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"Gehn ma Tauben vergiften im Park?"

I do not understand the words "gehn" and "ma" and also how the infinitive "vergiften" is used in the above sentence.

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This text is part of the refrain of a song written by the Viennese comedian Georg Kreisler in 1958. Since it is written in Viennese colloquial speech it is not standard German.

The song is on Youtube, and from 0:40 to 0:56 Kreisler sings:

Schau, die Sonne is warm und die Lüfte sin lau.
Gemma Taubn vagiftn im Park.
Die Bäume sind grün und da Himml is blau.
Gemma Taubn vagiftn im Park.

In standard German this is:

Schau, die Sonne ist warm und die Lüfte sind lau.
Gehen wir Tauben vergiften im Park.
Die Bäume sind grün und der Himmel ist blau.
Gehen wir Tauben vergiften im Park.

translation:

Look, the sun is warm and the air is tepid. (literal: the airs are tepid)
Let's poison doves in the park.
The trees are green and the sky is blue.
Let's poison doves in the park.

  • The verb »gehen« is almost always shortened to »gehn« in collogial speech (not only in Vienna, as far as I know this happens everywhere).
  • The dialects spoken in most parts of Austria (so also the dialects spoken in Vienna) belong to the group of Bavarian dialects, and in these Bavarian dialects the pronoun wir (pronunciation: [viːɐ̯]) is replaced by [miɐ̯] which you can write as mia or mir (there is no standardized orthography for dialects). And this word »mia« is also part of colloquial speech in Vienna.

So, the first two words of this sentence are in Viennese colloquial speech:

gehn mia (spoken: [ɡeːn miɐ̯]

But the sounds [n] and [m] are very similar and hard to distinguish if spoken one after the other, so they combine to just one sound (which is [m]). And, since »gehen wir« (engl: let's go) is a very frequently used phrase, it became a distinct word in Viennese colloquial speech (this happened centuries ago), and the diphthong at the end changed to a monophthong and so it became:

gemma (spoken: [ɡema])

This word means "let's go" or "come on" (in the sense of come with me). You can use it like in the example above:

Gemma Taubn vagiftn im Park.
C'mon, lets poison doves in the park.

But it also can mean the order »Go!« in the sense of »go away!«.

  • The owner of a pub wants to close the pub, but there is a drunken man who doesn't want to go, and the owner and the guest are already in a dispute. The owner of the pub says:

    Kumm, gemma, schleich di aussi!
    Come on, go, move out! (literal: creep yourself out)


A few more words about »gemma«:

In Englich you often use the phrase »let's«. You often will read the translation »lass uns«, which is the literal translation of »let us«. I am not really sure about its usage in northern parts of Germany, but the phrase »lass uns« is not used in Austria. Especially in colloquial speech you use »gemma« instead:

Let's drink a beer.
Gemma a Bia trinkn.

And you will find this word everywhere where Bavarian dialects are spoken, which means mainly in Bavaria and Austria.

| improve this answer | |
  • The usage of "lass uns" cannot be quantified without a survey. I'd say "wollen wa" is more often used, while "lassen" is more often "leave", "lassen sie das". "lass uns doch" is a special case. The connotation depends on intonation, anyhow. Concerning "ma", I'd say there is some overlap with usage where I'd parse "mal", "Gehn wa ma kieken, wa?", "Ja, geht ma kieken". Otherwise "ma" ~ "mir" is En "me", hence "ick geh ma kieken" might be close to "Ich werde mir das angucken", which rather concerns questions about the modal particle "mal". – vectory Sep 21 '19 at 11:42
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    Colloquially they say "lass ma Kino gehen" in Berlin. "Ma" is rather a contraction from "mal", lass (uns) ma(l). It also seems to carry further some meaning of the norther german "man" particle. – Dan Sep 21 '19 at 11:58
  • In northern Germany, gehnwa is colloquial. – Janka Sep 21 '19 at 13:03
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    @dan Lass ma Kino. Oder auch: Lass Kino. – Philipp Sep 25 '19 at 11:30
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    @Lykanion: Interesting question. I thought a while about it, but I found no situation where I would use gemma without wanting to change the location. Both original components, »gehen« (to go, to walk) and »wir« (we), are still present in the speakers and listeners mind. I wouldn't say »gemma schlafen« if I was already in the bed. Nor would I say »gemma essen« if I already sat at the table. But you can already can say it, if you stand next to the bed or table. So, »gemma« always contains an intended movement, but just one step already is sufficient. – Hubert Schölnast Sep 27 '19 at 5:26

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