … maybe it’s just me, but that low-key reeks of SOCIALISM!!
I grew up in former East Germany and there, we only had one type of corn flakes. And they weren’t made from corn, but from potatoes. And they weren’t flakes but … whole potatoes. I would gladly have agonized over some choice then.
Oh hey, and speaking of agonizing…. that brings us to the verb for die Qual, which is quälen.

  • “Warum hab ich mein Date nach ihrem Gewicht gefragt. Ich bin so dumm.”
    “Ja bist du. Aber jetzt hör auf dich damit zu quälen.”
  • “Why did I ask my date for her weight. I am so stupid.”
    “Yes, you are. But now stop torturing yourself with it.”

  • Massentierhaltung ist Tierquälerei.
  • Factory farming is animal abuse/torture.

And of course let’s not forget about one of the most famous related noun: die Qualität.
Nah, I’m joking. That actually doesn’t relate to Qual. It would make sense, though, because achieving true quality can be quite the pain.

Anyway, that’s it for today.
Have a great day and bis morgen.

Oh, by the way… Etymonline.com, where I check for English etymology, actually mentions “to throw” as the core idea of the Indo-European root of kill and Qual and sees the piercing, pain as an extension of that. Possibly as a result of throwing a spear. And if you were to follow that track a little you’d find that there is a connection between Qual and parliament.
If you want to dig into that, here’s the link :)

The root *gwele- on Etymonline

 

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Randall
Randall
1 year ago

I love the Etymology! I laughed when you wrote “twerk which was about shaking that primal boota…”.  
I also found it interesting that you chose this word for your advent calendar as some people find Christmas agonizing and “die reine Qual” while for others is pure bliss.

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
1 year ago

All diese Etymologie quält mich.

johnnybna
johnnybna
1 year ago

Fascinating! From the same *guel root in Russian there is also the lovely word жаль meaning “too bad” or “what a pity”.

Ich habe eine Frage zu Deinem Satz: “Aber jetzt hör auf dich damit zu quälen.”

Ist eine andere Ordnung der Wörter möglich? Warum “damit zu quälen”? Hört man nicht mit etwas auf?
— Aber jetzt hör dich damit zu quälen auf.
— Aber jetzt hör dich auf, damit zu quälen.
— Aber jetzt hör dich mit quälen auf.

Danke schön!

cbdl
cbdl
1 year ago

I find these articles very interesting, I’ve always liked learning about etymologies, I think it makes learning easier because it helps you connect words and remember them easier. Thank you for taking the time to make this Advent Calendar special :) they are amazing and I try to read them every day! :)

Now, I’m relatively new, I found out about you while listening to the EasyGerman Podcast in September, so I’m not sure if you really have unpaid interns or you just joke about it, but I really don’t like those parts :( just my humble opinion, please don’t hate me!

Roger H
Roger H
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

You need more interns to help you to record more poetry !!

Fancypantser
Fancypantser
1 year ago

Danke, danke. Die Satze heute sind genial.
Ich habe mich oft gefragt, woher kommt das Verb parler (to talk) auf Französisch. Die Wurzel gwele!
Daher TALKING ist eigentlich TORTURE.
I love it!

Carossi
Carossi
1 year ago

Hi Enmanuel,

When I read “quark”, my first thought was about the elementary particles. Then, I saw the word “glue” and my mind went to “gluons”.

Yesterday, as you were talking about strange philosophers, I wondered if today you were taught as about “particle physics” in German. I wasn’t too wrong, it was another kind of torment…”etymology” (just kidding).

Regards

Roger H
Roger H
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Enough already … Poetry should be compulsory :-)

Ahmad Mazaheri
Ahmad Mazaheri
1 year ago

Sehr interresenter umfangreicher Wortschatz des Wort Qual und seines abgeleites Verb Quälen.
Es hat mich nicht gequält, sonst sogar viel gefreut ! Vielen Dank dafür.
Bis Morgen

Ahmad Mazaheri
Ahmad Mazaheri
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ja, Dankeschön.Ich meinte diesen Muster: ……..nicht nur/……..sondern….. .

Johnathon Finlay
Johnathon Finlay
1 year ago

I have no QUALMS about liking this post

Rohrkrepierer ‐ KOOK & HECKLER
Rohrkrepierer ‐ KOOK & HECKLER
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

QUAL der Wahl of the “Dark Side” — To vape or not to vape.

Sind Qualm (Deutsch) und qualm (English) irgendwie unbewusst eng verwandt?
Wie Luke Skype – walker und Darth Vaper?

Zuckerbaby
Zuckerbaby
1 year ago

Most puns are for the ear, which is why they are beloved by musicians. This is a clever pun for the eye!

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
1 year ago

If etymonline is to be believed, the verb to quail is also related – but not the noun quail (the bird).

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
1 year ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

Yeah, to quail in fear, or someone’s courage never quailed. Maybe because it can feel like fear is stabbing through you sometimes? I used to picture quails running away though. Little guys are pretty cute.

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
1 year ago

That’s an interesting twist. I ended up at the entry on parable – so throwing two meanings side by side turned into “word,” which turned into talking. And there you are at palavering, which happens a lot in parliament.

The 11 and 17 are cute btw.

Jamie
Jamie
1 year ago

So…the jellyfish—die Qualle. Does that mean ‘the stinger’ or ‘the giver of agony’? Either way… owa!

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
1 year ago
Reply to  Jamie

DWDS says it’s related to Quelle/quellen. Are the ones you find in the North or Baltic Seas stingy?

Alison
Alison
1 year ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

We encountered jellyfish on the coast of Wales – the Irish Sea or Bristol Channel I guess. And they were HUGE…but luckily dead and just washed up on the shore. Kinda puts you off swimming….