Kaisers-lautern or Kaiser-slau[gh]tern?

Chris F. Waigl chris at LASCRIBE.NET
Sun Jun 18 21:01:16 UTC 2006

On Sun, 2006-06-18 at 15:11 -0400, Joel S. Berson wrote:
> Is it Kaisers-lautern ["au" as in allow, as I was taught in junior
> high], or Kaiser-slautern [as in slaughter] as the ABC announcer at
> the World Cup has been vocalizing?  And what does "lautern" mean?

As Leonard Cohen already said, the name can be taken apart as
Kaisers-lautern. The S is a linking element ("Fugenelement" in German),
something that is extremely frequent between the two parts of a
compound. Many German speakers erroneously analyze the S as the mark of
a genitive or possessive (because it does often make sense to read a
noun of the form AsB as A's B). As for -lautern, Wikipedia is helpful:

Kaiserslautern received its name from the favorite hunting retreat of
Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa who ruled the Holy Roman Empire
from 1155 until 1190. The Lauter was then an important river that made
the old section of Kaiserslautern an island in medieval times.

The German version adds only little to the information in the resource
Leonard Cohen provided, if only that the first name of the settlement
appears to have been "Lutra", after the river, and that the first
documented use of the full name is in 1322, with the spelling
'Kaysersl├╗tern'. [As I read this, it's just a juxtaposition of the name
of the significant river with the word "Kaiser" (emperor), in an
allusion of a long-gone association between him and the place. This,
too, is very common.]

It has nothing whatsoever to do with slaughtering, of course.

Chris Waigl
Indeed, since I moved to London two months ago, Wikipedia has been a
spectacular resource to get the basics on any place, Tube station,
neighbourhood, bureaucratic rule etc. pp. Even their overview on the
local public transport card is much much better than that on the
official site.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list