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This weird sentence comes from a Süddeutsche Zeitung article “Wie Sie im Akkord Vokabeln lernen können”. The article talks about association techniques in memorizing foreign words. The sentence in question was meant to help German learners of English memorize the English word nude. Here's a portion of the paragraph, where the sentence appeared:

"Je bescheuerter die Assoziationen, die Bilder und Verknüpfungen sind, desto besser bleiben sie haften", versichert Geisselhart [ein deutscher Autor und Gedächtnistrainer], ein bisschen "Schweinkram" dürfe ruhig dabei sei. Viel später am Tag will er uns die Vokabel "nude" denn auch mit dem Merksatz "Am Nackten sieht man die Nudel" einprägen

I don't understand the meaning of "Am Nackten". I could not find a masculine or neutral noun "Nackten", which would allow for "am Nackten".

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    Nu­del, die Wortart: Substantiv, feminin 6. (salopp) Penis – tofro Jul 16 '16 at 14:07
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    What is your problem with the sentence? How do you parse the sentence? – Carsten S Jul 16 '16 at 16:32
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    @EugeneStr. "Der Nackte" -> The nude guy – tofro Jul 16 '16 at 19:02
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    I don't think there's a charming phrase like "Eselsbrücke" in English. Literally, it would mean something like a helpful bridge that the donkey (stereotyped as quite dumb) needs to reach the shores of memorization :D A similar English expression would be "memory hook" or "mnemonic". – Henning Kockerbeck Jul 16 '16 at 22:00
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    @Mala agreed. It seems I did the donkeys wrong, by the way. The phrase doesnt' refer to the donkeys stereotypical dumbness, but to the fact that they're very reluctant to go into the water. Because of the reflection of the water's surface, they can't estimate the depth well, so they don't like to cross streams, for example. You have to build them bridges: German Wikipedia, Englisch article by the German embassy – Henning Kockerbeck Jul 31 '16 at 10:25
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"Nudel" ("noodle") is one of the many words to describe the male penis. In the sentence

Am Nackten sieht man die Nudel.

the "am" is short for "an dem". So the long form (no pun intended in this context) would be

An dem Nackten sieht man die Nudel.

which would translate to something like

On the naked guy, you can see the noodle.

According to Mr. Geisselhart, this a bit racy memory hook is meant to make the connection between "nackt" ("naked" or "nude") and "Nudel", so you can memorize the word "nude" easier.

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This is a case where there are two synonymous English words, one of German, and one of French origin. The "classic" example is chaise-chair (French), and Stuhl-stool (German).

Here, "naked" and "nude" are two synonymous words, with the first being derived from the German nackt, and the second from the French word "nu," and this was a humorous way to teach German speakers the French-based English synonym.

"Am nackten" refers to a naked person, so the phrase literally translates to "(On) a naked person (man) one can see the 'Nudel.'" This would refer to a man's "noodle-like" private parts, but is also a mnemonic for helping people remember the French-based synonym "nude" for "naked."

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  • I'm not sure your literal translation is correct. Am Nackten can refer to a man, to nakedness in general, but not a woman (An der Nackten); therefore I am not sure how you get to 'In a person'. The general nakedness would be without 'person', just the concept...no? – Mala Jul 30 '16 at 23:48
  • @Mala: The translation was somewhat contextual. A more common scenario would be, "one can see a person's nakedness." But here, the context was "one can see a person's "nudel." So one sees the "nudel" in the context of a person's nakedness. – Tom Au Jul 30 '16 at 23:51
  • I understood it more as 'On (attached to) the naked man, one can see the nudel'. – Mala Jul 30 '16 at 23:53
  • @Mala: I'll change it to "on" That's a better translation. Thank's for your help. – Tom Au Jul 30 '16 at 23:54
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    Hmm, Seems I didn't get my point across. It feels really weird to me to see 'Am Nackten' translated as 'A person's nakedness'. It means something like 'On the naked man/attached to the naked man'. If you would interpret 'Am Nackten' to mean the concept of nakedness (In nakedness), then there's no person involved, just the pure concept of nakedness. But I'm no language scientist, just a native speaker, so who knows ;) – Mala Jul 31 '16 at 0:03

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