Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

Amyisms: Mopple; and reciprocal vs. reflexive

Today, Amy told me about her stuffed-animal rabbit “Mopple”.

I was amused that she had anglicised its name from the German original “Moppel” when talking to me: instead of quoting the name (as she would with, say, her friend Erik), she turned it into English /mɒpl/ (i.e. variously [mɒpəɫ]~[mɒpɫ̩]—with English velar/“dark” L rather than German “light” L—or [mɒpoʊ] with L-vocalisation).

In spoken German, reflexives and reciprocals are sometimes not distinguished; thus, sie brachten sich alle um could mean not only “they all killed themselves” (mass suicide) but also “they all killed one another” (mass homicide). (The basic meaning of the pronoun sich is reflexive, I would say.)

If desired, one can distinguish with sie brachten sich alle gegenseitig um “they all killed sich reciprocally” vs. sie brachten sich alle selbst um “they all killed sich themselves”, or with an explicit object rather than a reciprocal/reflexive construction sie brachten einander alle um “they all killed one another”.

Anyway, this optional lack of distinction in German has made Amy occasionally mix up reflexives and reciprocals in her English. I don’t remember any examples offhand, though, so I don’t remember whether she consistently chooses one of the two or whether she sometimes gets it wrong one way and sometimes the other way. (I vaguely recall something like “They all fell down and hurt each other”, but I’m not sure whether that’s a real memory. That would be reciprocal when reflexive was intended.)

Tags: amy, amyisms
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