3

This question may be more about German reference work conventions than about the turn of phrase in the title. (In which case, let the title refer to my current state of mind.)


I found this definition for the turn of phrase in this post's title:

neben der Kappe sein (ugs.): einen schlechten Tag haben, geistig und körperlich nicht gewohnt leistungsfähig sein

I understand what the two parts (separated by the comma) of the definition say, but I cannot make sense of the whole. Usually, I would have expected the second part to be either a qualification of the first, or possibly a paraphrase of it. Here it seems that it's an entirely second meaning, but it is disconcerting that two different meanings are separated by a mere comma. Am I missing something?

FWIW, the two meanings I see are

  1. have a bad day
  2. be mentally and physically unaccustomed to performance (or efficiency)
2
  • 2
    Not the focus of the question, but perhaps anyway interesting - especially when somebody reads this questions in search of the expression "neben der Kappe": I have never heard this being used in standard German (Hochdeutsch). However, it is very common in Swabian dialect, there however pronounced "näbs dr Kapp" / "näbs dr Kapp sai". Jul 19, 2018 at 11:08
  • Or in Hessian: "Der Kurt ist völlig neber der Kapp, seit em die Gaby weggemacht is." (Source: Mundmische.de) Mar 19, 2019 at 12:22

2 Answers 2

10

The Partizip II gewohnt combined with an adjective doesn't mean accustomed to but as … as usual.

nicht gewohnt leistungsfähig

not as performant as usual

And sure, this is a bad day by the German definition.

-1

@Janka has already explained the grammar of this definition: nicht gewohnt leistungsfähig "not as performant as usual".

However, the semantics of this defition are debatable. A similar turn of phrase is neben der Spur. So, while Kappe may somewhat obscure, there is at least corroborating evidence for the defition.

gewohnt (or as usual for that matter) has at least two meanings in the definition, "einen schlechten Tag haben, geistig und körperlich nicht gewohnt leistungsfähig sein": Somebody may not be up to their usual performance, or they are not performing as expected. That's Verbal Stil, impersonal, perhaps purposefuly so.

So, the definition is ambiguous and it is entirely correct to derive two different interpretations from it. Inasmuch as actual usage (of the phrase) will be unreliable, a single comma cannot bear too much weight. In case of doubt, the first half of the definition is more reliable because it more specific. The second half broadens our view significantly.

As regards Spur, I'm not sure if that's esprit (Sprit, Spur of the moment) or Spur (track). However, in the latter case I would consider Kappe to be derived from coping vel sim. (in the sense that is common in Skater jargon, a metal rim at the edge of a half-pipe to grind on).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.