Posts Tagged ‘humour

A Cold Virus Made Me Fat — Honest

- January 2nd, 2012

donuts

 

I used to blame my excessive weight on eating too much junk food, drinking too much beer and wine and avoiding exercise like the bubonic plague.

 

Silly me.

 

Thanks to the wonderful folks at New Scientist magazine, I now know that I can blame at least some of my flab (ah, what the hell — I’m going to blame it all) on a bunch of guilt-free things like a common cold virus, not sleeping enough, being nagged by somebody else and breathing polluted city air.

 

Really. I’ll drink to that (and eat too).

 

If you want to be ambitious and read the whole article (big, scientific words and all), here’s a link to the New Scientist website.

 

NewScientist

 

But if you’re a bit lazy like me, stay here and I’ll give you a quick summary. I would recommend the latter course of (non)action, if only because the New Scientist article is entitled Eight Lazy Ways to Lose Weight.

 

The article’s author, Emma Young, also tells you what you can do to counter the fatty factors, but I’m not going there. We just want to know that external influences are to blame for our weight gain, right? If you want to get all ambitious on me you can read the whole article yourself (but  you’ll only end up making yourself feel guilty when you don’t do the things the article tells you will reduce your exposure to fat-generating environments and behaviour).

 

chicken

Cold virus

 

Who knew, after all, that the common cold virus adenovirus-36 (Ad-36) not only increases the number of fat cells in our bodies but also makes those fat cells fatter? It turns out Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar of the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in Louisiana did.

 

Dhurandhar first discovered the connection between the Ad-36 virus and obesity in chickens (now is a plump chicken really such a bad thing?). Then he figured out that obese people are three times more likely than people of the healthy-weight persuasion to test positive for Ad-36 antibodies floating around in their bloodstreams.

 

Another study found kids with Ad-36 antibodies weighed an average of 23 kilograms more than kids without them. (The New Scientist didn’t give the full details of the kids but I knew you would want to know so I looked into it for you: The 124 children in the study ranged between the ages of 8 and 18 with a median age of 13.6 years. Of those six-score-and-four kids, 46% were classified as non-obese and 54% were in the obese category. You’re welcome.)

 

I also learned (again, all on my own) that the Ad-36 virus causes obesity in mice, rats and monkeys as well as chickens. Who knew mice and monkeys got colds? Certainly not I.

 

(There are 52 identified human cold viruses skulking around out there — one for each week of the year — so, unfortunately, every cold we get isn’t necessarily an Ad-36 cold and can’t be automatically blamed for our love handles, jelly bellies and balloon butts.)

 

Diet-nag

Don’t go on a New Year’s diet

 

Isn’t that good news? New Scientist says everyday stress is a known fat builder. A brain-scan study at the Yale Stress Center PROVES that stress causes your brain to crave higher-calorie foods. And some of the things that produce that fat-seeking level of stress are the psychological pressure of actually going on a diet and the nagging of relatives about your waistline.

 

sleeping-baby

Stay in bed

 

Too little sleep makes you fat — so roll over, pack in a few more zzzzzzz’s and just watch the weight fall off your lazy bones. One study found that people who became obese during a six-year observational period slept an average of 6.3 hours a night. Study partcipants who maintained a healthier weight slept an average of 7.2 hours a night. And (hallelujah!) the study found that low levels of physical activity didn’t affect the findings.

 

hold-nose

Don’t breathe

 

This really only applies if you live in a city. Breathing polluted air causes extra fat to pile on around your stomach and does other nasty things — at least in mice. But the scientists at Ohio State University who are conducting the study are sure the same thing is happening to humans. So if you can’t move to the country, just accept that breathing makes you fat.

 

 

Well, that’s four of the article’s eight hot points — and 50% is good enough for me. I want to get a bite to eat now, so you’ll have to excuse me.

 

Like I said before, you can always read the whole article yourself. But I bet you won’t, lazy bones.

 

 

50 Fearless Predictions For 2012

- December 27th, 2011

 

I’ve never bragged about it, but I have a real gift for seeing into the future.

 

Want proof? I haven’t invested in the U.S. real estate market or Greek government bonds in recent years and I have never flown on an airplane that has crashed (while I was on it).

 

I’ve decided to share my vision of the coming year with you; and I guarantee that just as many of my predictions will come true as those of many more famous psychics, seers and prophets.

 

Here’s a link to a psychic clearinghouse of 2012 predictions if you want to keep score.

 

I also guarantee that some of my predictions will be as outlandish and unbelievable  as any predictions you might read in the supermarket magazines over the next week or two.

 

You may laugh (I actually hope you do, at least a few times) but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Here goes nothing.

 

 

I PREDICT:

Exploding-world

1. The world will NOT end on Dec. 21, 2012, the date some kooks, charlatans and deluded dupes say the Mayan Long Count Calendar foretells as the end of time. (How can I miss on this one? If I’m wrong, no one will be around to point fingers.)

 

Harold-Camping

2. I predict, however, that the world WILL end in 2012 for doomsday forecaster Harold Camping. Not for the rest of the world, mind you — just for 90-year-old Harold. I know that sounds harsh and vindictive toward an old geezer but don’t forget crazy Harold claimed twice — twice! — in 2011 that the Apocalypse was knocking on heaven’s door and most of the rest of us were going to hell. (Harold blew both his  shots at predicting the world’s end, so I get two shots at predicting Harold Camping’s end if I happen to have misinterpreted the timing of his demise on this first occasion.)

 

jon-bon-jovi

3. Jon Bon Jovi will NOT die in 2012 (or in 2011, for that matter).

 

4. A celebrity you thought was already dead WILL die.

Kim-Jong-Il-corn

5. Kim Jong-il will be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize — just for dying.

 

kim-kardashian-glasses

6. Kim Kardashian will be offered the dictatorship of North Korea but will turn the job down because it doesn’t pay as well as unreality TV. (Or maybe she’ll try it out for 72 days, then cancel. She’s certainly got the sunglasses thing — and the attitude — going on.)

 

bradley_cooper

7. People magazine will see the error of its ways and declare someone (anyone!) other than Bradley Cooper “Sexiest Man Alive.”

 

George-Clooney

8. That person will NOT be George Clooney (in 2012, anyway).

 

britney

9. Britney Spears will get married again in 2012, just to see if anyone cares. No one will except Jason Alexander. Whether or not this one lasts longer than 55 hours (the duration of her 2004 marriage to Jason Alexander) … well, does it really matter?

 

10. Ben & Jerry will unveil a new ice cream flavour. ( Hard to beat “Schweddy Balls’’ — their September 2011 tribute to Alec Baldwin.)

charlie_sheen_winning

11. Charlie Sheen will officially become Last Year’s Flavour.

 

ashton

12. Ashton Kutcher will be, by general consensus, Last Year’s Non-Flavour.

 

selena-gomez-justin-bieber

13. Justin Bieber will secretly hope in 2012 that someone (anyone!) else claims he is capable of fathering a child.

 

14. More baby boys born in 2012 will be named Justin than Charlie and Ashton combined.

 

madonna-biceps

15. Madonna‘s biceps will calcify.

 

16. Someone on the payroll of the 2012 winning Super Bowl team will be named Bubba.

 

17. Commissioner Bud Selig will say or do something to embarrass Major League Baseball — but he probably won’t realize what he’s done.

 

keon67

18. The Toronto Maple Leafs will not win the Stanley Cup.

 

19. The Montreal Canadiens will not win the Stanley Cup.

 

20. The Ottawa Senators will not win the Stanley Cup.

 

21. The Winnipeg Jets will not win the Stanley Cup.

 

22. The Calgary Flames will not win the Stanley Cup.

 

23. The Edmonton Oilers will not win the Stanley Cup.

 

24. The Vancouver Canucks will … dang, crystal ball just went fuzzy … NOT win the Stanley Cup.

 

obama-sad

25. Barack Obama will be re-elected president of the United States.

 

26. The U.S. will not be a better place because Obama is re-elected.

 

27. The world will not be a better place because Obama is re-elected.

 

28. Neither the U.S. nor the world would be a better place if Obama’s Republican opponent were to be elected president.

 

vlad-putin

29. Vladimir Putin will become president of Russia again in 2012 (note that I didn’t say “be elected”).

 

30. The world will be a worse place because Putin is re-presidented.

 

31. The names Gates, Buffett and Walton will appear on the 2012 list of richest people in the world.

 

32. Steve Jones will not be the host of X-Factor USA for the 2012 season.

 

simon-cowell-tongue

33. Simon Cowell will cry like a baby on live TV.

 

(I’m probably batting .500 on #32 and #33. I’ll wait until next year’s predictions to tell you there will be no third season of X-Factor USA.)

 

Higgs-boson

34. The Vatican will begin the canonization process for the Higgs boson.

 

35. London, England, will be the #1 tourist destination in the world during the month of August.

 

36. Either China or the United States will win the most medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

 

37. At some point during 2012, more than 200 people in Toronto will realize that their city is hosting the 42nd Chess Olympiad in 2016.

 

gaga-on-stage

38. Bob Dylan will tour in 2012. So will Lady Gaga.

 

Elvis-jumpsuit

39. Elvis will not (although his 1973 white jumpsuit WILL go on tour. Really).

Stephen-Harper

40. Stephen Harper will improve his Dr. Evil impression in 2012.

michael-myers

41. Mike Myers will improve his Stephen Harper impression.

 

42. Dalton McGuinty will waste billions of taxpayer dollars in 2012 but you will still like him.

 

43. Stephen Harper will save billions of taxpayer dollars in 2012 but you will still dislike him.

 

44. Stephen King will publish a best-selling novel.

 

45. You and I will not (but we could if we really wanted to, right?)

 

Steven-Spielberg

46. Steven Spielberg will direct at least one movie that garners at least two Academy Award nominations.

 

47. You and I? Not a chance (no, not even a teensy one).

 

48. Rob Ford will forget his own name at least once during 2012. (Prove me wrong.)

 

Beach-Boys

49. The Beach Boys will reunite in 2012 for a new album and a 50-date world tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their first album. (Harold Camping will not be invited to attend, but Brian Wilson will still hear Harold’s voice in his head while singing “Run Devil Run.”)

 

2012

50. To make up for all the bad things that are going to happen to us during 2012, we’re going to get a free extra day — just out of the blue. I predict this is going to happen in late February, possibly early March. (Even Harold Camping is going to get the bonus day as long as he promises not to predict Armageddon again before then.)

 

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

 

Now here are five serious 2012 predictions you can take to the bank (unless you live in Greece or Italy — in which case you can stuff these predictions in your mattress or take them to a bank in Switzerland):

 

1. The Euro crisis will continue.

 

2. The price of oil will decline.

 

3. The price of wheat will increase.

 

4. China’s economy will slow down.

 

5. You and I will get older (if we’re lucky — or maybe unlucky, depending on how much of  the world’s bad 2012 kharma rubs off on us).

 

 

More Signs To Make Muggles Mad

- December 12th, 2010

Well, meine Kinder, the 18 Signs You Are In Germany blog post was certainly fun, wasn’t it?

I don’t mean the original photos and comments I put up (although I had a few chuckles doing that) so much as the civil war of words that erupted among readers afterwards.

DoubleExclamation

Now that was fun. Thank you all so very much, especially the frothing-at-the-mouth pedantic idiots who really raised the temperature — if not the level — of the debate.

I’m going to show you some more signs from around the world now, some commercial as well as traffic, which amuse me for one reason or another.

I doubt that this entry will draw nearly as much ire or amusement as the German one did, but I think you’ll still find it worthwhile.

But first, we’ll take a parting glance at one more important German sign. (By the way, Germans were much more tolerant of the blog post than some North Americans. Danke.)

Toilet

Some of the following photos are ones I’ve taken, others have been sent to me by friends like Peter Worthington, and others  I’ve just stumbled across. Where possible, I’ll give attribution.

If there’s a story to tell or information that helps the photo work, I’ll add it.

crocsignonwhite
One of my favourite signs is this one from South Africa, first sent to me by the aforementioned Worthington but widely disseminated on the Internet.

It’s a real sign. I’ll tell you the story a little later.

But first, for all those people who got so pissed off at me for taking the mickey out of Deutschland, here is a selection of quintessentially Canadian signs.

vancouver-dog-sign copy

I like the above bilingual English-doglish sign from North Vancouver, B.C.

quebeckids

This one from Quebec basically says “Watch out for our children — they could be yours.” Unfortunately, it looks as if the sign’s too late for one poor kid — or else some local child has a propensity for lying down in the middle of the road.

Canadian road signs, especially in rural and wilderness areas, are very focused on wild animals and their interaction with humans and motor vehicles.

beaver xing 1 512x512 w bkgrnd

rabbits

MooseSign

Moose are an especially serious problem — in large part because they’re so damn big and ornery.

Collisions between moose and motor vehicles are  common in Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Quebec and result in dozens of human deaths — and hundreds of moose deaths — every year. Definitely no laughing matter. About 800 moose highway accidents are reported annually in Newfoundland and about 300 in New Brunswick.

TurtleCrossing

I finally realized (thanks to one of the reader comments on the German sign piece) that this turtle-crossing sign was just showing stylized shell markings on the turtle’s back. For the longest time I  (like the commenter) was sure those marks were supposed to represent tire treads. In poor taste, maybe, but I thought it got the point across succinctly.

wind_man

This one warns of high winds in Manitoba.

Other countries also have animal issues.

Here are a couple from Australia.

Australia

My interpretation: “Cows — Beware of lecherous kangaroos sneaking up behind you.” (Note the exclamatory ! symbol.)

sign-beware-car-eating-cattle-queensland-2339539399

Quite frankly, I’m not sure whether I’d prefer to collide with a moose or a cow. I guess my choice would be (c) neither.

Jersey, in Britain’s Channel Islands, may be home to the Jersey cow but this sign, at least, deals with much smaller critters, squirrels.

squirrels

These next two photos — including my favourite — are from South Africa.

Penguin

WheelchairCroc

The wheelchair-crocodile sign is not a joke. There are several of them posted at iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a large nature preserve on the east coast of South Africa near the Mozambique border. It used to be called Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park and was the first UNESCO natural world heritage site to be designated in South Africa.

Many parks in the South African National Parks system have trails and accommodation that are wheelchair accessible.

nv_accessible4

It’s just unfortunate that one such trail is fairly steep — and a crocodile pit or compound is situated at the bottom.

wheelchair_warning

croc1

Thus the sign. You’ve been warned.

In Finland, they are more concerned about thin ice — or maybe zombies rising from the grave.

Finnish

The next few sign photos are ones I shot.

I took a road trip through the eastern U.S. a couple of summers ago visiting the gravesites of famous and infamous people who interested me (from Mark Twain to Rod Serling to Billie Burke to Babe Ruth to Dashiell Hammett to Jayne Mansfield). It was a fascinating, surprising way to plot out a rambling journey — and will hopefully end up in published form at some point (once I figure out an ending for it). In any case, this photo is from one of the many cemeteries I visited; I just can’t remember which one, although I think it was somewhere in New York State.

CemeteryStopSign

On the same road trip, I passed through the sleepy little crossroads of Effort, Pennsylvania. I don’t think the diner should have named itself after the village.

EffortDiner

This next sign is from the (Loblaws/Weston/Real Canadian) Superstore at Don Mills Road and Englinton East in Toronto. Don’t bother telling me someone just made a mistake — I know. What is not a mistake is that they still put it  on display in the store.

Superstore

CrashCourse

This one is, of course, an ad for a driving school. The “lady instructor” bit is just a cultural thing for women who are not allowed to be alone with a man who is not a member of the family.

The part I find amusing is the “4 days crash course.” I really don’t think anyone needs four whole days to learn to crash a car: Just engage the gears, close your eyes and step on the gas. Presto! Sooner or later — probably sooner — you will have a crash.

And here is a random bunch of signs from here and there. I’m not sure who took most of them, so I apologize for not giving attribution. I will, however, identify the location of the ones I know.

Plan_a-head

BooksAsFunction

NudistColony

I have my suspicions about this sign. As far as I can tell, there is no real “Sunnyville Nudist Colony” but this photo is all over the Internet.

Here, however, is a photo of a real sign from a European nudist club telling pool visitors that pets, ice cream (or maybe light bulbs and fishnet stockings) and swim suits are forbidden.

No

squirreltail

This one has a story: MEPPS is a highly regarded line of fishing lures made in Wisconsin. They actually use about 300,000 squirrel tails each year (combined with glittery metallic dangles) to make their popular lures. Thanks to Liz and Bruce of the 5th Wheel Trails blog for the photo and info.

BKAnusBurger

I love the Whopper, but I just can’t imagine being hungry enough to try this special.

GirlScout

Talk about competition in the fast food industry.

And now a few existential signs.

SignNotInUse

bewareofdog

beware-of-god-sign

NO

Aidan O’Rourke is a British photographer who has had a lifelong love affair with the VolksWagen Type 1 camper van. He has designed a series a road signs reflecting that love (and his dislike of Detroit vehicles).

VwVanSign7605

VwSign05

I thought the bottom one might appeal to the contingent of Torontonians who are less than pleased that Rob Ford is our new mayor.

To finish off, I’m going to leave you with some signs posted by Penn Frost, president of the Class of ’44 alumni of New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College on the class website. I’ve added the contextual information.

amigone

Real chain of funeral homes operated by the Amigone family (for three generations) in Buffalo., N.Y.

CollegeSiskiyous

I didn’t know it was an either/or situation. The “college” the sign is pointing to is the community College of the Siskiyous near Mount Shasta in California. “Weed” is the small city where the college is located and the sign is pointing downtown.

hell

Hell truly did freeze over, at least  in the Michigan town of that name.

Independence

Finding accommodation can be a problem in Independence, Missouri.

And finally one of my favourites, from SaskPork, the pork marketing board of Saskatchewan.

SaskPorkBillboard

Do you think they really looked carefully at the sign before putting it up? Or was it just an edgy ad campaign? I’ll be porked if I know.

18 Signs You Are In Germany

- November 21st, 2010

IMG_1434 Germany has more road signs per kilometre of highway than any other country in the world, I’m told.

I believe it. Driving along a German country road leaves you with a headache from having been nagged incessantly. It’s not your travelling companions doing the nagging; it’s the traffic signs.

Look here. Do this. Don’t do that. Pay attention. Stop. Go. Slow down. Be quiet. Watch out for small children. Watch out for large animals. Hold your breath (pig farm ahead). Beware the Ides of March.

Along with the usual international panoply of road signs, the Germans have come up with quite a few that are uniquely their own.

Some of them make sense (in an anal-compulsive sort of way) but others just leave me scratching my head.

Here’s an assortment of German road signs I’ve encountered in recent weeks and my personal interpretation of what I think they are supposed to mean (or at least what they SHOULD mean).

EXTRA! EXTRA! NEW SIGN JUST ADDED! See end of post.

ExclamatoryAl

1. German sign makers LOVE the exclamatory statement. Sometimes there are tiny words attached explaining what all the excitement is about (but the print is usually too small to read when you’re travelling at highway speed).

DoubleExclamation

2. Sometimes the signmaker is excited about multiple issues — in this case, rough pavement and the possibility of high water flooding the road.

FloodedRoad

3. The exclamation here is telling cyclists to get off and walk their bikes. Doncha think this might have been a better place to get excited about possible road flooding?

Screamer

4. And sometimes the signmaker doesn’t know why he’s excited — but he still wants everyone to know he’s excited.

BlankTriangle

5. This one draws an existential blank, but I think it means “I forgot what I was going to say.”

BlankBlank

6. These signs indicate: “I can’t remember what I was going to say. Did I just say that? Never mind.”

100Mblank

7. This one means “One hundred metres from now I still won’t remember what I was going to tell you.”

Bumps

8. This one stands for: “The farm woman up the road has very nice breasts, perhaps a little widely separated but firm and rounded.” Really. I’m pretty sure that’s what it means.

TankSign

9. Germany is the only place in the world I know (apart from the area around CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick) where they have speed limit signs for tanks. Actually these signs are holdovers from the Cold War era and were directed at American tanks which used to heavily populate the German border region. I think this sign indicates tanks can advance at 90 km/h but must reduce speed to 40 km/h if they retreat. I think.

Ausfahrt

10. Germans don’t understand why mature English-speaking adults (well, male adults) snicker every time they see an exit sign on the autobahn. (That’s what “Ausfahrt” means. “Exit.” The means by which gas-powered entities are rapidly expelled from the highway, usually accompanied by noise and wind.)

YellowFever

11. I never did figure out what this one was supposed to say (well, I finally cheated and asked someone but the real meaning is too boring to repeat). If it was a nautical flag, I think it would mean “Yellow fever aboard this ship.”

ThreeSigns

12. This series of signs apparently indicates “I can’t remember what I was going to say, but I think there is yellow fever ahead. By the way, the potholes in this road will not be repaired for the next 60 years.”

RedCar

13. This one says “Only red cars are allowed to pass here.”

RedCar30

14. And this one is even more specific: “Red cars can pass here, but ONLY if the driver is at least 30 years old.”

FenceOne

15. This one is rather self-evident: “A fence is here.”

FenceTwo

16. And this one is a variation: “There’s another fence over here.”

WalkONBlack

17. This one means: “If the pedestrian on the crosswalk ahead of you is not walking ONLY on the black lines, you are allowed to run him down. But only if he is wearing a hat.”

NothingAllowed

18. And this one means, as far as I can tell, “Absolutely nothing is allowed to happen here.”

And so we bid a fond adieu to Germany, Land of 1,000,001 Signs.

Sunsetsign

Th-th-th-th-that’s all, folks!

Oh, what the heck — here’s one more from the Hamburg department of redundancy department

Redundancy

EXTRA! EXTRA! NEW SIGN JUST ADDED!

There was one sign I wanted for this post but just never got around to photographing. Well, son of a gun, if the wonderful Bette Shifman didn’t just send me an e-mail with that very sign attached.

First I’ll tell you what my interpretation of the sign was and then I’ll share what Bette had to say.Then we’ll show you the sign and you figure out your own version.

My idea for the sign was “Hold your nose. Man shovelling manure ahead.”

But I think Bette (and her husband) have a much better interpretation. Here’s what Bette had to say:

As an American who lived in The Netherlands for 17 years, I am enjoying your blog reports from Germany. I am, however, quite disappointed that you overlooked my husband’s all time favorite sign:

“Man trying to put up umbrella”

And now here’s the sign. umbrellasign

10 Easy Steps to Mastering the German Language

- November 17th, 2010

I certainly can´t claim to be fluent in the German language (Deutsch), but I´ve learned a few secrets and shortcuts that have helped to give me a handle on a sometimes baffling, sometimes contrary language.
And now I´m here to share those secrets and shortcuts with you – at absolutely no charge. You´re welcome.

1. A lot of English and German words have the same source and sound similar — for example “beer” (English) and “bier” (Deutsch) — so try using an English word first to get what you want.
Much of modern English derives from Old English, which in turn is an offshoot of German spoken in the 5th and 6th Centuries. As Wikipedia puts it, “English is a West German language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain by German invaders from various parts of what is now northwest Germany.” That base laid down by German invaders was later monkeyed around with by two later sets of invaders, the Vikings and the Normans, who added their own Scandinavian and French language twists to Old English. But the bottom line is that the German invaders got there first, so try an English word for starters – you might luck out.

And, fortunately, Germans use the English word “Sorry” quite a bit, so when your automatic response to creating an unfortunate situation is “Sorry,” you’ve said the right thing.

2. Unfortunately, English and German words that might look similar — or even identical – are generally pronounced completely differently in English and Deutsch, so you´re probably out of luck even if you have what should be a winner word. For example,  Volkswagen. Simple enough, right? Except in Deutsch, it´s pronounced Foks-vagen.

Which brings up a couple of other points. One being,

3.In Canada, we´re used to hearing English spoken with a hundred different accents and dialects, so if the speaker is anywhere close to the proper pronunciation, you will probably figure out what he or she is trying to say. In Germany, everybody speaks German very well so they expect you to speak it well too. As a result, German ears are not trained to translate a sorta-sounds-like utterance into the word you think you´re saying. I may say something in Deutsch that I think is pretty darn close to perfect, only to get blank stares. After a lot of pointing and hand gestures and what-not, my German conversational companion will suddenly say, “Ah, you mean –“ and say what sounds like, to my ear, exactly what I just said. But to the German ear, the two pronunciations were as different as night and day (that would be Nacht und Tag).

And the other point being,

4. Heck, even the Germans don´t understand each other sometimes: While most German speak a fairly mainstream form of Deutsch (sort of the Germanic equivalent of English as spoken by TV news anchors across North America), a strong Bavarian dialect from the south or Frisian dialect from the north will leave the average Frankfurter or Berliner dumbfounded.

But this was supposed to be about making German easy, wasn´t it? So let´s get back to some helpful tips, such as,

5. The pronunciation of Fs, Ks, Vs, Ws and quite a few other consonants is completely wacky. I´ve already pointed out Volkswagen, in which the V of Volks is pronounced F and the W of Wagen is pronounced V. Here´s a test: If Volks is pronounced Foks, then Vater (father) is pronounced …. You got it, Farter.

But it´s not that simple. Here´s an example. You all remember Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor, architect of the modern German nation-state in the 19th Century? Well, Bismarck was a member of the nobility, a prince in fact. In Deutsch, Prince is Fürst. So Otto was Fürst von Bismarck. The V in Von is pronounced F so Von is pronounced Fon (like Fawn but a little harder). So shouldn´t Fürst be pronounced Vürst (or Voorst) like the sausage Wurst? Well, no, Fürst is pronounced First (at least that´s the way I pronounce it). The bottom line is that the F stays an F. Just like in Viking, the V stays a V, although the whole word sounds something more like VICK-enk than VIE-KING.

And a B can be pronounced P or just stay a B, depending on circumstance, while a G may sound like G or K. For example,  der Weg is “the way” or “the path.” In English, you would pronounced  it “wehg.” Not in German. In Deutsch, Weg is pronounced Vahk.
Oh yeah, Z is generally pronounced TS and S is often pronounced TZ. The island of Sylt, for example, is pronounced something like TZooelt. Go figure.
I´m not even going to mention what the umlaut (the double dots over Ü, Ä and Ö) does to change that vowel´s sound.

Now that that´s all clear, we´ll move on to three very important phrases you have to learn to survive and thrive in Germany.

6. Ich spreche Deutsch nicht sehr gut (Ikh shpreker Doytsh nikht zayer goot): I don´t speak German very well.

7. Wo ist der Toilette? (Vo ist dehr twarletter?): Where is the toilet?

8. Es war ein Versehen. Sorry. (Ez var ain fairzayhen. Sorry.): It was an accident. Sorry.

When those don´t work and you´re still in trouble, here´s your bailout phrase:

9. Wenn Sie nicht weggenhen, schrei ich (Ven zee nikht vek-gayhen, shrai ikh): Go away or I´ll scream..
It deeply disturbs Germans to hear a grown man scream like a little girl, so it´s a very effective threat. Use it sparingly.

And now we come to the secret weapon that trumps everything else I´ve taught you so far, grasshopper:

10. Sprechen Sie Englisch? (Shprekhen zee English?): Do you speak English?
Nine times out of ten, the answer will be some form of Yes and you´re home free, relatively speaking. Even if the other person is modest or shy and says No, the odds are that his or her English is definitely way better than your German will ever be. English is an international communication tool for Germans and is widely taught in schools.

So relax, try to speak as much Deutsch as best you can, be prepared for blank stares of incomprehension and remember that phrase: Sprechen Sie Englisch?

Auf Wiedersehen, mein Kinder.

P:S: If you ever ask what an English word is in Deutsch, be prepared for a 20-minute discussion about the various possibilities it might be. At a dinner party the other evening I asked what the word “Great” would be in Deutsch.
“Well, it really depends what kind of great you mean,” said Sylvie in her perfect English.
“Great as in ‘Someone is a great man,’” I said.
“But what kind of great man is he?” asked Christian. “There are many kinds of great men.”
“We have so many different words for great,” said Karin. “You really have to be specific.”
Ortwin came up with a few examples of what Great might be in Deutsch. Katrin had a few more variations. Sylvie started making word plays on various varieties of greatness.
And on it went for, as I said, 20 minutes. Primarily in English, of course, for my dumb-ass benefit. I still don´t know how I would say “So-and-so is a great man” in Deutsch. I would probably end up calling him big or fat or pompous or powerful  — but most assuredly not great.