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October 2, 2006 » 12:55 am

Spiel und Leik

Two of my most excellent German-speaking associates (who also happen to be doing some of the best Wiki work in the world), Alex Schroeder and Christoph Sauer, responded to my recent question about German words for “play”:    (L9W)

MarkOehlert had a wonderful response to this. There are apparently two words for “play” in German. (I know one is “Spiel.” Can someone tell me the other?) One meaning of “play” describes the looseness that allows a wheel to turn. If there isn’t enough play, the wheel won’t turn. This latter meaning of play can be easier to rationalize in the workplace.  T    (L9X)

According to both Alex and Christoph, Spiel is used for both contexts of “play.” Christoph offered these examples:    (L9Y)

Das Rad hat zuwenig spiel. (“The wheel is not loose enough to turn” — spiel is used as a verb.)    (L9Z)

Das ist nur ein Spiel. (“It’s just a game.”)    (LA0)

However, my post also triggered this response from Rick Thomas:    (LA1)

I recognized the idea from the book Homo Ludens: a study of the play element in culture, by Johan Huizinga (1938). Amazing, recommended.    (LA2)

The other German root is leik or leikan, which connotes looseness, leaping, dancing. It has found its way into words related to erotic play: English lechery, German laich (spawn), Swedish leka (copulation).    (LA3)

By the way, this whole blogging thing is kinda cool. I think it might take off. I Think Out Loud, and I’m rewarded with instant responses from a few friends on the other side of the globe, plus I learn something new from someone totally new!    (LA4)

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