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While perusing this question, I generally was at least able to understand what all of the playful examples of word repetition meant. There was one, however, that left me completely baffled.

Selbst wer dort, wo alles verkehrt verkehrt, verkehrt verkehrt, verkehrt verkehrt und wird bestraft.

I know the meaning is probably silly and nothing you'd ever use in a reasonable conversation, but I still can't make heads or tails of it. What does this mean, and what role do all the instances of "verkehrt" play in this kind of structure?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 14 down vote accepted

The sentence plays with two meanings of verkehrt:

  • verkehrt as in Sie sind hier verkehrt! (You are wrong here!)
  • verkehrt as in Wir verkehren nicht mit diesen Leuten! (We do not keep company with these people!)

If you substitute the 1st one with falsch for example, the sentence would be easier to understand:

Selbst wer dort, wo alles falsch verkehrt, falsch verkehrt, verkehrt falsch und wird bestraft.

Thus, a translation could be (according to English grammar, the order of the parts is different now):

Even if one deals wrong with someone at a place where all deal wrong with each other, he still deals wrong and will be punished.

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I must appreciate the answer by Geziefer, because I was unable to parse the sentence on my own; but I think there is something missing. We have a common Yiddish expression "Punkt verkehrt!" which means, "quite the contrary", or "just the opposite"; and I think the third instance of verkehrt in this puzzle corresponds to this meaning. So I would translate the sentence more or less as:

In a place where every one deals improperly with othere, the person who, to be contrary, deals (properly), is therby conducting himself improperly and will be punished accordingly.

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Indeed, it could also be that in that negative world, someone who acts negative again, acts negative for those people - does that make sense? Anyway, both translations might be correct. What's especially nice on that example, that it's not only the same sound or even letters, but also the exact same spelling with lowercase letters. –  Geziefer Feb 3 '12 at 19:16
To convey this meaning, the sentence needed to skip the word "Selbst" (= sogar = even), it wouldn't make sense otherwise, because "selbst" indicates the opposition of all people's behaviour towards the law, not the opposition of one person towards all others. EVEN – as presumably the behaviour with the smallest probability of getting punished – doing exactly the same as all the others do, you're on your own before the law if you violate it. –  Martin Schwehla Feb 15 at 12:35
Yes, good call. I think my interpretation is probably inconsistent with the qualifier "selbst". –  Marty Green Feb 15 at 15:18

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