It's not often that my liberal arts degree comes in handy. Certainly never in my professional or personal lives. But every once in a while, someone wants to know what "Du Hast" was about, or maybe what Schwarzenegger's last name means. (Hint: it's extremely racist.)
And today is, indeed, one of those rare days. Living, as I do, in neither New Orleans nor Brazil, today's non-annual religious celebration is generally known as...
...wait for it...
...did you try to spell it in your brain yet?...
Faschtnaut Day? Fasnaught Day? Flim-floogle Day? I've seen all kinds of spellings of it today (god bless you, Fassebook.) What's a little odd to me, is that this is one of those times where the standard German (a.k.a. Hochdeutsch) term is super-easy and people seem to be making it harder than it really is.
So, as a public service announcement on behalf of all Germanists, here is a very brief and simple language lesson on this day of days.
Fastnacht: a doughnut traditionally served on Shrove Tuesday.
Fast = fast
Nacht = night
So, literally "the night of fasting." As in, the night before Ash Wednesday.
That's it. "Fast" which is the same in English, just pronounced differently*, and "nacht" which is not really that hard. Just pretend the "ch" is a "k," or, if you're really into the whole verity thing, just pronounce it as a hard "h." Just keep pressing the "h" out of your mouth. Pronounce each "a" as if it were the "o" in "bog."
By the way, there are dozens of regional variations, so it's likely that almost any way that you spell it is going to be right SOMEWHERE. (Except "flim-floogle." I just made that up.) But, frankly, I think the standard German is one of the easiest, and also, you can impress your friends with your newfound knowledge of why, exactly, we call these doughnuts "Fastnachts." Oh, actually, I forgot to mention that part.
It's because in Pennsylvania German communities, Lent was traditionally a time when they gave up oil, lard, sugar, all kinds of things, really, so on Shrove Tuesday they gathered all that crap together and made doughnuts out of it to get rid of it on the night before the fast. Boom.
*that's called a "cognate," by the way. Hooray, linguistics!
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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