Wednesday, 24 May 2017

A luxury attic

Not long ago, a friend of mine was moving to Germany and looking for flats. She complained, on facebook, that the only kind of apartment to rent was Dachgeschosswohnung. I'm not great at German yet, so I let facebook translate it for me and it said that this word meant 'penthouse'. I took this to mean that she couldn't afford anywhere, as they were all luxury places and out of her budget, as this is the connotation of 'penthouse' in English.

What the word actually means is 'top floor flat', literally, and it's basically an attic. Now, while a penthouse is a top floor flat, it's not at all the same as an attic, which has a sloping roof and is small and non-luxurious, which is exactly what she meant when she made her complaint. Literal translation, yes, but a very different interpretation of the type of accommodation it refers to.

1 comment:

  1. Penthouses have historically come up in the world, not only from the side of a building to its top, but from "a shelter, a porch, a shed, an outhouse, etc." (OED3) to a luxury apartment. The word is ultimately a folk-etymologization of the learned appendix; it appears in Anglo-Norman as pentis, which already shows adaptation to French pente 'slope', presumably referring to the shape of a lean-to.