Speaking German: Sun Tickle

Years ago, while I was lifeguarding part-time at our local Jewish Community Center, a German lady would come into the pool almost every day. She was very proud of growing up in Berlin, and would constantly tell everyone, even strangers, of this in the first minute. She was very cleaver at working this into the conversation

No one objected, but we did think it a little strange. After all, we’re a Jewish Community Center. Didn’t she realize some could be offended? But all of this is beside the point.  She was a native German which was all that mattered to me.

The sun shining in my eyes causes me to sneeze. It always has. It is an inherited trait, and does not affect everyone. I understand it is a tickle as the iris muscle closes in reaction to the bright light. Only one of my sons inherited it. The other son thinks we are both crazy.

I told this woman that I once worked with an old German guy who mentioned a German term for this trait, but that was years ago, and I forgot what he said. Did she have any idea what it was?

She thought for a moment, then said it probably was Sonne Kitzein, literally, sun tickle. I thought that sounded right, and thanked her. (It is probably spelled as one word in German.)

I did not see her for about a month, but when she again walked into the pool area, I waved and called out, “Sonne Kitzein, Sonne Kitzein!” She looked very puzzled and somewhat wary. I was probably mispronouncing it.

Sonne Kitzein,” I called out again. “Remember? Sun tickle?”

She burst out laughing. “Oh, yes! I thought you were saying Zunge Kussen, tongue kissing.”

RWalck@Verizon.net

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About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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