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"What does this German expression mean?" Topic

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Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2019 4:12 a.m. PST

Das meiste davon stammte allerdings von Überläufern, die Gneisenau zunächst als die üblichen Tatarenmeldungen oder sogar als bewusste Irreführungen französischer Agenten abgetan hatte.

"Most of it came of course from deserters, and Gneisenau had initially dismissed it as the usual Tatarenmeldungen or even as deliberate disinformation from French agents."

So Tatarenmeldungen seems to mean literally "Tartar reports". IHNI what that is supposed to convey. Is it a German idiom for "false alarm"?

advocate28 Jan 2019 4:16 a.m. PST

Unsubstantiated rumour?

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2019 4:21 a.m. PST

That's the sense of it, isn't it? I have never come across it before, however, and I am wondering if it is in some way era-specific, i.e. having some sense such "as reliable as a rumour of Cossacks nearby in the 1812 campaign".

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2019 4:57 a.m. PST

Makes sense. But so would "as reliable as the reports we got from Cossacks in the 1813 campaign." And it could even reflect poorly on those Bosniaks of Frederick the Great.

Language can be a lot of fun that way. Who today in the United States hears "paddy wagon" and thinks of the Irish?

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2019 5:12 a.m. PST

@ robert

Yes, that's true. "As reliable as a report of Tartars" or "As reliable as a report from Tartars". Either seems possible.

The German word for Cossack is Kosak, but I am not sure whether German writers call Cossacks Cossacks or whether they call them something else (like the French call the British the English, for example).

Re paddy wagon, likewise jerrycan and Germans!

von Winterfeldt28 Jan 2019 5:20 a.m. PST

advocate is spot on, it has nothing at all to do with Bosniaken of Fredericus Rex.

Oliver Schmidt28 Jan 2019 5:25 a.m. PST

It means a plainly invented news, which still seems probable. The expression seems to go back to a British newspaper article in 1854, in which the fall of Sevastopol was announced, the news allegedly having been carried by a Tartar courier:


Oliver Schmidt28 Jan 2019 5:32 a.m. PST

A tartar courier from Varna (the highlighted article):


Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2019 5:39 a.m. PST

Fabulous, we live and we learn: a report that, while seemingly plausible, is in fact completely invented. What we would today call "fake news"….

"Most of it came of course from deserters, which Gneisenau had initially dismissed as the usual fake news or even as deliberate disinformation from French agents."

Many thanks all!

@ Oliver: great finds, both. How embarrassing to have announced officially the fall of Sevastopol based on an inaccurate verbal despatch….

bsrlee28 Jan 2019 6:23 a.m. PST

So, for Australians, the equivalent of 'furphy' – a usually false rumor.

From the name of manufacturer of water carts for the Australian forces in the Middle East during WW1, where it was assumed these rumors spread while the men were filling their water bottles. Furphy is still in business and has offered to repair original water cart tanks for free, the tank ends being cast iron and usually survive while the sheet iron middle rusts away.

skipper John Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2019 7:22 a.m. PST

Fake news!!

Winston Smith28 Jan 2019 9:29 a.m. PST

Fake news! I'm triggered!

whill428 Jan 2019 10:24 a.m. PST

Yes. Triggered. You should given a trigger warning so I could go to my safe space. :)

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2019 12:05 p.m. PST

Ah, now we are deep into etymology--or maybe philology. 4th Cuirassier, how old is the document you quote? Was it written before or after that 1854 event?

Von Winterfeld, I am not deliberately slandering the Bosniaks--fine fellows every one, I'm sure--but what a word of phrase means is not the same as the derivation of that word or phrase. We all agree Tatarenmeldung signifies unreliable information. But there is a reason the word is not Hollandermeldung or Amerikanermeldung. That report on Sevastopol makes sense as an origin point--but not if Gneisenau himself used the word. If you find a report saying someone's been mesmerized, you want to be sure it was written during or after the life of Franz Anton Mesmer.

evilgong Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2019 1:05 p.m. PST

As hinted in the article above, in eastern parts, a Tartar was both an ethnicity and a work title as a messenger – not necessarily an ethnic Tartar.

No idea why German speakers would consider them unreliable.

David F Brown

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2019 1:37 p.m. PST

@ robert

It's a modern account of Waterloo published in 2015

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2019 2:11 p.m. PST

Thank you, 4th Cuirassier. So the author may have been putting words--or in this case, one word--into Gneisenau's mouth. The sentiment may be spot on without being a word used in 1815.

I can see the Germanic point. The reports coming out of the east would be from a long way away and not readily verified. "News from Bree" as it were. You should see US newspapers reporting the French Campaign of 1814, and I understand Irish newspapers used to invent slave uprising in the American south to cover slow news days.

But now, of course, I can be sure professional news organizations verify every story.

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