22 Feb /12

Food for thought

I was on the train recently and the previous occupant of my seat had thoughtfully left behind a copy of one of that day’s broadsheet newspapers – in the literal sense of the word as well.

After reading some interesting articles on topics such as the Berlin Philharmonic touring Asia and single women “borrowing” their best friends’ husbands for various household tasks and concluding with the question as to why none of the author’s husband’s single male friends ever phoned up to “borrow” the author for household tasks, I was just scanning the rest of one section when a small article about the donation of a collection of hamburgers to a museum caught my eye.

As a proofreader always on the lookout for something new or unusual, I was intrigued by the fact that over 30,000 items were going to be donated. Instantly in my mind I tried to imagine all the different types of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fishburgers, veggieburgers, gherkins, sauces, rolls and other ingredients and paraphernalia that it would take to amass this number of articles for donation. Perhaps the memory of a summertime job in a “McDo” in the rue de rivoli in Paris in the 1980s also heightened my interest – what sort of objects would I have collected from hamburger restaurants? Would people really want to see them on display, and possibly even pay for the privilege?

As is my wont when proofreading and coming across something unusual, I went back over the text to make sure that I had read everything properly. It was just as well I did. The article was actually about a collector from Hamburg, who was in the process of donating a spectacular collection of Egyptian artefacts to a museum.

The 30,000 articles were right, as were Hamburg and collector, but I had overlooked the lack of a hyphen in the German between “Hamburger” (of/from Hamburg) and “Sammlung” (collection). That brings to mind some other amusing linguistic misunderstandings involving food, but more about that another time.