Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2011 July 12

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July 12[edit]

Michael Fassbender's German dialogues in X-Men : First Class[edit]

Can someone tell me about the level of Michael Fassbender's German dialogues in X-Men : First Class ? I am also curious to know about the level of the German dialogues uttered by Fassbender/Magneto's mother and those uttered by the former Nazis in the bar scene in Argentina. Thank you for any help. Philippe Laurichesse — Preceding unsigned comment added by Philippe Laurichesse (talkcontribs) 18:06, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

What do you mean by level? --Jayron32 18:10, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
First response for First Class. Sorry for the ambiguity. I meant level of competency (in German). PL — Preceding unsigned comment added by Philippe Laurichesse (talkcontribs) 18:47, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
The actor Michael Fassbender speaks German very well, if that's what you're wondering (see Inglourious Basterds, for example). Gabbe (talk) 19:29, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, in fact, that is what I am wondering. I was told by a German native that Fassbender's German was really bad, but I have my reasons to doubt this (obviously, since I am asking my question here). Furthermore, if at all possible, a commentary on Fassbender's German in X-Men : First Class would interest me more than a statement about his level of German in general (although all responses are welcome and appreciated). Philippe Laurichesse (talk) 20:36, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

Is this the end of the love ? I appreciated the previous responses, and hope that more are to come. The question, however ridiculous, plagues me and every new response can only add to the pile.Philippe Laurichesse (talk) 00:47, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

Well, I haven't seen First Class, and couldn't find any snippet online. If you or someone else have an example of diction by Fassbender's character, its mother, or in the bar scene in Argentina, then please provide a link. What I can say, is that Fassbender has a faint but distinctly British accent in Inglorious Basterds. It is deliberate, of course, in the plot. That is, two native German-speaking Nazis basically challenge his accent, by asking where he's from. His frantic answer (in a village near Piz Palü, paraphrased) is ridiculous to any native German speaker, with a sensitive ear, which both Nazi characters claimed to own (and proved by challenging him). I'd be surprised if a native German speaker interested in languages and accents would miss the faint yet clearly British accent in his quite long speech in the movie. Don't know whether Fassbender feigned it, but if he did, that was quite a feat (far more difficult than feigning a thick or average accent). ---Sluzzelin talk 03:21, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
I haven't seen or heard it myself, but here are some German comments. As one might have expected, the German dialogues are sometimes weird, wheras Michael Fassbender's spoken German is convincing. --Pp.paul.4 (talk) 09:11, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
Actually, his German is very good, near native as far as I can tell (being a native speaker myself), especially in the scene in Argentia...and much better than Kevin Bacon's which sounds really weird. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 109.42.62.188 (talk) 09:56, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
Even Kevin Bacon's English sounds weird. Everything about that man is weird. I have never believed he's a human being. (Someone had to say it.) -- Jack of Oz [your turn] 18:35, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
I realize you are jesting, but why do you think that Bacon is an extraterrestrial ?Philippe Laurichesse (talk) 09:06, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
I never said he's extraterrestrial. Just non-human. -- Jack of Oz [your turn] 20:15, 12 October 2011 (UTC)

Again, thanks for the supplementary reactions. I think I can conclude that Fassbender's German sounds pretty good, but not perfect. I can only conclude that the Germanophone native who said Fassbender's German was bad was being overly harsh. I also read (elsewhere) that Bacon's German was "pretty good" (or something to that effect) - but this last opinion seemed to come from non-Germanophone monolinguals, which speaks for itself, so I'm going to close this affair.Philippe Laurichesse (talk) 09:06, 16 July 2011 (UTC)

"For toffee"[edit]

I have noticed that there is a British expression "can't do something for toffee", meaning that a person simply can't do something at all, no matter how much he/she wants to, or other people want him/her to. What is the etymology of this expression? As a non-native English speaker, I have guessed it comes from "can't do something even if given toffee as a reward", but I have no idea whether this is correct. JIP | Talk 18:52, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

Yes you've got it! This confirms it.--TammyMoet (talk) 19:36, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
But why toffee? Ghmyrtle (talk) 19:41, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Maybe because it's sweet and therefore desirable. It may be related to "can't do X for love nor money", or "I couldn't do X to save my life" or "I couldn't do X if my life depended on it". Or "I wouldn't do that for all the tea in China". -- Jack of Oz [your turn] 19:45, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Unless it is polite for "can't do it for shit". After all, both treacle and honey are sometimes used as euphamisms for "shit"; see honey wagon. I don't see why toffee wouldn't be similarly used. --Jayron32 19:58, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
I think you have that the wrong way round. "Can't do it for shit" is a term employed only by vulgarians, obviously. Decent people use proper language. :) But the question must be asked: Why would shit or any of its euphemisms be so highly prized (even among vulgarians), as the expression seems to be suggesting? -- Jack of Oz [your turn] 20:40, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps the meaning is that if the person can't perform the task even if the only reward is shit, how much less can he do it when the reward is more desirable. Angr (talk) 20:52, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Maybe. But why would anyone even have an incentive to perform the task if the only reward were shit? Who'd bother, apart from a coprophiliac or a manure dealer? Give them money or sex or food or a knighthood or power or even a pat on the back, and then you might have a chance of them doing it. -- Jack of Oz [your turn] 21:45, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Potentially answering my own question, would it be because toffee was a particularly desirable form of sweet (= candy), before solid chocolate was invented (in 1847, apparently)? Ghmyrtle (talk) 20:46, 12 July 2011 (UTC)


My sense of it is that toffee is a trivial thing, something children like that's not very important. So if you can't do it for toffee, then you can't do it in even a trivial, unimportant way. --Trovatore (talk) 22:48, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
My experience is that when a Britishism uses some arbitrary word to mean something completely different, it's usually derived from Cockney rhyming slang. Doing a quick Google search for "toffee rhyming slang" only give toffee as the elided link word for coffee replacements (e.g. "Fancy a molten?" -> molten (toffee) = coffee), rather than being the result of the process, though. -- 174.31.204.164 (talk) 05:50, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
I live in east London and I've never heard of molten (toffee) = coffee, Bit of a long shot IMHO. Alansplodge (talk) 12:22, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, I should clarify that I make no representation as to the prevalence or to the correctness (as far as one can apply the concept of "correct" to slang) of the example given. It's simply an example I ran across when I did the web search, showing what I meant when I referred to finding toffee used as an "elided link word". -- 174.31.204.164 (talk) 16:21, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Huh. Here I thought molten for coffee came from "molten lava", partially as rhyming slang for "java" (itself slang for coffee) and partially in reference to the temperature coffee tends to be served at. Angr (talk) 11:01, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
The OED doesn't venture an etymology for this phrase, but its first attribution (from 1914) says "Their opponents cannot ‘shoot for nuts’ (or ‘for toffee’, as one Tommy more expressly put it)", which suggests, at least, that "toffee" was a colourful variant for "nuts". It takes "can't ... for nuts" back to 1895, but still does not attempt an explanation. --ColinFine (talk) 07:09, 13 July 2011 (UTC)