Ja, Voll? NEIN!

Posted on
Apr 28, 2009
Last week, the hubby and I found ourselves in Munich for National Beer Day (insert joke here about how every day is National Beer Day in Bavaria). The hubby had a beer, and I had Johannisbeer juice, which we determined, after a lengthy discussion that nearly involved diagrams, to be currant juice (clearly, I am a woman who lives on the edge). There was the prerequisite Oompa-oompa band, of whom I made the mistake of taking a photo. This sent them stumbling our way, requesting tips in drunken English. And of course, there was singing.

Lots of singing. Not that German is necessarily a good singing language. The only bits of German I know were from the time we learned to sing a translation of Frere Jacques in 6th grade, which mostly resulted in me and my friend Giselle sounding like we were coughing up a lung. Personally, I think we had potential, but we abandoned our interest in the German language roughly 15 minutes later.

But I digress. Back to the bar. After one particularly spirited chorus of “Helga is Sitting on My Pretzel” or something, everyone cheered, and my husband (who once studied in Germany and speaks enough of the language to avoid accidentally propositioning someone’s wife), shouted a hearty, “JA, VOLL!”

Our table fell quiet. When we asked what was wrong, one of our party explained that the expression “JA, VOLL” (yes, sir) had a bit of a “militaristic” connotation.

“It is something the Germans are a bit sensitive about,” someone explained.

“It’s okay,” I said. I pointed to my husband. “HE’S JEWISH!”

And with that, everyone cheered, and said, “Oh, it’s alright then!” and laughed.

A bit later, I realized how odd the whole thing was. Did my husband’s Semitic background just save us from committing some incredibly random faux pas? Is this the first time in history screaming “He’s Jewish!” has gotten someone out of trouble with the Germans? I’m still not sure. But I half expected John Cleese to pop out of the rafters screaming, “DON’T MENTION THE WAR!”

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