The twelve days of (alternative) Christmas

Holiday best wishes to all Dr Aust’s readers (all four of them).


As a bit of light seasonal fare, I decided on a Christmas song. Others may like to invent their own versions.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,

My true love sent to me

Twelve healers “healing”

Eleven chiros suing

Ten psychic surgeons

Nine worthless journals

Eight random needles

Seven magic crystals

Six placebo pills

Five sessions of homoeopathy (Or:  “Five alternative realities” )

Four nutritionistas

Three imagined allergies

Two crank diets

And a fictitious Ph.D. !



14 Responses to “The twelve days of (alternative) Christmas”

  1. Martin Says:

    Brilliantly done sir!

  2. apgaylard Says:

    To bowdlerise Comic Book Guy: best review of the year ever!

  3. Maxine Says:

    Very funny – and of course it is the quality of the readership, not the quantity, that counts.
    Now, all you need are two more commenters and you have disproved the thesis in your post.

  4. pleick Says:

    Come to think of it, most of the numbers in your post seem to be a bit low… but the end, as always, justifies the means.

  5. draust Says:

    Ah well.

    Sometimes in writing one has to sacrifice fanatical accuracy in search of a greater truth… or at least of a more acute parody.

    One of the reasons that it can be fun writing a blog, rather than just scientific papers.

    PS Thanks all for the kind remarks. And Maxine, I don’t know if you’ve looked at the rest of the blog, but this post might interest you, if you’ve not read it already.

  6. Sceric Says:

    hello doc,

    as with this comment you have more than 4 readers, ot was that fishing for quantity?? Or were you taliking about the multiple personalities of “your” Russian (?) admirer??

    seasonal greetings and a readerloaded 09

  7. draust Says:

    Vielen Dank, Eric

    Actually I would guess the blog probably has around a hundred or so “regulars”, but unless I pay to get some fancier “user statistics” I cannot find out. Anyway, as I wrote once before, the illusion of readers is probably enough for me.

    Fröhliche Weihnachten usw.

  8. John H Says:

    und ein erfolgreiches gesundes Jahr 2008

  9. John H Says:

    . . . . . . . . . . which would have made even more sense if it said “2009”

  10. draust Says:

    Genau, John. At the risk of promulgating national stereotypes, and offending my German readers, one must be precise wenn man Deutsch spricht… Not a language – or indeed a people, in the cartoon English stereotype of die Deutschen – given to wasting words on inconsequentialities.

    Zum Beispiel, Dr Aust and an Australian mate once had to take a slightly complicated train ride from Freiburg to Munich, changing once en route. The snag was that there was only five minutes leeway for the change of train. To anyone with a lifetime’s experience with British trains this would be a five-star f*!*-up waiting to happen.

    Train from Freiburg arrived on time, Dr Aust and friend, having enjoyed a few bottles of excellent Weizen on the train, tumble out of carriage hauling large bags, search frantically for platform indicator, tank round complicated subway to other platform, arrive panting, sweaty and slightly incoherent on platform for Munich train to be met by immaculately turned-out uniformed railway Beamter (official).

    Dr Aust (pointing at train): “Fährt dieser Zug nach München?”

    Beamter: “Also natürlich. Wohin anders?”

    Transl: Q: “Does this train go to Munich?” A: “Of course. Where else [would it be going]?”

    PS Mrs Dr Aust is adamant that this story actually shows that the Beamter in question had a sense of humour.

  11. John H Says:

    My German is probably a bit rusty as I have not lived there since 1966.

    I go to see friends in the Black Forest occasionally and they visit us in England so I get the odd chance to practice. I seem to do all right with words but forget the grammar.

    I think the Herr Beamter was just being literal as is the wont of my German friends (and my colleagues from our German office). I asked the same question twice of Angelika and was told in no uncertain terms that “I have already told you that”. In English this is sarcastic fighting talk but she was just being literal.

    And down south they speak slightly differently to up north – as indeed they do in many countries I suppose. I don’t know but assume they speak HochDeutsch dahn sarf. It is certainly difficult to differentiate between pfirsich and vierzig as they seem to lisp a bit more than up north.

    My favourite play on German words was taught to me round about 1963 and has stuck in my brain ever since.

    Woman walks into bakery. Addresses baker:

    W: Morgen
    B: Morgen
    W: Brot
    B: Nein
    W: Morgen
    B: Morgen
    W: Morgen
    B: Morgen

    I guess it would work just as well in English.

    And you could never accuse the Germans of wasting words – or at least letters. They must have the longest words of any European language as they have a tendency to use portmanteau words which are quite logical to understand (on paper, if not necessarily in spoken form).

    My friends do not understand why they cannot get decent German wine in the UK. Neither can I – I always ssumed they kept the good stuff for themselves and exported the dross to whoever is dim enough to drink it (us mainly).

  12. draust Says:

    I always enjoyed the compound words in German. I rather like the idea of being able to make up new ones, preferably as long and complicated as possible…!

    The German dialects “down south” can be a lot more than just a bit different from the Hochdeutsch (standard German) spoken in the North, of course. The one I have heard the most is Bayerisch (Bavarian), which I find completely impenetrable as almost all the words seem to be quite different. Though maybe that’s just me.

    Most people in even “tiefsten” (darkest / deepest) Bavaria can speak Hochdeutsch, but in the bit of rural Bavaria I have spent time in they often only learn it as a kind of second “official” language once they go to school aged six. It is a little bit analogous to a kid who speaks nothing but thick Geordie at home, and with all his mates, going to school and then being made to speak “BBC English” there.

  13. pleick Says:

    Especially in the south of Germany, people will usually be very proud of the way they can speak their native dialect. Perhaps you have heard of the slogan of Baden-Württemberg: “Wir können alles… außer Hochdeutsch”
    Let me assure you that deepest Bavarian dialect (and you have to distinguish here between Oberbayern, Niederbayern, Franken,…) is mostly gibberish for people like me who grew up in the north of Germany. And it is meant to be that way.
    My survival in Swabia is facilitated by the fact that the large cities and their surroundings are full of economic refugees like myself.

    By the way, I’d say Mrs. Dr. Aust is correct: der Beamte hatte Sinn für Humor. But the world, even in Germany, is changing, nowadays, they are no longer Beamte but normal employees.

  14. draust Says:

    The Bayerisch I was so utterly flummoxed by was from rural Oberbayern, roughly inzwischen München und Ingolstadt, Philippe.

    I am comforted to know that it is baffling for native Hochdeutsch speakers, as well as for foreigners who learnt Hochdeutsch at school.

    In a similar vein, my Australian drinking buddy from my long-ago trip to Freiburg and München was a fluent German speaker – he had worked for three years in a lab in Hamburg and then returned to Australia with a wife from Celle. But a feature of our trip was that he would do the talking in shops, restaurants, bars, etc. to be met regularly by silence and a puzzled expression. Usually we would only get apparent comprehension when he said things for the second, or even third, time. Indeed, my halting Schulehochdeutsch sometimes seemed to work better than his idiomatic stuff. Mrs Dr Aust explained to me many years later that this would almost certainly have been because people recognised my friend’s German as thoroughly Northern, and were, as we Brits would say, “winding him up”.

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