if the donkey were a cat

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perpend

Banned
American English
If the donkey were a cat it could climb a tree. But it is not a cat. Nevertheless, this is a question that worries many people. My answer to it is almost a little theological: I do not believe that this question will ever be asked.

This is from Spiegel. I hope the link works.
http://www.spiegel.de/international...t-juncker-athens-is-not-broke-a-764224-2.html

And this is from the NYT, and what prompted my query.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/27/w...s-divisive-figure-in-european-union.html?_r=0

Does anyone know what language that Juncker might have been thinking in, and if it was German (well, how closely is Luxembourgish related to German :confused:), what might have been the original version before he translated it into English in his head?
 
  • Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    Would work fine in German. But it works fine in English too. Does he even speak Luxemburgish? Even if somebody comes from Luxemburg there is no guarantee that he does. About one third of the population come from abroad, a whole lot of Luxemburg citizens are probably descendants of foreigners and the official language is French. I have seen supermarket cashiers who spoke English, German and French - nothing unusual there, but still no guarantee, that they speak Luxemburgish.

    Luxemburgish is approx. as closely related to High German as Low German is.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    Okay, I have to try it out: Wenn ein Esel eine Katze wäre, könnte er/es einen Baum hochklettern.

    That means nothing to me in German, as well. I guess I'm asking if this is sort of "Redewendung" mit einer bestimmten Bedeutung, die mir entgeht.

    In other words, what's the point and/or moral of the saying?
     

    Schimmelreiter

    Senior Member
    Deutsch
    what's the point and/or moral of the saying?
    Journalists tend to ask hypothetical what-if questions. Mr Juncker found the question he was asked even further removed from reality than the question What would happen if a donkey were a cat: Had he been asked the question about the donkey and the cat, he'd have been able to answer it by saying that if a donkey were a cat, it could climb a tree.
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    Maybe as short as: I don't answer hypothetical questions. They are useless.

    But nobody within his right mind would say that to a politics journalist.
     

    ablativ

    Senior Member
    German(y)
    Dr. Heiner Geißler (former German minister) shaped this sentence in answer to hypothetical questions: "Wenn die Katze ein Pferd wäre, dann könnte sie die Bäume hochreiten".
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    Okay---got it. Thanks everyone. I was looking for a deeper meaning where there isn't one. I understand now what the saying is saying. :)

    Interesting that Geißler's version is different (I realize the underlying meaning is the same), so it makes me think the saying in German may be widespread, and has regional variations.
     
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