Everybody Hörts

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In Berlin for the kick-off meeting of DoReCo, I've noticed a lot of multi-lingual wordplay.

The punning radio-station advertisement in the picture is a good example. It combines the 1993 R.E.M. song "Everybody hurts" with an appropriate if non-existent form of the German word hören to imply that "everybody listens" to their station, because, as the song says,

Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it's time to sing along
When your day is night alone (Hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go (Hold on)
If you think you've had too much
Of this life, well, hang on



31 Comments

  1. Phillip Minden said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 2:11 am

    Hörts is regular German, contracted from hört es.

  2. Frans said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 2:52 am

    What Phillip Minden said. ;) Normally you'd spell it hört's to indicate that it's a contraction.

  3. Robert Jördens said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 3:22 am

    On another level, the missing apostrophe is a hypercorrected Deppenapostroph (no Language Log post yet for the latter apparently).

  4. Phillip Minden said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 3:39 am

    Well, that's a whole issue of its own. As those readers who are familiar with German may know, there is a range of levels or registers, from standard with no standard alternative ('im' ≠ 'in dem') to colloquial or considered dialectal or uneducated to considered ungrammatical.

    Those contractions with 'das' and 'es' -> 's' that are more common or accepted in a "higher" level tend to be written without the apostrophe ('an das' -> 'ans'), while where the standard is weaker, spelling varies, as in general. People may be more inclined to write the apostrophe for '(e)s' than for '(da)s'. Personally, it looks a bit apologetic to me, which I find unnecessary, and it isn't necessary to ease reading or understanding with most native speaker, I'd think.

  5. Phillip Minden said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 3:42 am

    While I'm mentioning random trivia, in Bavarian dialects, 'hörts' can be the imperative of the plural (so: listen, everybody), though I'd recommend a comma, then, and an exclamation mark, much less optional than in English.

  6. Kate Gladstone said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 4:01 am

    Philip — would "horts" in Bavarian indeed get a comma ("hört,s!") rather than an apostrophe ("hört's!")

  7. Jen in Edinburgh said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 4:18 am

    'Everybody, hörts!'?

  8. Vilinthril said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 4:20 am

    Yep, what Jen wrote is what Philip meant.

  9. Azmodes said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 4:37 am

    Phillip Minden: Not just the imperative, but all other moods in 2nd person plural as well. It's a leftover of a pronominal clitic (originally a dual form that has now taken over as the normal plural).

  10. Hans Adler said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 4:46 am

    @Kate Gladstone: No, I don't think that's what Phillip Minden meant. That would make no sense. Most likely he was thinking of "Hörts, ihr Leit!" Which is Bavarian for "Listen, everybody!" (Standard German: "Hört [mal], Leute!" The Bavarian version literally translates to "Listen, you people!") This is the logical train of thought to get into after swapping the two words of "Everybody hörts". And indeed it could be a bit puzzling to Standard German speakers with the comma OR the exclamation mark removed.

    (I don't actually speak Bavarian, so some detail of my explanation might need a correction.)

  11. Hans Adler said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 4:57 am

    PS: Since Bavarian "hörts" as in "Hörts, ihr Leit!" is a totally normal conjugated verb form with no contraction involved whatsoever, an apostrophe (let alone a weird comma!) has no business there whatsoever. That was the point of bringing up Bavarian in this context. (Adding "es" = "it" to the Bavarian sentence, I think it would become "Hörts es, ihr Leit!")

    I think there is currently a grammaticalisation of contractions going on in German. Some, like "im" for "in dem", are so standard that it it's weird to avoid them unless there is special emphasis. Some are optional but usually spelled without an apostrophe. Some are colloquial and always spelled with an apostrophe. I think "hört's"/"hörts" is in a class of contractions (defined as contracted "es" after a verb form ending in "t"?) that is currently moving from colloquial to standard but optional. Therefore some of us are beginning to write it without the apostrophe.

  12. Hans Adler said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 4:59 am

    PPS: NOW I understood Jen's post. Yes, that (no swapping) makes even more sense, but I think what I wrote above could still be helpful.

  13. Benjamin Orsatti said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 7:07 am

    Interesting. Speaking of which, in English, why is it "his / Steve's"; "hers / Carol's", "its / the apple's" and not "him's / Steve's"; "her's / Carol's"; "it's / the orange's"? If both sets express the genitive of possession, why not have consistency between pronouns and common nouns and pronouns?

  14. Benjamin Orsatti said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 7:08 am

    Edit: proper nouns < *pronouns

  15. Andrew Usher said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 7:39 am

    Benjamin, I think you know full well that we don't say "him's" (or "he's" or "she's") and that there are several other ways pronouns differ from 'regular' nouns in English. It's not really a mystery requiring explanation, I don't think.

    As for the original German, I am sure the poster-writer made it "horts" (can't be bothered with the umlaut here) with no apostrophe mainly for the sake of the pun. I have no idea if it will become standard to spell those contractions without one, but I hope not as it would seem confusing. That those of preposition+article are all spelled without (including those not yet standard) is an old established convention – just as is ours for pronouns.

    And of course, that category would be completely unthinkable in English. 'In the', 'on the', etc. – no tendency to lose a syllable. Nor do we nowadays have contraction with a following 'it' (though apparently it was once possible). Contraction of the definite article with a _following_ noun (as in Romance) is likewise obsolete even in dialects, though found in old poetry.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo dot com

  16. Andrew Usher said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 7:42 am

    Oh, and I have to mention that REM song always throws me with the line don't throw your hand. Of course, the sense of the idiom Don't throw your hand(s) up (the plural is more standard) is meant, but the 'up' is truly necessary, unless you want the image of detaching one's hand and hurling it in anger!

  17. Timo Pähler said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 7:47 am

    Hans, what do you mean by ›currently moving‹? Via Google Books you'll find examples of both ›hörts‹ and ›hört's‹ from several hundred years ago. I find it more likely that some people avoid the apostrophe generally, i.e. independent of the specific contraction (in some text types).

  18. R. Fenwick said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 8:37 am

    @Andrew Usher:
    Of course, the sense of the idiom Don't throw your hand(s) up (the plural is more standard) is meant

    I don't know about "of course"; carrying a similar sense is a very common poker idiom that's passed into general slang – throw one's hand in – and in that instance it's the singular that's normal (don't throw your hand indon't throw your hands up). The absence of in from the lyric is still unusual, but the poker idiom would deal with the apparent number incongruence fairly neatly.

  19. Jen in Edinburgh said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 8:42 am

    unless you want the image of detaching one's hand and hurling it in anger

    Well, there's the legend of Antwerp, and the story of the claiming of Uist (I think) for the MacDonalds, although that wasn't anger.

    I'd have read the REM thing as a variant on throwing in your hand, as in poker, rather than throwing your hands up. Then there's throwing a game, of course, but that doesn't really fit either!

  20. Jerry Friedman said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 9:19 am

    Benjamin Orsatti: Etymonline says of 's:

    'suffix forming the possessive singular case of most Modern English nouns; its use gradually was extended in Middle English from Old English -es, the most common genitive inflection of masculine and neuter nouns (such as dæg "day," genitive dæges "day's").

    'Old English also had genitives in -e, -re, -an, as well as "mutation-genitives" (boc "book," plural bec), and the -es form never was used in plural (where -a, -ra, -na prevailed), thus avoiding the verbal ambiguity of words like kings'.

    'In Middle English, both the possessive singular and the common plural forms were regularly spelled es, and when the e was dropped in pronunciation and from the written word, the habit grew up of writing an apostrophe in place of the lost e in the possessive singular to distinguish it from the plural. Later the apostrophe, which had come to be looked upon as the sign of the possessive, was carried over into the plural, but was written after the s to differentiate that form from the possessive singular. By a process of popular interpretation, the 's was supposed to be a contraction for his, and in some cases the his was actually "restored." [Samuel C. Earle, et al, "Sentences and their Elements," New York: Macmillan, 1911]

    'As a suffix forming some adverbs, it represents the genitive singular ending of Old English masculine and neuter nouns and some adjectives.'

  21. RP said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 10:05 am

    @Andrew Usher ("And of course, that category would be completely unthinkable in English. 'In the', 'on the', etc. – no tendency to lose a syllable.")

    I don't agree that it's unthinkable. In Yorkshire dialect we have "in t'", "on 't", etc. The "t" is often closer to a glottal stop than a real "t", but either way there is no syllable after it – it becomes a single syllable "int", "ont", etc.

  22. DaveK said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 11:08 am

    @Andrew Usher: "to throw hands" per the Urban Dictionary, means to have a fistfight. I'm not sure if that meaning goes back to 1993 though

  23. RP said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 12:10 pm

    Whether or not the apostrophe in English possessives originated in the omission of an "e" in an "es" genitive ending or in an (incorrect) belief that "'s" stood for "his", a closer parallel to the German "'s" contraction would be "'s" meaning "is/has" – and an even closer parallel would be "'t" meaning "it", like in "'tis" and "'twas".

    As for the absent apostrophe in pronominal possessives, I don't agree with those who think it was a silly question. Some pronouns do include it, like "one's", and historically "it's" was sometimes written with an apostrophe before the spelling settled down. Also I'm pretty sure I saw "her's" in the Authorized Version of the Bible the other day.

  24. Benjamin E Orsatti said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 12:47 pm

    Andrew Usher,

    I'm flattered by your overestimation of my knowledge of linguistics. Sadly, I've never actually taken a course in linguistics, so, when I don't know something, I _have_ to ask somebody, or else reconcile myself to the idea that I'll just go on not knowing. No harm intended, for serious.

    Jerry Friedman & RP,

    This is helpful, thank you. So, it looks like the pronominal genitive orthographic forms were "fixed" in Old/Middle English (except for, apparently, "one's") _before_ the "e" dropped out of the nominal forms, so there was never any need to employ an apostrophe with those pronouns. That kind of makes sense. Of course, in English, there seems to be some resistance to changing orthography to reflect actual spoken language (could that be the Norman French influence, maybe?), except in the vernacular, e.g., "'n'at" for "and that" in Western Pennsylvania dialect, which isn't typically "written down" anyway.

  25. Christian Weisgerber said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 2:54 pm

    I think there is currently a grammaticalisation of contractions going on in German.

    The discussion here has touched on two different types of contractions. The contraction of prepositions and following articles is indeed a complex topic, with contractions ranging from impossible to optional to obligatory. Effectively, German is in the process of developing inflected prepositions. I'll point to this paper (in German):

    Damaris Nübling
    Von in die über in'n und ins bis im: Die Klitisierung von Präposition und Artikel als "Grammatikalisierungsbaustelle"
    https://www.germanistik.uni-mainz.de/files/2015/03/Nuebling_2005e.pdf

    Regarding the contraction of verbs and following pronouns, I think that pronouns are generally encliticized to the preceding verb in spoken German, even though this is usually not represented in spelling. Jetzt höre ich will typically be spoken as jetzt hörich. This only becomes an orthographic concern when the enclitic pronoun is reduced as in the ubiquitous es(')s.

    The closest English equivalent, by the way, would be let's from let us.

    I have no idea if it will become standard to spell those contractions without [an apostrophe], but I hope not as it would seem confusing.

    The current orthographic rules already say that an apostrophe may be inserted when words with spoken elisions become intransparent in writing. That is somewhat nebulous, but from the given examples I think that hörts would be preferred since this ubiquitous contraction cannot be considered intransparent.

    Examples given in the rules:
    der Käpt'n, mit'm Fahrrad
    Bitte, nehm S' (= Sie) doch Platz! Das war 'n (= ein) Bombenerfolg

  26. Miles Archer said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 8:18 pm

    Reminds me of my favorite steampunk metal band Dämpf Fährts

  27. Andrew Usher said,

    September 19, 2019 @ 8:23 pm

    RP:
    But the dialects from which int' and ont' came can reduce the definite article to a kind of glottal stop everywhere, and not specifically in those contexts. By my perception this sound is not obviously linked to either the preceding or following word, so if I had to classify it I'd call it a non-syllabic word.

    It's possible, though, that those contracted forms have been borrowed into, or retained in, dialects that don't feature free reduction of 'the'. So they may be marginal exceptions, but not as to change my point that in modern English there's no tendency to contract the article.

  28. Phillip Helbig said,

    September 20, 2019 @ 9:19 am

    "Oh, and I have to mention that REM song always throws me with the line don't throw your hand. Of course, the sense of the idiom Don't throw your hand(s) up (the plural is more standard) is meant, but the 'up' is truly necessary, unless you want the image of detaching one's hand and hurling it in anger!"

    Good lyricists often twist familiar sayings. Neil Peart twisted "too much time on my hands" to "too many hands on my time".

  29. Andrew Usher said,

    September 20, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

    That's a pun on an idiom – something I'm familiar with. I don't think the one at issue can be that (though I wouldn't mind to see anyone try …).

    Also, to Benjamin Orsatti: I've never taken a course in linguistics either. I don't think that's necessary to discuss language. I was not insulting you by assuming that you had some linguistic knowledge; that can be picked up relatively easily. All that's necessary, really, is that one desires to learn rather than revel in one's ignorance.

  30. David Marjanović said,

    September 21, 2019 @ 11:35 am

    In short, yes, hört(')s = hört es = "is hearing it/hears it". Indicative, not imperative.

    can be the imperative of the plural (so: listen, everybody)

    As a native speaker of a linguistically Bavarian dialect, I wouldn't use "hear" in the imperative at all. These dialects distinguish "hear" and "listen" – or rather "hark": horchen – much more strictly than Standard German does. What you "listen to" or "look at" is something you choose, so there are imperatives for that; what you "hear" or "see" is something that happens to you without your control, so imperatives of these verbs are altogether lacking. For "see" this is also the case nowadays in Standard German, where the old imperative sieh(e) is now basically a kind of preposition in academic writing (as in "see below") and otherwise survives only in older Bible translations and church songs (Siehe, der Herr kommt in Herrlichkeit = "behold, the Lord cometh in glory").

    "Listen, folks!" would be [ˈhoɐ̯xt͡sˌlɛ̞ɪ̯d̥l̩n] (with the diminutive of Leute).

    Not just the imperative, but all other moods in 2nd person plural as well.

    Correct.

    It's a leftover of a pronominal clitic (originally a dual form that has now taken over as the normal plural).

    That is the standard explanation, and there's nothing particularly unlikely about it, though I can't quite get over the fact that the Gothic second-person dual verb ending (indicative and imperative) was -ts.

  31. Philip Taylor said,

    September 21, 2019 @ 12:16 pm

    David M. — In my day (some 65 or so years ago), it would have been quite common to find one's school work not only marked, but if the mark was poor, annotated with an imperative to speak, as soon as possible, to the teacher; for example, "3/10 — see me". Does such a custom ?still? obtain in Germany, and if so, would that be another context in which sieh(e) would be used as imperative ?

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