beruhigte wie beruhigende Züge

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by srk, Dec 9, 2012.

  1. srk Senior Member

    South Bend, Indiana
    English - US
    The following paragraph beginsthe story „Der Mantel“, by Alfred Polgar. The phrase I want to ask about is the one in bold type: “beruhigte wie beruhigende Züge”.

    Der Krieg dauerte schon länger als ein halbes Jahr, und die Pariser hatten sich an ihn gewöhnt. Die Maginot-Linie hielt fest, da niemand an ihr rüttelte. Das Gesicht des obersten Armeechefs, des Generals Gamelin, beruhigte wie beruhigende Züge, und die Gasmasken verschwanden aus dem Straßenbild; man sah sie nur noch, als silberfarbener Pappe nachgebildet, als Bonbonnieren in den Schaufenstern der Konditorien.

    This is one of the stories in a paperback anthology used to teach (me) German, is out of print, and is old enough to be turning to dust. I like the stories, have copied a few out, and am trying to translate them. Of course, this means not only understanding them, but making them into readable English. The rest of this story seems to have gone well for me, but I need help with both aspects for the phrase in question.

    Of the several meanings for Zug, the ones that I find that might fit are “facial feature” (Gesichtszug), or “breeze”(Luftzug), or “breath” (Atemzug). Which one I choose depends on the meaning I choose for “beruhigen”. Here, the possibilities I see are closer to one another: “calm”, “reassure”, or “soothe”.

    “Reassure” or “calm” seem only to fit with “facial feature”, and I really have to stretch that to mean “facial expression” or just “face”. In fact that’s the tentative choice I’ve made:

    The face of the army’s commanding general, General Gamelin, was calming in the way that calm faces are, and ....

    Calming breaths might work in the sense of taking deep breaths to calm one’s nerves, but that’s hard for me to pair up with a face on a billboard.

    I can’t make “breeze” make sense, because I don’t think that breezes are thought of as calming, rather they’re refreshing or pleasant. “Soothing” works a little better with “breeze”, but it’s also hard for me to match up soothing with a general’s face on a billboard. “Reassuring” doesn’t work with “breeze” either.

    Do you think that the choice I’ve made is OK, or have I missed the boat.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012
  2. Demiurg

    Demiurg Senior Member

    There's something missing. The original text reads:
    The meaning is: his face was calm and calming (to others).
  3. srk Senior Member

    South Bend, Indiana
    English - US
    You're right, Demiurg. I had lived with what I'd copied out for so long that I looked at it as gospel. I just missed those words. After I posted, I wondered "How do I know the face was on billboards?" Then I thought "Where else? Newsreels maybe, but what's the difference." Sorry to be sloppy. Thanks, and I'm glad to see that, even with the missing words, you read it much as I did.
  4. srk Senior Member

    South Bend, Indiana
    English - US
    I guess I don't like it anymore. With the missing words, I was looking at "beruhigte" as the past tense of "beruhigen". With the missing words, I'm not sure what it is. If it is past participle as adjective, I don't know what to do with the "e" on the end.

    Should I instead read "zeigte auf allen Bildern so ...." as "so zeigte auf allen Bildern, dass es beruhigte wie behruhigende Züge"?

    So I still need a lot more help. I believe Demiurg about the sense of the expression, but I've lost my way in understanding how to get to that sense.

    (And I hope somebody tells me that I can regularly read Zug as "facial expression" in the right context. "Facial feature" says "nose" or "chin" to me, neither of which can be calming.)

    Afterthought: Maybe all I'd need is a comma before "so", and it could be read as two separate thoughts: "zeigte auf allen Bildern" and "so beruhigte wie beruhingende Züge". If that's the case, shouldn't it have been in the original?
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012
  5. Demiurg

    Demiurg Senior Member

    You're right: "beruhigte" = past participle as adjective (calmed), "beruhigende" = present participle as adjective (calming). Both forms are inflected like adjectives, hence the suffix -e.

    so X wie Y = as well X as Y / both X and Y

    His face showed on all pictures both a calm(ed) and a calming expression.
  6. srk Senior Member

    South Bend, Indiana
    English - US
    I finally get it.

    Once I had looked at “beruhigte” as a verb attached to “Gesicht”, it was hard for me to release it to be attached to “Züge” as an adjective. That’s why I couldn’t deal with its final “e”. “so … wie” didn’t reach me with the meaning “as well as” either. (I didn't understand your formula at the end at first, but it must have stuck in my mind anyway, because once I had settled on "as well as" from your translation, the formula made sense too. Maybe it worked subliminally.)

    If I really do get it, a near literal translation is:

    The face of the army’s commanding general, that of General Gamelin, appeared in all pictures as calm as well as calming facial expressions.

    Thanks again!

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