Mann, wer hätte das gedacht, dass es einmal soweit kommt #PlagueSongs, no. 21

The balloons are not red, and there is no toy shop. The narrator doesn’t dream of red balloons either. But, like its English-language counterpart (“99 Red Balloons”) Nena’s “99 Luftballons” (1983) is about an accidental, apocalyptic war triggered by 99 balloons. Luft means air, and ballon means balloon. So, literally, a luftballon is an air…

Ruth Krauss in German

How do you translate children’s colloquial speech — with its flexible syntax, unusual diction — into another language?  In celebration of Ruth Krauss’ 119th birthday (or what she would have called her 109th birthday), I’ll sketch two possible answers to that question by looking at A Hole Is to Dig in the language her grandmother spoke: German!…