Saturday, December 13, 2014

Acrônym øf thè Däy: « äRTeäS »

In the staid banking capital of Zürich,  masked black bloc activists (anarchist APOisten)  ran wild last night.   As such, that is no concern of this blog;  but we shall notice some curious linguistic detail.

Die Randalierer trugen ein Banner mit der Aufschrift «Reclaim the Streets». In den vergangenen Jahren war es unter diesem Titel mehrmals zu erheblichen Sachbeschädigungen gekommen. Am Freitag nun riefen die Veranstalter im Laufe des Tages per SMS dazu auf, sich um 22 Uhr im Sihlhölzlipark in Zürich-Wiedikon zu treffen. In Aussicht gestellt wurde der «one & only dancefloor» unter dem Motto «äRTeäS», hinter dem sich das Akronym RTS für «Reclaim the Streets» versteckt.

If you read about this in the anglophone press, you might assume that this slogan, «Reclaim the Streets»,  was a translation from the German, for the convenience of English-speakers.   Not so;  the following photo from Zurich last night, provides ocular proof:

Not only that, but the expression “black block” (or “black bloc”) has gone international.  A while ago (an Egyptian friend informed me) Angela Merkel apologized to Egypt for the “black block” anarchists there, who had imported a German ideology;  when I asked him, How did that come out in Arabic, he said:  “black block”.

Strangest of all, though, is this motto äRTeäS, within which the acronym RTS (for “Reclaim The Streets”) lies perdu in plain sight.   It looks like some new offbeat flavor offering from Häagen-Dazs, or perhaps a song by Mötley Crüe.   As for orthoëpic guidance, such as we commonly offer to our glottophilic flock, we are at a loss.  Conjecturally,  the word begins with a sort of vocalic sheep-bleat, and then the majuscularity of the following two consonants is signaled by pronouncing them at top volume while waving your arms (Monty Python has an instructive video along these lines), then back to a sheep-bleat, then back to the flapping.   Either that, or the vowels are silent.

[Note:  Just kidding.  If you simply pronounce the letters "R T S" in the German fashion, it comes out rather like ärteäs. ]

A polyglot German reader of the above article comments:

Ein gewalttätiger Anarcho-Fascho-Mob holt sich die gratis Party unter allesamt englischen Organisationskürzeln für eine "friday night" nach deren Gusto.

At all events, äRTeäS is but the latest acronymic/cryptographic contribution from the German-speaking world, to the contemporary lexicon of political street-protest.   Some others we have elucidated here:  


The signage of one of the vandalized shops (international anarchy strikes back  against the tyranny of the corner bakery!)  is an interesting anglo-alemannic mix:

Znüni ?  It’s Schwizerdütsch for what in general German would be Imbiß (etymologically: ‘in-bite’):  ‘snack’, or rather specifically a morning snack, since etymologically it means “a nine-o’clock-er” (from the Alemannic equivalents of zu + neun).

Was für Krimi liest wohl Dr. Sigmund Freud?
Schauen Sie mal!

[Update 14 December 2014]  Another aspect of German political movement names, foreign to the American way of naming, is its hospitality to Mundarten.  Thus, consider the following headlines from earlier this morning:

"Arsch huh" gegen rechte Gewalt - Künstler demonstrieren in Köln

„Arsch huh“-Demo: Mit Karnevalisten und dem 1. FC Köln gegen Rechts

Um… say what?  They never taught us that in German class..

It’s the name of an anti-rightist movement in Cologne:  in full “Arsch huh, Zäng ussenander”; which, de.wikipedia  helpfully explains, is “Kölsch für Arsch hoch, Zähne auseinander”.   Umm … ‘Butt up, teeth apart’??  -- I still don’t get it.

The “rp” in rp-online stands for “Ripuarisch”, a northern dialect of German.  And indeed, Ripuarian has its own Wikipedia --  (“ksh” for “Kölsch”, after the principle regional city).   They explain:

Unger dämm Motto „Arsch huh, Zäng ussenander!“ hann sich em Johr 1992 kölsche Musikjruppe un Schauspiller, un e paa andere Künßler zesamme jeschlosse, öm jäje Fremdefeindlichkeit un Antisemitismus ze demonstriere.

The American language shows nothing comparable to such Mundarten.  Sure, Bostonians say “pahk the cah in Hahvahd yahd” -- but they don’t have their own Wikipedia.

Factoid:   Continuing with our amusement at the proliferation of umlauts (which in the case of the icecream-company and the rock-band  are completely meaningless), let us note that one of the main backers of “Arsch huh”  is a Kölner rock-band called
Bläck Fööss “ -- which means, however, ‘bare feet’.

And, another gnarly political acronym:   Gröfaz


Weiteres in re Confoederatio Helvetica :

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