It’s not the words’ fault — they are perfectly innocent and good. But they bear a stigma for me, owing to World War II and the Holocaust. I am talking about some German words, and I talk about this issue — a strange one — in my column today. That item brought this letter, from a retired U.S. Navy commander:
Your musings about German words and expressions, and how they bear freighted meanings for us, took me back 48 years ago, when I was a midshipman at the Naval Academy studying German. The custom was for one midshipman to assume the position of section leader and present the class muster to the professor. We did this auf Deutsch, of course. “Section leader” in German is rendered “Der Abteilungs Führer” — which never ceased to evoke a snicker at the beginning of class.
One can imagine.