Das Gemeine

The opening of Kanō datta *Gemeinismus ("The lost possibility of *Gemeinismus"), an essay in Ishikawa Mitsunobu's Saji wa usagi no mimi nariki ("Spoons were rabbits' ears"), a book about German etymology:

While visiting Asamushi Onsen in Aomori, Ibuse Masuji was asked by a local what people in Tokyo thought the title of Dazai Osamu's short story "Dasu Gemeine" meant. When Ibuse replied that he understood it was German for "common" or "mean", he was surprised when the local "said, quite taken aback, 'It's German?' It seems that in Tsugaru dialect, although the voicing of the consonants is a bit different, Ndasuke maine means 'That's why it's no good' or 'That's why I don't like it.' Dazai Osamu had never explained this to me." [Ibuse, Kaisetsu.] Observing that Dazai Osamu himself, in "On 'Dasu Gemeine'", also states quite clearly that he got the title "after reading — no, being made to read — Professor Koeber's 'On Schiller'", it is not hard to believe that he never mentioned a Tsugaru dialect connection to Ibuse.

Ishikawa further reports that an acquaintance raised in Aomori confirmed that maine was a common word in the Tsugaru dialect that could be translated "no good", but that ndasuke was used in Hachinohe dialect, in the south of the prefecture, and so it was unlikely that Dazai (born and raised in Tsugaru) would combine the two like that.

Nevertheless, the story is still doing the rounds.

(All of this is introductory to his main point, which is that gemein is morphologically equivalent to common, and so if Etienne Cabet hadn't invented the word communisme first, Marx and Engels might have published a Gemeinist Manifesto instead. Someone get Harry Turtledove on the phone!)

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