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Never Argue With A German If You're Tired

PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 5:11 pm
by werner
Theres is some confusion about the lyrics of this song not only in this forum (viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1629 and viewtopic.php?f=2&t=550) but also on most lyrics websites. Part of this confusion comes from the fact that the german text is often printed not in german spelling but as english transscript leading to wrong understanding of the words. But it also seems that until now no native german speaker thought of writing down the lyrics.
So I'm a native german speaker and like this song very much (like almost any of Grace Slick's songs I ever heard) and its time to do my share.
I like to mention that Grace's pronounciation is - apart from an obvious english accent - quite well. This is especially true for the vowels.
There was some speculation that it isn't german at all. No, it definitely is german.

So this are the lyrics as I hear them, in german spelling:

Stecken in mein Hacken.
Stecken in mein Haut.
Fügen mein Gas mit mein Arschbacken.

Streiten sie nicht mit einem Deutschen wenn sie müden sind.
Mein Auto fährt sehr schnell, aber es rast gegen Mauern.

Ah, ja, das bin mein.
Ja, das bin du.
Du, das bin ich.
Versuch es.

There is some more text at the end spocken very quickly. Unfortunately I don't understand a word of it.

The grammar is not as good as the pronounciation. So, here again with some error correction. The question mark indicates that I'm not sure whether it is an error or by intention:

(Ich) stecke in meinen Hacken.
(Ich) stecke in meiner Haut.
(Ich) füge mein Gas mit meinen Arschbacken.

Streiten sie nicht mit einem Deutschen wenn sie müde sind.
Mein Auto fährt sehr schnell, aber es rast gegen Mauern.

Ah, ja, das bin ich. (?)
Ja, das bist du.
Du, das bin ich.
Versuch es.

And now an english translation, by a non-native english speaker (beware of foul language!):

Sticking in my heels.
Sticking in my skin.
Fitting my gas with my buttocks.

Never argue with a German if you're tired.
My car is very fast but it crashes against walls.

Ah, yes, that's me.
Yes, that's you.
You, that's me.
Have a try.

Now I will try some interpretation. This being lyrics there is of course no definite interpretation. But some explanations of the german phrases might come useful for your own interpretation.

Overall it looks to me like a sarcastic description of german traits as the title indicates. "Never argue with a german if you're tired." Germans are well known for their "Rechthaberei". In discussions a german always has the last word and he is always right and you are always wrong. This is more important than the contents of the discussion. Germans are also well known for beeing proud of the german Autobahn having no speed limits. (Indeed from time to time there is a public discussion about the need of a speed limit. Their is immediate strong resistance and it never happens.) And of course our better known name is "Krauts" and you know the result of eating to much of Sauerkraut? If not see line #3.

The last four lines look like the first lesson in a german course. It always remembers me of
"Ich Tarzan, du Jane."
This is a widely used joke in Germany taken from the movie "Tarzan". It is told (I never watched the movie) that Tarzan points a finger at himself saying "me, Tarzan", and then points at Jane "you, Jane".

Some details:
line #2: "Stecken in mein Haut."
Its a widely used phrase in Germany used in various situations.
"Ich stecke nun mal in meiner Haut." or "Ich kann nicht aus meiner Haut heraus." Meaning: I would like to be a better person but I can't act against my nature. That's how I am, I can't be somone else. I can't help it.
"Ich möchte nicht in seiner Haut stecken." Meaning: I don't want to be in his position because he gets (or will get) it really hard.

line #1: "Stecken in mein Hacken."
I never heard this phrase in germany. But it seems to be essentially the same as line #1. Hacken is a german word for heel. But it may also refer to the according part of the boots. I don't like it because it is often used in a military context. Soldiers may be required to bang together their Hacken when greeting.

line #4 got the most strange interpretations, for example
"fugen mine gas mit mine auss pucken
auss pucken = ausspucken = spit something out"
including a translation from Paul Kantner's lyrics book "mixing my gas with my spit".
With my german ears on I can't agree with this at all. The letter "u" in "ausspucken" is pronounced like the vowel in "look". Grace clearly sings the german vowel "a", pronounced like the vowel in "car". Also the first part is not "auss". When Grace sings it the first time it sounds like "ars" (english "arse"). But the second time she sings "arsch", pronounced like the english word "harsh" without "h". You can clearly hear the "sh".
Some people also take Gas for gasoline, the liquid fuel for cars. In germany Gas always means the state of matter called gas. A liquid is not called Gas. Finally it makes no sense while gas in combination with buttocks makes perfectly sense (remember the Sauerkraut). I think in english it is called farting, in german furzen. What really makes not sense is the word "fügen". I think this is a mistake by Grace Slick. "fügen" means to put things together. Often the things have to fit tightly and must be shaped accordingly (carpenters do this and together with glue they will use pressure). Maybe Grace refers to the pressure and shaping, but this is speculation.

line #4 is exactly the title of the song, no mistake possible (and don't you argue, I am german).

line #9, the last line, is clearly pronounced, I see no chance for a mistake.

Hoping my English matches Grace's German


Re: Never Argue With A German If You're Tired

PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:19 am
by brumus
Thanks so much for that translation. Translating Grace's work in English can be challenging let alone German.

I must say when I first heard this back in the day (71) I thought it was an obvious cover up of some wicked debauchery that Grace was relating so RCA wouldn't find out, involving sex, drugs and Herr Kantner. Eventually it was told that it was about Grace's auto accident she had one night after arguing with Paul and where she and Jorma were racing and Grace wound up crashing into a wall. And her subsequent visit to the hospital, getting stitches from her injuries. So the line "Stecken in mein Hacken" was taken to mean "stitches in my head" or something similar to that.

But now your translation comes along and I'm once again wondering if I wasn't half right the first time. Heterosexuals were becoming more acquainted with sodomy at the time and Jack's fart bass right at the end make me still wonder....

As Lester Bangs once said, it cries out for a grammy.

Re: Never Argue With A German If You're Tired

PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 2:22 pm
by redrabid
There's is also the attempt of JohnBSails (the now also banned reincarnation of Chasin' Destiny). I posted a reply to his interpretation, but it is hard to find as JBS's posts were erased.
The song is obvious about Slick's tempestious relation with Kantner (we all know that story how Kantner tied her down once after an arguement to calm her down, don't we? "Don't tie me down, I want to run"). Grace often referred to him as being "German". David Crosby named Kantner "Baron Von Tollbooth" for the same reason. But the song is also about her car crash during the recording of "Bark". (There may be a connection, maybe she had a fight with Kantner, maybe about the affair she had at the time with Kaukonen who was also involved in her car crash, who knows or should I say who cares?)
But here the lyrics get a bit obscure partly because Slick relied on the same method as later while recording "Manhole" with lyrics in "Spanish".
She wrote down the words of a language she didn't know phonetically, after she had her lyrics "translated" in the desired language by somebody she thought knew that language. Her lyrics may have been translated wrongly, she may have misunderstood the translator, she may have written it down in way that makes the lyrics incomprehensible.
Werner may be right about "sticken in mine Haut", but that leaves still the incomprehensible " Haken". It is to me obvious a misunderstanding either from English to German or the other way around.
I don't think Werner is right about "Fugen mine gas mit mine auss pucken". Slick sings "auss pucken" in an American way. She wrote down 'Auss pucken", forgot that the u-vowel in German is to be pronounced as an american "oo" and sang the written down word in the way of "bucket". That's why you as a German seem to hear an "a"-sound, just like in "bucket". I also think she doesn't sang a "b", but a "p". It is not very clear because I think I hear a cut in the recording tape just before the "P". Gas is certainly car-related: giving gas is a common expression. Listen how Slick uses it in "Eat Starch Mom" on LJS:
"Give a little grease, give a little gas,
drive straight on through the night"'.
Hey does anybody know what the thing is called you shift gear with?

I think the association with ass fucking very funny, but out of the question. By the way have you ever heard a German say "fuck" ?

Re: Never Argue With A German If You're Tired

PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 4:04 pm
by werner
Surely, personal experiences will influence the work of an artist and may find a way into her art. But we would do great injustice to Grace's songs to reduce their meaning to this personal experiences and quarrels.
I never knew much about the personal life of famous rock musicians, and I mostly don't care about it (except the funny stories). But I'm sure Grace's song was meant for me too. Being a German I mostly see satirical remarks about bad german habits and I like it.
Of course your associations will be different from mine. After all its lyrics. But please don't base your interpretation on the assumption that Grace can't pronounce german words correctly. She can.
So I fully agree with "who knows or should I say who cares?", strongly advocating "who cares?".

At redrabid: did Grace pronounce german words in an english way? I can't see what this speculation is based on. As already told: what I hear are german words and they are *all* pronounced correctly as they are pronounced in german (apart from the english accent). I don't hear a single word that is pronounced as if it were an english word.
Take the word "ausspuchen". First: this is not a german word, but there is the german word "ausspucken". Grace is very well able to pronounce the combination "uch" in a german way. She does it in the last line "versuch es" and she does it well. "uch" in "ausspuchen" would be pronounced the same way. Why should she do it completely wrong in that case. Also there are words containing "ch" and there are words containing "ck". The difference in her prounounciation is easy to hear and the result is a german word all the time.

"stitches in the head": no, "Hacken" can't be confused with head. It's the opposite end of the body and I don't know of a similar sounding word for head. Also for stitches we would use the word "stechen" not "stecken".

"Fügen mein Gas mit mein Arschbacken". True, the "b" is pronounced slightly more sharp than most Germans would do, but not in a way to say it *must* be "p". And no, I too can't see any association with ass fucking or sodomy.

What's wrong with our pronounciation of "fuck"? It's used a lot in germany so we should correct our pronounciation.

Re: Never Argue With A German If You're Tired

PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 4:33 pm
by redrabid
That suggestion of an "a" , that is the European "a", in a word like bucket we (non-native english speakers) seem to hear, is even stronger when some of us speak our version of American English, including some/most/a lot of Germans.
Slick wrote down the word wrongly "auss pucken" and pronounced it just as in luck, bucket and well.. fuckin'.
A song lyric is like religion, everybody finds his own truth in it.

Re: Never Argue With A German If You're Tired

PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2012 3:34 pm
by werner
Didn't I tell I'm german? You have been warned :wink:

Slick wrote down the word wrongly "auss pucken" and pronounced it just as in luck, bucket and well.. fuckin'.

You know what Grace Slick wrote down? Please publish the complete lyrics as Grace wrote them down. I think you're guessing.

In german I would say Anders'rum wird ein Schuh draus! It's the other way round:
Grace sings in german.
Somebody else listens to it and writes it down in english spelling. It is an english transcription of a german text. See for example [url][/url]
"mine" instead of the german spelling "mein"
"straightem" instead of "streiten"
"mewden" instead of "müden"
"mawen" instead of "Mauern"
"ben" instead of "bin"
"fair zuc ess" instead of "versuch es", and
"auss pucken" instead of "Arschbacken".
There is nothing wrong with a transcription as long as you don't treat the transcripted words as if they were german words in german spelling.

More about "auss pucken":
The german word is "ausspucken" (no space). It consists of two parts: "aus" (out) and "spucken" (to spit). "pucken" is not a german word. If Grace intended two pronounce "ausspucken" she makes four mistakes in pronounciation.
- she sings a german "a" instead of "au" in "aus"
- she inserts an "r" before the "s" in "aus"
- she sings a "p" instead of "sp" in "spucken" ("sp" does not sound like an "s" followed by "p". It's a sound of its own.)
- she pronounces the "u" like the german "a" in "spucken".
Thats a lot of pronounciation errors in one word while there are no such errors in the rest of the song. Why not assume she pronounces "Arschbacken" as correctly as she does with the other german words. With the additional advantage that the sentence makes some sense while "fügen mein Gas mit mein Ausspucken" makes no sense at all.

Re: Never Argue With A German If You're Tired

PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2012 10:41 pm
by Susan Butcher
Interesting. I'd assumed the song was in nonsense-German. If it's about a violent argument and a serious car accident, it's a pity it sounds so half-arsed. If "Bark" had been a decent album, this track would have been in the out-takes.

Re: Never Argue With A German If You're Tired

PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2012 1:57 am
by redrabid
Why doubt the translation given by Kantner, Werner? Who was very close to Slick at the time.
Mixing my gas with my spit?
Why doubt that gas refers to gasoline? Slick was drag-racing with Kaukonen when her car crashed at high speed.
"Mixing my gas with my spit" is a rather inscrutable sentence, mixing the car crash (giving gas, speeding) with the arguement (rage, spit). But it does make sense in the context of the song.
You base your idea on what you seem to hear, but I don't hear "Arschbacken" at all. And the line you propose makes no sense at all.
Furthermore, I dont think that the "translation" (if there was one, Slick said that it was a kind of made-up German) was done by a German. There are some big mistakes in the very basic grammar.
"Ya das ben mine
Ya das ben du"
It should be:
Ya das SIND meine (or "das bin ICH)
Ya das BIST du.
Certainly the last line looks a bit like Dutch: "Ya das ben du"- "Ja, dat ben jij".

Re: Never Argue With A German If You're Tired

PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2012 1:34 pm
by okeedoe
Hey,Jerry !( No doubt you're Jerry.You're the Jerriest Jerry on these forums yet). Someone on here might invite you for a drink.A word of advice : Do not go for it!He pays in the ''chocolata wallet'' currency.

Re: Never Argue With A German If You're Tired

PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2012 2:19 pm
by werner
You base your idea on what you seem to hear

Remove seem and I fully agree. I have a soundtrack and want to write down the lyrics. So I write down what I hear. (And I hear German words with remarkable good pronounciation throughout the song.) I will not write down what I think Grace intended to sing but didn't. And I will not write down what she should have song after having a quarrel with Paul and after car racing with Jorma and crashing. What ever Grace did with these guys and what ever happend may have been part of her inspiration for this song or not, I don't know and I don't care; it does not change a single word of what she sings.
And I do not believe that Grace went on stage or to the studio with the main intention to continue some fight with a lover. Grace's songs are fine art.

Surely her grammar ist not as good as the pronounciation and surely this text was not written by a german (nobody claimed it is). The main grammatical error is: she uses almost always (except in line#4 and #5) the infinitive form of verbs, without inflection.

Certainly the last line looks a bit like Dutch: "Ya das ben du"- "Ja, dat ben jij".

Sorry, you're joking, or more direct: that's nonsense. "Ja, dat ben jij" with dutch pronounciation does not sound like what she sings at all. Please see for the pronounciation of "jij".

Why I doubt the translation from Kantner? Because it is not what she sings.

Please don't mix up your interpretation, which is up to you, or your information what might have been the private background with what she really sings and what I can hear. It's lyrics in german language with bad grammar and good pronounciation.

Re: Never Argue With A German If You're Tired

PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2012 2:37 pm
by okeedoe
What do you make of Chaplin's ,,German'' in Ze Great Dictator,comrade Werner? You surely saw the movie.Would you be so kind to enlighten me ? What do you sink ?

Re: Never Argue With A German If You're Tired

PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 2:13 am
by redrabid
Good morning O.!
Cup of tea?
Oder eine Tasse Kaffee?

Re: Never Argue With A German If You're Tired

PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 3:18 am
by okeedoe
Get me a taze kafe.Schwarz. No,not schwanz ,you sissy .No zooker.
And get your sorry butt to the kuche unt machen mir a strawberry speise mit creme bavaroise fur fruhstuck .And I mean real cream.
I wouldn't want you to jerk off on my erdbeeren .And be schnell about it!