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Berliner Schnauze June 7, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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…or Berlin gob, for the non-German speakers. The Berliners are awfully famous for it, for a good ten kilometres into Brandenburg at least, and they’re also awfully proud of it. But I’m not sure what it is, and if it should be something to be proud of at all. It might be as elusive and hard to pin down as the effing русская душа, or Russian soul, which I’ve never heard a good definition of either but which one Russian gent in Petrozavodsk, in an attempt to clear up the confusion (which involved stubbing a lit cigarette out on his hand), told me, succinctly, “It’s what we’ve got and what you haven’t.” But, anyway, if I’ve understood correctly, then Berlin gob is gob in a good and bad sense, but with the emphasis on the good. Sort of Yorkshire-like say-what-we-like-and-like-what-we-say, or Scouse… What is it that Liverpudlians have again? Is it charm or wit? Anyway, that Scouser cheeky chappy thing.

But I’m wondering if there’s an evolutionary morphological take on all this. Maybe Berliners are no more cheeky and witty and forthright than their comrades from Chemnitz, but maybe all the belief in it has so convinced them of their superior/inferior (delete as appropriate) gob that they’ve gone and… well, got strange gobs.

As this is part of a scientific paper I’ll be submitting for peer-review to some very important journal or other, probably in the States, even, ere long, I’ll back up my premise – or is this a theory? – with hard evidence. Facts, if you will. Today is a relatively glorious day. Glorious seeing as this has been the coldest summer since the Ice Age, apart from those hot ten minutes in May when we all thought we could put away the SSRIs for the rest of the season. Today I only needed a shirt and jumper as I paraded around the city centre – unintentionally contentious, claiming Berlin’s got a centre – but as I felt the frostbite set in, I thought it was time to hop onto a trusty tram and wend my way home. And I saw a gazillion cases of Berliner Schnauze in minutes. Perhaps it’s the season, now that Spargel’s done and dusted. (Or isn’t it, even? I grew up in a city.)

I got distracted at the tram-stop by news – yes, at the tram-stop – that Nicole Kidman has got married, or is about to marry. I slightly didn’t give a toss about that, of course, but I hadn’t noticed that tram-stops now had rolling news till today, although I have tried to check my e-mail at one before… Just as I was about to be fully engrossed by news of Ms. Kidman’s nuptials, I heard a (Gordon-)brownian drop of jaw with that smack of lip and sharp intake of breath behind me. I swung round to see a woman with a Pepsi-&-Shirley haircut – actually, it could even have been the blonde one of the two, age-wise, if she’s moved to Berlin and stayed loyal to that style – browning loudly and muttering, audibly enough for her imagined enemy to hear, at having to make a minuscule detour round a dog. Sometimes I feel awfully normal. Pepsi (or Shirley) wasn’t old. The detour didn’t make her miss a tram or anything. So perhaps it was just a sense of civic pride that made her brown, to show off to any Paraguayans or Angolans who happen to be in town for you-know-what that she wasn’t from Duisburg. Cow.

That first exciting incident was scarcely behind me when the next, also dog-related, bout of Schnauze-display was to the fore. I sat on the tram next to a Russian granny and granddaughter discussing the latter’s sixth birthday. “One year ago you were five, two years ago you were three,” and then she gave up before she got any more confused and they dashed off the tram in a fluster. I don’t think the granddaughter had noticed. Babushka might think she got away with it altogether. I should have piped up that I’d spotted the gaffe and ruined her day properly. But anyway… Schnauze. A drug-addled, or perhaps just horrible, youngish woman got on with a dog that was way too good for her. A loyal, well-groomed, kempt, slightly-depressed-looking beauty, and it paced around about its mistress’s feet for a millisecond before it had understood, dutifully, exactly which position to adopt. In that intervening millisecond, a quite obscenely dressed lady, with an early perm – early in perm-history terms, I mean, not that she’d just had it done, though she might have, but it was an awfully bad job if so – was delayed for the aforementioned time by the beautiful dog from taking her seat in the tram that was no doubt transporting her homewards for an afternoon and evening feast of quiz shows, courtroom dramas and, I shouldn’t wonder, cuisine that involved unfresh vegetables. There was the brownian jaw, the accompanying sound effect, and a mutter loud enough to be heard by the dog, its mistress and everyone within an appropriate Schnauze radius. Luckily, the mistress was too mad to notice.

Now hasn’t there been some campaign or other in time for the World Cup where we all get a Blue-Peter-style badge which miraculously transforms us – he says, temporarily becoming a rude, gruff Berliner – into scouts and brownies (nothing to do with slack jaw), always willing to lend a hand to a Ghanaian football fan who’s got on the wrong S-Bahn and ended up in Frohnau? Has this Berlinizing, then, come to nothing? Can not even the World Cup and the promise of saccharine smiles and everyone going happily about their business turn ‘us’ Berliners into paragons of politeness and, well, urbanity? Or is it dyed yellow hair and gob for the long haul? Oder wat?

Comments»

1. Bowleserised - June 8, 2006

I have some great tales of Snout in Action, though on second thoughts they all belong to Radio Free Mike. I should let him post them…
It’s alive and well, that’s true.

2. BiB - June 8, 2006

I was once called an Arschloch for not letting a gent off a tram at the right speed, (maybe the Schnauze is heightened by the sniff of a tram) but that didn’t strike me at the time as especially Berliner, although it was the first time I’d been randomly abused on the street. (Here, I mean. Obviously I’ve had random street abuse before. Was it your pal Chenda who was once bullied by a gaggle of 12-year-olds on Helmholtzplatz?) A mad woman once punched me on the Tube, and then apologised, but I didn’t think of it as Londoner Schnauze galore, more just straightforward barkingness. I wonder if we were on ‘a Barking train’ – my favourite London Underground announcement – at the time…

3. leon - June 8, 2006

I can’t say I saw any Snout when I visited, but I just may have been completely oblivious to it.

4. BiB - June 8, 2006

Leon – short for chameleon, no doubt – you are good. You’d be a perfect immigrant to Berlin, even observing the capital letter for a German noun in English. What a gent. Haven’t all our tales of cheap rents and the higher quotient of gorgeous babes tempted you away from the Big Smoke yet?

5. leon - June 8, 2006

I’d love to, but my nagging feeling I ought to be hanging around in London and attempting to start a ‘real’ career is holding me back a bit.

Am certainly going to try and visit again soonish, mind you, before most of the rest of London relocates there, as it currently appears to be doing…

6. BiB - June 8, 2006

No, you’re quite right to stay and pursue a career. I still haven’t forgiven myself for emigrating to Russia when I was still basking in the glory of quite glitteringly good degree results and think I should have stayed and guaranteed myself an equally glittering job. Still, no time for regrets. I wouldn’t have met the Russian, wouldn’t be in Berlin, wouldn’t be utterly skint etc. etc.

7. Wyndham - June 8, 2006

Gosg, Bib, you’re terribly observant. Whenever I leave the house I keep my head down and just look at people’s shoes. But I’m going to take a leaf out of your book and drink in a good, long look at everyone’s business.

Pepsi, or Shirley, by the way – the blonde one, anyway, married Martin Kemp off of Spandau/Enders. There you go.

8. BiB - June 9, 2006

Ross, what’s-her-name-the-editor-of-some-trashy-newspaper’s husband, was always my favourite Eastenders Kemp. At a particularly low ebb, I had to video an episode when I knew he’d be taking his brake-fluid-and-engine-oil-bespattered t-shirt off. Entertainment must have been thin on the ground…

9. Bowleserised - June 9, 2006

Well, if you believe everything Popbitch says, you had good reason to…
I believe everything in Popbitch, personally. It makes life more interesting.
RFM’s tale of snout at the restaurant SV really did seem to be snout proper. Maybe I’ll type it up if he doesn’t get round to it.

10. daggi - June 9, 2006

BiB: Rebekah Wade, yes, spelt like that.

my nagging feeling I ought to be hanging around in London and attempting to start a ‘real’ career is holding me back a bit

Leon, son, shouldn’t you hang around a bit here first before you then start that career in London and it gets too late?

11. BiB - June 9, 2006

Did Popbitch say something lovely about Ross Kemp? Is he a famously good lover, or something? I once read the same about George Michael, by one of his many ex-girlfriends, which just might not have been true, in hindsight. Or maybe he was. Does Popbitch know?

Daggi, you wicked old tempter-away-from-careers, you. Leon, do you mean a glittering career is in the offing or has even already begun? Daggi, B., can’t we go into business together doing something – I have no idea what – that demands no start-up capital and will make us rich beyond our wildest dreams in no more than a week, or ten days at a push? (Daggi, have you already left your job, by the way? Are you abandoning us for the provinces?)

12. leon - June 9, 2006

Everything is distinctly unglittery at the moment, it has to be said.

[daggi] You have a point.

13. Michael Scott Moore - June 9, 2006

Snout story (sorry this is late, and I hope it’s the right one): There’s a waiter at a local restaurant who’s always insufferably slow and prickly, I think because he’s not “really” a waiter. We ordered Guinness from him once and then sat there until I forgot why we were even in the restaurant. Finally I asked the man if our Guinness was still on the way. I realize good Guinness takes a while, but I had a feeling he’d just left it sitting there under the taps. Which, I think, he had, because he came back immediately with the drinks and said sharply, auf Deutsch, “I timed your drinks and it has been exactly nine minutes, which is not too long for beer.”

Tetchy. It was longer than nine minutes. Now I go in there just to harass him.

14. Michael Scott Moore - June 9, 2006

Oh — that’s the wrong story. “SV” is Staendige Vertretung. That one involved a waitress who served us schnapps, “us” meaning B. and some family and friends. An old German friend who still considers himself charming to women (and I think he is) complained amiably to the waitress that one glass had less schnapps than another. He of course wanted to charm a little more booze out of her. But she snapped back, just as amiably, that both schnapps levels were over the regulation line of 2 cl (or whatever). “Don’t complain so much, papa,” she said and went off to her other tables.

15. BiB - June 9, 2006

Glorious rudeness, although at least the second case was witty too. Was your pal crestfallen?

I’ve been bollocked by a waiter for not warning him in advance that I planned to pay with a card and he’d had to walk ALL that way from our table to the till to get the bill, but I thought that was queeny huffiness rather than local Schnauze. And a bouncer at a club recently told me he was having two of my cigarettes whether I liked it or not, and I didn’t complain, obv, seeing as he was about 200 kilos of sheer brawn. I think he was the real deal. I looked a bit flustered at his ‘request’ at first, and he copped that I was some stupid foreigner. “Sprichst du Sprache oder wat?” he bellowed, blowing down all shoddy structures within a fairly large radius. (Actually, this was on Alexanderplatz. The Fernsehturm withstood the blast.)

Leon, glitter is just around the corner, I’m sure of it. Become London’s first straight drag queen, or something…

16. Michael Scott Moore - June 9, 2006

Nah, he wasn’t crestfallen. Just one-upped by a city girl. She smiled while she said it, so I’m not sure it counts as snout.

17. Bowleserised - June 9, 2006

I don’t like to imagine what it would take to make in crestfallen. He’s not the type. I’d hate to see it too.

Popbitch likes to hint that Mr Kemp is “in the gayers”, as they so charmingly put it, BiB. So!

When do we start the greasy spoon, anyway? I’m sure it would make us fabulously wealthy, or at least just fabulous. I once did a day course on being a drag queen*, and failed (not too bothered), but I can recommend the teacher, Leon, if you fancy taking BiB’s career tips.

*I was sent to do it, best girl reporter style, rather than choosing it out of preference. There is a very good female drag queen on the circuit in London though (not a drag king. That’s other altogether)

18. daggi - June 9, 2006

Do you mean that’s over altogether? I’ve seen Drag King”z” a few times (well, twice). One of them looked a great deal like Phill “Porky” Jupitus. Perhaps it was him.
He can open our caff.

I’m still here. Only another 3 weeks, mind you. On the earning money front, I’ve got a Steuernummer so I’m all raring to go. But what is mainly worrying me at this exact moment, is why anyone would go to the Ständige Vertretung? Voluntarily. Was it a “spot unknown Rhineland CDU-Mitglieder des Bundestags”-event? I could go and spot Merkel if I wanted to, according to the Zitty, her favourite restaurant is a cat’s jump, I mean a stone’s throw (or a tortoise’s throw?) from me.

19. Michael Scott Moore - June 9, 2006

It was a “show the 70-year-olds some authentic Berlin” evening. They sought it out. In fact they found it before I could show it to them, and they liked it so much they went three times.

20. BiB - June 10, 2006

Haven’t been to that restaurant. But I’ve now visited its website and I see it’s just round the corner from a clap-clinic, one of the first addresses any gay Berliner who wants to take you under their wing gives you. So friendly, the locals…

What are Drag KingZ? Well, I suppose I can guess. Are they any good? And what do they sing? Frank Sinatra?

B., Grant Mitchell in the gayers? I’m quite excited, but I’m afraid he’s the type, rather like Prince William, who hasn’t kept his looks. And I know it’s naughty of me, but I slightly can’t forgive bald types for going bald.

21. daggi - June 10, 2006

You know “gay” is purely youth slang meaning “rubbish” these days, don’t you. I’m in with the youth, I’m a BBC governor.

http://www.kingzofberlin.de – I can’t tell whether “Nick van Dyke” or “Tiger Tom” is really Jupitus. Indeed, they could all be.

22. BiB - June 11, 2006

I didn’t know gay now meant crap, but maybe we queens should be glad to be naff. The latest Russian slang word for a queen is Achtung, which might be a sign of a less favourable tendency.

23. daggi - June 25, 2006

Does that mean Germans are all gay, like that French minister-elle once said about the English?

24. BiB - June 26, 2006

Oh, dear old Mme. Cresson. Well, half of me wishes she was right, of course, but I suppose I should support breeding programmes really, what with us being an endangered species ‘n all. Berlin certainly seems a more gay place than Paris, though I suppose Germans are no more gay than Froggies or our pals back on the island. They ARE better-looking though.


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