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Buffysquirrel
01-23-2012, 04:46 AM
I have a character who's Danish but talking in English, and I want him to say of someone he used to work for that the man was a mensch, ie he was a good guy, good to work for, always polite, that sort of thing.

The Dane is a pilot talking to someone who's offering him a job.

Everything is pretty much the same as our world now but the Danish pilot and the man he's talking to are members of the same fictional religion. (it's a wainscot Fantasy)

Am I wrong in thinking he wouldn't say mensch? What would he say?

Xelebes
01-23-2012, 05:57 AM
A synonym of mensch in English is man (a man among the sailors.) Danish word for man is mand[i], to be mannish is to be [i]mandhaftig. Please note that I am not terribly familiar with the usage of the term "mensch" in English, but what I know of Germanic languages, and that Mensch is ultimately derived from German itself, I'd feel safe using man or mand. The phrase "mand blandt drenge" (calque: man ablent lads/drings (Scot.)) is what Google translates "man among boys."

Though I will let a Dane step in.

Buffysquirrel
01-23-2012, 06:12 AM
Thanks!

blacbird
01-23-2012, 10:20 AM
The Yiddish word "mensch" has entered the English language because it conveys something that no other English word does. As a case in point, the word doesn't have a gender connotation; Golda Meir was a "mensch", I garontee.

Mesuspects this might be true for many other languages, and that, given the diaspora, the use of Yiddish slang (much of which is fabulous and wonderful) has drifted into those languages as well.

I'm Danish (my parents fled Hitler from Denmark). I don't know any Danish, but I'd bet you could use that word "mensch" and convey your intent perfectly well, in the context.

caw

Buffysquirrel
01-23-2012, 03:39 PM
Thanks :). It is the word the novel wants; you know what they're like.

aruna
01-23-2012, 03:47 PM
As far as I know, the word mensch in that context is not used so much in the UK; it's an Americanism. So unless the Dane is under Americans and is familiar with this usage I'd be careful.
The German word Mensch simply means human, without the other connotations.

Shakesbear
01-23-2012, 03:53 PM
Aruna the word mensch is used by Jewish communities in the UK and I have heard it used by non-Jews as well. As far as I know it comes from the German mensch which means person. Sadly is is not as common as some derogatory terms.

aruna
01-23-2012, 04:00 PM
OK. I've never heard it used in the UK by Gentiles, either in speech or in writing; I think in general most people here would use a synonym. But then, Buffysquirrel lives in the UK so probably has more experience than me.
I myself would not use it, or allow a European non-Jewish character to use it.

Buffysquirrel
01-23-2012, 04:15 PM
I think I've picked the word up from watching American movies and tv. Don't think I could ever state with certainty that I've heard British people using it. Hence my doubts (insofar as British experience might reflect that of the Danes).

Still scratching my head here :).

Torill
01-23-2012, 07:18 PM
I'm not Danish, either, but at least Scandinavian (=Norwegian). Just wanted to say I have never heard the word 'Mensch' used with the meaning you describe in my language.

I've heard Mensch used only to mimick German soldiers/Nazis, yelling at someone, as in 'Raus, Mensch!' (= get out of here, man!) or 'Los, Mensch! (= get on with it, hurry) - to suggest that someone is abusive/abrasive/authoritarian etc. I don't think it's all that common any more - I believe it would be used more often by the older generation who experienced Nazi occupation.

So - very different from the American/English use of the word Mensch! But - maybe the use of the word in Danish is the same as in American? (Although they were under Nazi occupation, too, and might have heard the German use of this word in soldier commands, same as us.) Let's hope there's a Dane in here that can tell you.

Also - if your Dane speaks English, he may have picked up the English use of the word anyway, regardless of whether he knows it from his own language or not.

Shakesbear
01-23-2012, 08:12 PM
OK. I've never heard it used in the UK by Gentiles, either in speech or in writing; I think in general most people here would use a synonym. But then, Buffysquirrel lives in the UK so probably has more experience than me.
I myself would not use it, or allow a European non-Jewish character to use it.

This could so easily be a community/regional thing in the UK. That is, some communities use the word and Gentile neighbours have heard and adopted it as with other Yiddish words.

JimmyB27
01-23-2012, 08:27 PM
As far as I know, the word mensch in that context is not used so much in the UK; it's an Americanism. So unless the Dane is under Americans and is familiar with this usage I'd be careful.
The German word Mensch simply means human, without the other connotations.
FWIW, I've never heard it before either in thirty years of living in the UK.

Buffysquirrel
01-23-2012, 08:35 PM
I'm finding this discussion very interesting, and I can't express my gratitude to everyone who's chipped in. Thank you all :).

DeaK
01-23-2012, 09:26 PM
I was born in Denmark and speak Danish, although I'm rusty. I'm not familiar with the word mensch, definitely haven't heard it in Denmark.

I don't think I know the word you're looking for, unfortunately, but I'd suggest maybe guttermand.

Guttermand is a bit slangy, but not new. It means 'a good guy', and is used to describe someone who is dependable as a friend.

I'll return if I think of something better :)

Xelebes
01-23-2012, 10:08 PM
I'm not Danish, either, but at least Scandinavian (=Norwegian). Just wanted to say I have never heard the word 'Mensch' used with the meaning you describe in my language.

I've heard Mensch used only to mimick German soldiers/Nazis, yelling at someone, as in 'Raus, Mensch!' (= get out of here, man!) or 'Los, Mensch! (= get on with it, hurry) - to suggest that someone is abusive/abrasive/authoritarian etc. I don't think it's all that common any more - I believe it would be used more often by the older generation who experienced Nazi occupation.

So - very different from the American/English use of the word Mensch! But - maybe the use of the word in Danish is the same as in American? (Although they were under Nazi occupation, too, and might have heard the German use of this word in soldier commands, same as us.) Let's hope there's a Dane in here that can tell you.

Also - if your Dane speaks English, he may have picked up the English use of the word anyway, regardless of whether he knows it from his own language or not.

While you're here, what's the Norwegian answer?

Buffysquirrel
01-24-2012, 12:00 AM
Thanks, DeaK. I'll definitely use that for now :). Slangy is part of what I'm looking for.

Torill
01-24-2012, 03:23 PM
While you're here, what's the Norwegian answer? Umm - I don't think we have one single word for it - more phrases. I guess when it's a man you could say 'en av gutta' (one of the boys, where 'gutta' is the slang version of the plural 'guttene'). Or call him 'en bra fyr' (= a good/decent bloke).

crunchyblanket
01-24-2012, 03:43 PM
This could so easily be a community/regional thing in the UK. That is, some communities use the word and Gentile neighbours have heard and adopted it as with other Yiddish words.

When I moved to North London, I started hearing this word, from both my Jewish neighbours and several non-Jewish people (there's an old Greek lady two streets down who says it quite a lot) I'd never heard it before I moved, though, so it's probably regional.

aruna
01-24-2012, 04:00 PM
You know, I don't know a single British Jew! I guess the regionalism thing is due to Jews settling in certain areas.

crunchyblanket
01-24-2012, 04:07 PM
You know, I don't know a single British Jew! I guess the regionalism thing is due to Jews settling in certain areas.

In London, there tends to be large groups of Jewish people in certain areas - for example, Edgware, Golder's Green, Clayhall. Actually, this is true of certain other groups - Italians, for example, seem to congregate around Enfield, Cheshunt and Broxbourne.

seun
01-24-2012, 04:32 PM
FWIW, my mother (British and Jewish) says 'mensch' quite a bit.

Priene
01-24-2012, 05:23 PM
My German wife uses it from time to time, with 'Ach, mensch' meaning something like 'Oh, for god's sake'.

aruna
01-24-2012, 05:25 PM
Yeah, but in German it has a totally different meaning to the Yiddish. I hear and say it all the time over here!

Torill
01-24-2012, 06:04 PM
Yeah, but in German it has a totally different meaning to the Yiddish. Exactly. That's why it may be dangerous to assume that Europeans in general would go with the Yiddish meaning instead of the German. The best advice is to check language for language, whether they're more influenced by the German or the Yiddish, or perhaps none of them. Since the only Danish speaking person in this thread claims to have never heard the word Mensch used in Denmark, I'd avoid letting a Danish character use it.

crunchyblanket
01-24-2012, 06:06 PM
Since the only Danish speaking person in this thread claims to have never heard the word Mensch used in Denmark, I'd avoid letting a Danish character use it.


Unless he's spent a lot of time up Edgware way :D

Torill
01-24-2012, 06:48 PM
Unless he's spent a lot of time up Edgware way :D
Of course! Context is everything... ;)

Buffysquirrel
01-24-2012, 08:59 PM
Edgware hasn't come into the story. Yet.

aruna
01-24-2012, 09:12 PM
sorry to be such a dickhead but what is Edgware????

Priene
01-24-2012, 09:12 PM
Edgware hasn't come into the story. Yet.

Every story has a little of Edgware in it.

Unless it doesn't.

Buffysquirrel
01-24-2012, 09:26 PM
sorry to be such a dickhead but what is Edgware????

It's a district of London.

crunchyblanket
01-25-2012, 12:16 AM
Every story has a little of Edgware in it.

Unless it doesn't.

It does. It just doesn't know it yet.


sorry to be such a dickhead but what is Edgware????

It's a part of London with a large Jewish population.

latourdumoine
01-25-2012, 06:24 AM
My German wife uses it from time to time, with 'Ach, mensch' meaning something like 'Oh, for god's sake'.
I moved back and forth between Germany and the States as a kid and teen, and my dad's first language was Yiddish. I also lived in Britain for four years. "Ach Mensch . . ." was used a lot in Germany, usually when you didn't want to use swear words instead. :) Depending on the region in Germany, you can also point to someone and say, "look at that Mensch over there" meaning "person", like someone stated earlier. Other regions will use man or woman instead, since the article before Mensch is the male article, so they maintain that you should never use it, unless it's a group of people, and never for a group of women.

I never heard it used in England (or Wales) but in the States, I heard it a lot. If I use it in English, I think of the Yiddish meaning. In German, that wouldn't even cross my mind.

If your character is well-traveled or has interacted with a lot of people from different regions, nothing says he couldn't have picked it up on the way. So he could use it. The other character could get confused, so he could clarify. Isn't part of being a pirate /pilot (I see some of the same traits in both :) ) also the ability to automatically pick up phrases and habits from some people and regions? If he interacted with people . . . some habits tend to stick. :)

Buffysquirrel
01-25-2012, 06:09 PM
I definitely think he could have picked it up. I just don't want to use an expression that might kick a lot of readers out of the book.

Sofie
01-27-2012, 03:29 AM
In Swedish we would say "hedersknyffel" (honourable rascal) and according to my Swedish/Danish dictionary, the Danish equivalent would be "haedersman" (honourable man). So personally I think the Danish man would just say something like "a great guy" or "a stand-up guy" in English. I can't imagine "mensch" being a natural part of most Danish people's vocabularies..

..however, if you do decide to go with mensch, it's not really a problem. It's not inconceivable that a Dane would use that word, just unusual. And maybe he's an unusual kind of guy?

Priene
01-27-2012, 01:26 PM
hedersknyffel

Now that's a word I'm going to add to my vocabulary.