Berliner Schnauze June 7, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
…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?