Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Singing through the Swine Flu

I’ve long since given up trying to defend the German sense of humor. They make the Mercedes and the BMW and the People’s Car. They do Christmas like nobody else in the world. And nobody fries Bratwursts and roasts potatoes like the germanophones. So what if their humor tends to suck.

If you don’t know what I mean, let me give you an illustration.

You may remember Max Raabe, that guy with the skinny tuxedoed Fred Astaire look who sings with the Palast Orchestra reproducing the big band music of the 30s.

One of the songs in his repertoire is “Kein Schwein ruft mich an.” Which you can hear on YouTube, if you’re interested: Click here.

Translating it only adds to the misery of German relations with the English-speaking world. Literally it means, “No pig calls me up.” “No pig” is a crude way of saying “not a single damn person.” The second line goes, "Keine Sau interessiert sich für mich." (“No sow is interested in me.”) If this were done in English, it would probably go something like…
My phone never ever rings
Nobody, but nobody seems to care about me.
or some such.

To German ears, that’s a lousy translation. All the fun goes right out of it when you take out the pig as the subject of the sentence.

Different strokes for different folks.

But it’s not Max Raabe that I had in mind when I spoke of dumb-ass humor. Raabe simply provides the set-up. No, it’s a Swiss guy. A tenor by the name of Leo Wundergut. I understand he does a mean “Nessun dorma,” but for purposes of illustration, here he is yodeling with his buddies. Kind of.

Now that you know who he is, check out another YouTube piece where he sings “Kein Schwein steckt mich an.” (No pig gives me (the flu).) You’ll recognize the melody and you can hear it’s a deliberate play on words. Turns out there are all sorts of things you can do once you go down the path of putting pigs on the telephone.

Second line of the Swine Flu song is, “Keine Sau infiziert sich bei mir.” (No sow catches anything from me.)

Dumb. Pure unadulterated dumb.

The good news is it can’t last. As one commentator wrote:
ein paar monate groß in den medien. *puffff* und keine sau erinnert sich mehr an die schweinekrippe! (a couple months of big media attention and then poof – “no sow” will remember the swine flu any more.)
In the meantime, though, I guess there will always be people who, when presented with opportunity, will pick it up and smear it all over their body.

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