Turning in – “Du bist dran” ain’t one to one

So a construction I learned very early on came up again today. It’s the German statement, “Du bist dran.”

This is typically translated as, “It is your turn.” Notice, the construction is rather different from English. “Dran” is a contraction of “daran”, so that makes some sense. However, that still leaves some confusion.

“Du bist daran.” – “You are on/in/alongside (that).”
“Ich bin daran.” – “I am on/in/alongside (that).”

Okay, that kind of works. It sounds a bit like, “You are up”, which can be used in place of, “It’s your turn.” I imagine it isn’t a perfect correlation, but it at least feels like something in English, so it’s a bit easier for me to comprehend. What are we on/in/whatever, though?

So this is an idiomatic structure. Googling, I get a link to the German Language Stack Exchange, where somebody asks about this specific question. It seems that this is short for “dran sein”, which is meant to reference the usage, “an der Reihe sein.”

“Du bist an der Reihe.” – “You are in the line.”

Okay, so we get an idea of how this works. It’s idiomatic, based on the idea of being in line for something. I can imagine that I’m standing in line and I am up next. The idiom makes sense for me now.

This gets me wondering. Why is it that we use, “It’s your turn”, in English? I did a brief search online and found some mixed results. Etymology Online’s entry for “turn” provides several etymological possibilities. Ultimately, the word seems to come from the Greek “tornos” – a lathe, tool for drawing circles. This has been changed and reinforced over the years by Latin, Old English, and Old French. I wonder when the concept of “taking a turn” came up. I couldn’t a specific reference to the meaning used here. I suspect it’s related to, “take a turn at the wheel”, either as a reference to a ship’s wheel or to working at a rotary wheel of some type. That said, there’s other possibilities. Reddit has an old thread about it, but as here, no definite conclusion came about.

Visitor from Quedlinburg

(I actually wrote this a few weeks back, while I was in Ballenstedt. I hadn’t quite finished and then forgot to publish. Whoops!)

We had a visitor named Sabine come in from nearby Quedlinburg. She’s an old friend of Liz’s mother. It was actually quite a nice visit – or at least, it started as such. Unfortunately, I became rather ill before too long. Headache and a bit of a stomach bug. Some two or three hours into the visit, I was feeling so out of it that I just came to my room, lay down, and basically stayed in that state for a good twelve hours. I managed to achieve quite a few hours of sleep, which is a bonus!

I wish I’d been able to stay out longer. The friend was really quite, well, friendly. She had gone on a trip to St. Petersburg and picked up some Russian in a language course she was taking over there. She was so inclusive! She’d ask me questions and try to include me in the discourse, despite my fairly broken German. We talked a bit about flying and traveling to different countries. It seems she was in Chile (I believe to visit the family of her husband) for a while, then took a week in Germany to get some work done, only to travel on for her Russian trip. While she was in Chile, she took a picture of some roasted Meerschweinchen (German for guinea pig – “sea piglet”).

Liz, being the Russophile (and working on an essay for class), was sure to get Sabine’s input on her Alexander Blok reading. I could only follow a little bit of Sabine’s input, but she immediately drew comparison between the style of Blok in Balaganchik and the work of Alexander Puschkin. Liz valued her comments and ended up writing down some of them as notes.

It struck me how well read she was. I asked Liz about that a few days later, while we were Neinstedt. It seems Sabine works in Neinstedt, teaching Spanish part-time. No wonder she spoke so clearly and was so sure to include me in her discussions! I suspect she has plenty of experience convincing nervous pupils to speak a foreign language.