# Understanding the word Schmutzdecke

#### fresh_42

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I find that this site https://www.waywordradio.org/ is very skillful in their ability to track down the origins of words and phrases.
First time I have serious trouble to understand my own language ...
schmutzdecke
n.— «After the filter has been operated for some time a gelatinous layer (Schmutzdecke of Piefke) is formed of such imperviousness that each square meter of surface will no longer furnish as much as 3 cubic meters (800 gallons) of water in twenty-four hours.…Whenever the demand for the filter is not too great it is allowed to rest after cleaning for some time, in the belief that those particles of the dirt deposit (Schmutzdecke) which have penetrated unto the lower layers will be oxidized under prolonged contact with the air.»

W(TH) are they talking about?

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#### anorlunda

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Wow, that's a tough one schmutzdecke. Looking at the report they link it sounds like "layer of dirt" or "dirt deposit", or less politely "crap."

#### sysprog

schmutze $≈$ dreck

#### fresh_42

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Wow, that's a tough one schmutzdecke. Looking at the report they link it sounds like "layer of dirt" or "dirt deposit", or less politely "crap."
Decke means a cover, either literally as a piece of cloth or as something covered by it, e.g. dirt = Schmutz. So Schmutzdecke is a layer of dirt or a cover you use in order to make it dirty instead of your cloths. Here it's probably the first: a layer of dirt (accumulated over the years).

But a) why the need for an import into English and b) is it really a layer of dirt or a cover not to get dirty? Btw. a dirty cover can also be named Schmutzdecke, as a cover which got dirty and now is a dirty+cover.

However, I did not understand the description at all: gallons? dirt per cubic meter?

#### sysprog

The description seems to be making reference to a befouled screen that due to its befoulment can no longer pass as much liquid.

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#### anorlunda

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But a) why the need for an import into English
The report seems to be based on an American who visited Europe in the 1800s. He observed how things worked there and reported back. He probably used some words the workers told him without understanding and without translation. He also may not have understood the practices he was trying to describe.

The origins of words are not necessarily logical. It is entirely plausible that some of our PF discussions based on people's misunderstandings could themselves become the basis of future language.

In Sweden, they had an academy or a board of experts who were the language police for the Swedish language. I think France has one also. Is there something like that in Germany?

Contrast that with English. My first name is Dick; a 4 letter word. There are hundreds (thousands?) of synonyms for that in English. It is trivially easy for a movie or even a popular YouTube video or a tweet to create new synonyms for that overnight. We have no language police.

#### fresh_42

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The "schmutz" part is Yiddish in origin. See https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/schmutz.
Yes, and cover is as interesting. Although cover and Decke are apparently of different origin (cover from Latin coperire, decken from old German deccen), they share the same constructions:
• the double meaning of a cover and to cover, literally and as metaphor for to hide
• ent-decken, auf-decken = dis-cover
• to cover a player = Spieler decken
• Decktransformation = covering transformation
I have only found one discrepancy: our stallions decken mares, whereas yours mate.

#### fresh_42

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In Sweden, they had an academy or a board of experts who were the language police for the Swedish language. I think France has one also. Is there something like that in Germany?
Well, regarding all the anglicisms and wrongly set apostrophes in the genitive there definitely should. We even have false imports of english words. Our cellphones are called "Handy" (pronounced english). The anglicisms are sometimes annoying. Since long we do not have Besprechungen anymore, no, we have meetings. If they have a poll or prize competition on tv, people are requested to vote (German conjugation: voten!) instead of abstimmen. And if you watch ads, you will get the impression you cannot sell anything anymore without some fancy english adjectives. And computer english adds up to it: e.g. to download is downloaden.

We have a standard lexicon for everything connected to language, a publisher for spelling, etymology, grammar etc.

And there is a famous, well, entertainer in a way, whose subject is the language: in books, readings on tv shows etc. He evolved to a quasi instance.

#### anorlunda

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I'm reminded with amusement of the 1980s. I lived in Sweden when the first computers with mice were imported. The instructions said, "Hold the mouse in your hand and ..." The Swedes giggled because mus in Swedish has the same slang meaning as beaver in English. The academics fussed and fumed and pretended to be greatly offended. They invented several ways to avoid saying mus, using only proper Swedish words. None of them stuck.

I am an anarchist when it comes to language.

BTW, it works two ways. I saw a car with the license plate MEINBEAMER, and a phrase frequently heard in Florida is "un six pack de cerveza." It's fun.

#### fresh_42

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I am an anarchist when it comes to language.
Yes, me, too. Problem is: you have to master a language before you can bend it. Many people confuse the direction.

#### dextercioby

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Well, regarding all the anglicisms and wrongly set apostrophes in the genitive there definitely should. We even have false imports of english words. Our cellphones are called "Handy" (pronounced english). The anglicisms are sometimes annoying. Since long we do not have Besprechungen anymore, no, we have meetings. If they have a poll or prize competition on tv, people are requested to vote (German conjugation: voten!) instead of abstimmen. And if you watch ads, you will get the impression you cannot sell anything anymore without some fancy english adjectives. And computer english adds up to it: e.g. to download is downloaden.

We have a standard lexicon for everything connected to language, a publisher for spelling, etymology, grammar etc.

And there is a famous, well, entertainer in a way, whose subject is the language: in books, readings on tv shows etc. He evolved to a quasi instance.
Economical globalization, moving 90% of production/manufacturing to China and having multinational companies led to the advance of English (mostly American English) into European languages over the past 30 years. I think the language who stood up best to this offense was the French. My Romanian is 3-4 times more corrupted than your German.
@bold part: das Duden?

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#### sysprog

Yes, me, too. Problem is: you have to master a language before you can bend it. Many people confuse the direction.
You must master horsemanship before you can reliably ride without tack, but to be a 4-horse carriage driver, you need little more than sitzfleisch (ausdauer bei einer sitzenden tätigkeit)
-- ability to endure/manage a sedentary activity.

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#### dextercioby

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Der Duden, yes.
Ich meinte das Duden (Wörterbuch). Duden is a name just like the French homologue Larousse, why should it have an article, and if, by absurd, it did, why would it be masculine?

#### sysprog

Well, it depends ...
Vous avez raison, aber das ist stunt fahren, mein guter Herr ;-)

#### fresh_42

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Ich meinte das Duden (Wörterbuch). Duden is a name just like the French homologue Larousse, why should it have an article, and if, by absurd, it did, why would it be masculine?
It is "das Wörterbuch" as the article is always the one of the last noun, book in this case. Why it is "der Duden"? I have no idea, presumably because it was a man. It is also "der Larousse" and "der Webster".

Especially funny is it when it comes to rivers. The Rhine is male and the Danube female. In French, they are both male. However, la Seine and la Loires are female.

#### sysprog

... the musical instrument that in England is 'the French horn', in France is 'le cor Anglais' ...

#### fresh_42

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... the musical instrument that in England is 'the French horn', in France is 'le cor Anglais' ...
Wikipedia says something else:
The common Horn is French horn in english and cor d'harmonie in french; Horn or Waldhorn in german.
Das Englischhorn (German) is cor anglais in french and english, and english horn as well.
They are two different instruments. The english horn isn't even a horn, it's an oboe.

#### diogenesNY

schmutzdecke - what a wonderful word!

One that I suspect your average New Yorker would intuitively grasp.

I plan to make an effort to include it into my everyday vocabulary!

diogenesNY

#### sysprog

Wikipedia says something else:
The common Horn is French horn in english and cor d'harmonie in french; Horn or Waldhorn in german.
Das Englischhorn (German) is cor anglais in french and english, and english horn as well.
They are two different instruments. The english horn isn't even a horn, it's an oboe.
I'll defer to your correction here -- I was recalling something that I thought I heard from a teacher decades ago --

... the 'French horn':

#### fresh_42

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That's what I said, too. I only added
The cor anglais (UK: /ˌkɔːr ˈɒŋɡleɪ/, US: /- ɑːŋˈɡleɪ/ or original French: [kɔʁ ɑ̃ɡlɛ]; plural: cors anglais) or English horn in North America, is a double-reed woodwind instrument in the oboe family.

#### sysprog

That's what I said, too. I only added
The cor anglais (UK: /ˌkɔːr ˈɒŋɡleɪ/, US: /- ɑːŋˈɡleɪ/ or original French: [kɔʁ ɑ̃ɡlɛ]; plural: cors anglais) or English horn in North America, is a double-reed woodwind instrument in the oboe family.
I accepted your correction of what I had said (from my post: "I'll defer to your correction here --"), and I agree with your point that a member of the oboe family is an oboe, and not really a horn.

#### fresh_42

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I had commilitones who played trumpet, resp. horn. It was often a party gag to make a competition who could longer blow a sheet of paper on the wall or play on a garden hose. The latter works astonishingly well, whereas the former is more of an exercise.

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