Can it true be?

Our drinking song rollicked along after I slid the CD into my “Fow Vay” and rollicked home along damp streets.

Du kannst nicht treu sein
Nein, nein, das kannst Du nicht
Wenn auch Dein Mund mir
Wahre Liebe verspricht
In Deinem Herzen
Hast du für viele Platz
Darum bist Du auch nicht
Für mich der richt’ger Schatz


Just looking at the lyrics cold, I was able to pull out a word here and there, and make a few educated guesses as to others. But in this wondrous modern age, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. I pulled out my iPhone and opened the iTranslate app. This has some neat features, one of which is the ability to translate on the fly using the phone’s camera. Just point it at a slab of text, or a sign, or a menu, and bingo! each word is translated directly into its English equivalent:

Put it this way, it’s not much of a song, not much use to sing along with, and rather puzzling as a text. But it’s a start, and if (say) I was trying to decide which toilet to use and they hadn’t included any symbols, this would be a handy app. As I discovered one morning in a small Iranian town, anxiously shifting my weight from one foot to the other.

Take a snapshot in the image, and it will read the text as a whole, rather than word by word, and this comes out better. (Or translate the page in the Chrome browser.)

This cleared up a few questions for me. The logic of the chorus seemed a little vague, but if this is what the canny Edith is saying to the feckless Oscar, well okay.

But, but, but, but I’m not here to wave a gadget over Germany and see only English. The aim is to have the German words come in the eyes and ears and tug on the correct neurons. I don’t necessarily want to translate to English in my head; I want to get the correct meaning in the same way that a native speaker would.

At this point in my studies, translating to English is a useful step. So bear with me as I make my own attempt. Here I’m making use of the above translations, my memory of the tutor’s translation, and a handy-dandy free app called dict.cc, which replaces all those language dictionaries in the bookshop.

Du kannst nicht treu sein
treu is true, and sein is be, but dict.cc doesn’t do just words but phrases as well, and if I enter treu, a few lines down I see treu sein, which comes out as “to be faithful to”.
You cannot be faithful

Nein, nein, das kannst Du nicht
No, no, (that) you can not

Wenn auch Dein Mund mir
wenn auch is “if even” or albeit or although.
Although your mouth to me

Wahre Liebe verspricht
True love promises

In Deinem Herzen
Not sure about this. Herzen is the plural of Herz, which is heart. Does Oscar have multiple hearts? Is Edith talking of men in general? Have we just been handed an extra syllable to make the line fit the melody? (Incidentally, Hertz in both languages means beats as in “cycles per second”, and I am always charmed by the conjunction of Hertz and Herz.)
In your heart(s)

Hast du für viele Platz
Hast du is simply “hast thou”, meaning “you have”. Viele Platz is literally “many place(s)”, but could also be “much room” or “ample space” or any combination. Für is for, but including it here doesn’t seem to add to the sense, unless it is to give the notion that a heart can have many places for love. Incidentally, the logic becomes even more shakey if we consider that plural hearts naturally have a plurality of places.
You have many places

Darum bist Du auch nicht
These last two lines cleverly have three interior rhymes, albeit at the expense of eliding a vowel from richtiger to make the words fit the tune.
Therefore you are not even

Für mich der richt’ger Schatz
richtige or richtiger has the sense of more than right, the only right, the perfect one.
For me the perfect sweetheart.

der Mund = mouth
die Liebe = love
das Herz = heart
der Platz = place, room, space
der Schatz = treasure, precious, sweetheart

No, I’m not going to try to write new English lyrics for the melody. Someone did that already, and I don’t like it. Frank Sinatra sang a version more true to the original, which isn’t too bad.

And no, I’m not going to apologise for making a meal of this drinking song chorus. This is my language log, and if I get stuck in and get my hands dirty, it’s so I can get a grip on the language, not to entertain my sparse readership.

Pete

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