Wiktionary talk:About German

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Verb inflexion line[edit]

The verb inflexion line for German verbs should contain verb forms that are characteristic for German verbs (e.g. second person singular) not for English verbs (as third person singular). The tense names should be adapted, too (e.g. preterite instead of past tense). Ncik 09:03, 25 August 2005 (UTC)


In this discussion it is suggested that readers will know about the difference between // and [] in pronunciations. There's no way that's going to work, as illustrated by the parts about pronunciation in this thread. Michael Hardy 21:58, 4 November 2009 (UTC)

In the years since this comment, we continue to distinguish [narrow] from /broad/ transcriptions. Atypically, German tends to have [narrow] transcriptions without /broad/ ones, whereas other languages tend to have /broad/ without [narrow] transcriptions. - -sche (discuss) 22:39, 29 August 2012 (UTC)
My rule of thumb is /broad/ transcriptions for English and [narrow] transcriptions for all other languages. —Angr 22:43, 29 August 2012 (UTC)
My rule of thumb is to include both for languages other than English. Narrow transcriptions are not as useful for someone who knows the language phonology already, and that's something every more advanced speaker will probably know. Including only narrow transcriptions can also lead to confusion when dialects are concerned, because a phonetic difference between dialects could be subphonemic across the wider language area; a user could mistake that as meaning that there is a phonemic difference too. A good example of this is in Swedish, where there are several different ways to pronounce the sound written as <sj>, but they are all the same phoneme and should presumably be transcribed in a dialect-independent way (i.e. phonemically), which says in some way 'place the sj-sound here in the word' rather than 'pronounce this sound'. —CodeCat 22:53, 29 August 2012 (UTC)


Do we have a preference for /ʁ/ vs /ʀ/ in various places in pronunciations? I've seen both, but given edit like this (compare de:groß), I figure one should be standard. Those who can read German may find this de.Wikt discussion of interest: [1]. De.Wikt's current policy is: /ʀ/ before vowels, /ʁ/ after the vowels /ɪ/, /ʏ/, /ɛ/, /œ/, /ʊ/, /ɔ/, /a/, and /ɐ̯/ after /i/, /y/, /e/, /ø/, /u/, /o/, [ɛː], /aː/. Of course, de.Wikt's policy is also to use /s/ rather than /z/ for all English plurals that end in -s, which is simply wrong, so we're by no means obligated to follow their lead. - -sche (discuss) 02:21, 29 August 2012 (UTC)

I'd use ʁ in the syllable onset, ɐ̯ in the syllable coda after a long vowel, and both in the syllable coda after a short vowel, thus:
Of course, nothing's stopping us from using other symbols and tagging them with accent labels, thus:
And so on. —Angr 22:37, 29 August 2012 (UTC)
I fully agree. Longtrend (talk) 23:04, 29 August 2012 (UTC)


Do we have a policy on allowing or not allowing entries for spellings like dafuer for dafür? Spellings like gross for groß must be allowed, because they're standard in Swiss German and descriptivism leaves no room to exclude the standardised orthography of an entire country with four and a half million German-speaking people. But what about umlaut-less spellings? They're attested (and we allow attested things like cœlic in English); OTOH, they're trivially derived from umlaut spellings, and they're not standard anywhere I can think of. - -sche (discuss) 21:53, 2 September 2012 (UTC)

They may not be used as much now, but what about the whole history of what we group under the header 'German'? —CodeCat 21:56, 2 September 2012 (UTC)
They are typically used when typing on a keyboard that does not provide the German umlaut characters. Mutante (talk) 03:55, 16 September 2012 (UTC)
Mutante's right, but if you can cite it from older texts — maybe. --Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 04:28, 16 September 2012 (UTC)
My preference is to allow them to be entered as alt forms, but to generally not bother entering them myself (just like with ligature alt forms of English words). - -sche (discuss) 04:47, 16 September 2012 (UTC)
And English ligatures seem like a mess to me as a class of entries, even though (or perhaps because) Doremítzwr and Seth have done so much work on them. But we wouldn't, say, allow macronless and ʻokinaless entries in Hawaiian (even as alt-forms) just because many sources are too lazy or don't have the typeset to support them. --Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 04:55, 16 September 2012 (UTC)
I would actually be in favor of including macronless and okinaless entries in Hawaiian as alt forms since many people may only encounter Hawaiian words in older texts like that and not know where to supply okinas and macrons in order to find the Wiktionary entry. In the German case, though, beginners are unlikely to encounter umlautless forms, and by the time they do encounter them they probably will have been taught what they mean. In other words, a beginning Hawaiian learner may well encounter lahui or maikai and not know where to insert the macrons and okinas to get to the Wiktionary entry, but it's unlikely a beginning German learner will encounter dafuer without knowing to reconstitute it to dafür. If we do have them (and we do already have fuer, for example), they should have a usage note saying something like "Not a standard spelling; found generally only in cases where the umlaut letter was not available, and sometimes in pre-20th century texts." —Angr 14:24, 16 September 2012 (UTC)

Phonology of ch in German[edit]

Moved from Wiktionary:Information desk#Phonology_of_ch_in_German.

User:Bigbossfarin has been making some German edits concerning the pronunciation of the <ch>. They have changed/added pronunciations and rhymes with /χ/ (a uvular fricative) instead of /x/ (a velar fricative). Is this the normal representation of this phoneme in German, and should it be used for rhymes, or does this belong in phonetics/allophones? —CodeCat 00:21, 17 December 2012 (UTC)

I usually see an /x/ where the sound is supposedly a [χ], but this practice is hypocritical because [ç] and [x] are usually noted even though they are also allophones. — Ungoliant (Falai) 00:29, 17 December 2012 (UTC)
Re [χ] and [x]: to my surprise, de.Wikt's guidelines page prescribes [χ]; individual entries disobey (compare e.g. de:ach, de:Frucht and de:Buch). Those who speak German should read the short discussion on the talk page, in which the linguist Dr. Karl-Heinz Best commented. I would have agreed with him and used /x/ as the broad transcription of [χ]~[x]. de.WP regards the voiceless uvular fricative as the standard, but transcribes it /x/(!).
Re [ç] and [x]: those sounds are acknowledged to be undergoing phonemicisation even by most of the authorities that do not regard them as being phonemic yet. (You would be unlikely to be understood if you told a German [diː ˈfʀaʊ̯xən ˈʁaʊ̯çən], and to the extent that one can make Rau, Tau etc diminutive without umlaut, minimal pairs can be made.) - -sche (discuss) 01:22, 17 December 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the info. The common practice is not as hypocritical as a I thought. — Ungoliant (Falai) 01:34, 17 December 2012 (UTC)


I think our conjugation tables are missing an entry for the zu-infinitive, which is in general simply zu + infinitive, e.g. zu spielen for spielen, zu arbeiten for arbeiten, etc. However, for separable verbs such as bereitstellen, the zu-infinitive is one string consisting of the "prefix", zu, and the base verb, e.g. bereitzustellen. IMO only those latter forms should get entries. I wonder if that can be implemented in the templates. What do you think? Longtrend (talk) 19:58, 2 January 2013 (UTC)

I agree that the zu form should be in the conjugation table and that single-word zu forms should have entries. - -sche (discuss) 05:32, 20 January 2013 (UTC)


Verletzte currently treats "Verletzte" as the lemma of both the feminine and the masculine word for "injured person", and "Verletzter" as an inflected form. This is a mistake; the lemma of the masculine word is "Verletzter". I would just fix it myself, but I think there may be many more entries out there like it. Is there a way to find such entries, and perhaps even correct them en masse? - -sche (discuss) 05:34, 20 January 2013 (UTC)

I don't think so. A bot could find some of them but it would have to take account for all different possibilities (for example Verletzte doesn't use {{de-noun}}) so it would take a lot of work and there'd likely be some missing still. The best I can think of is to look in Category:German nouns for nouns that look like substantivised adjectives. Perhaps a bot could do that... for example it could look at each entry in Category:German nouns and see if it is identical to an entry in Category:German adjectives but with a capital letter and an extra -e. Could that work? (Maybe you should ask Ruakh, he seems to understand these things better) —CodeCat 14:26, 20 January 2013 (UTC)
Meh, I could do that by hand. I suppose I will. - -sche (discuss) 21:33, 20 January 2013 (UTC)
Entries like this continue to need to be dealt with. It's just hard to find the energy for the task. - -sche (discuss) 07:56, 18 January 2014 (UTC)
Yes, it is. AFAIK we also still don't have a declension template that can really handle substantivized adjectives like this. —Aɴɢʀ (talk) 09:16, 18 January 2014 (UTC)
Indeed, which is a shame! Unfortunately I don't have the technical knowledge to be much of a help here... :( Longtrend (talk) 18:28, 18 January 2014 (UTC)


Boden-Boden, Boden-Luft, Luft-Luft and Luft-Boden are currently defined as adjectives that never inflect. AFAIK, they also cannot be used predicatively — which means they have no adjectival qualities at all. They occur only in noun compounds like "Luft-Luft-Rakete". I'd like to get some others' thoughts on them before I possibly RFD them. What POS do you consider them? Do you think they should have entries at all? I analyse them as nouns — specifically, I analyse compounds like "Luft-Luft-Rakete" as being either three nouns or one long noun, hence my thought of RFDing "Luft-Luft" et al. - -sche (discuss) 07:56, 18 January 2014 (UTC)

When I saw Boden-Boden I thought it was a dialect form of Baden-Baden. I'd call Luft-Luft-Rakete a three-element compound noun, so that Luft-Luft isn't even a syntactic constituent, let alone a part of speech. —Aɴɢʀ (talk) 09:15, 18 January 2014 (UTC)
Yeah, calling them adjectives is complete nonsense. IMO, they shouldn't get entries at all (but the compounds in which they appear of course may get entries, as do the individual nouns which the so-called "adjectives" are made up from, of course). Longtrend (talk) 18:32, 18 January 2014 (UTC)
OK, I've started a RFD: WT:RFD#Boden-Boden. - -sche (discuss) 19:48, 18 January 2014 (UTC)

/ɔɪ̯/ or /ɔʏ̯/[edit]

I noticed this diff changing /ɔɪ̯/ to /ɔʏ̯/ (and /χ/ to /x/, but that's another matter). In the past, I've seen edits changing /ɔʏ̯/ to /ɔɪ̯/, and our entries are currently divided: einbläuen and Beute use /ɔɪ̯/, neu and Häusern use /ɔʏ̯/. Our rhymes pages all use /ɔɪ̯/. We should standardize on one or the other. De.Wikt uses /ɔɪ̯/, and transcribes e.g. Hochdeutsch as [ˈhoːχdɔɪ̯tʃ]. The Duden uses a third transcription, /ɔ͜y/. My preference is for /ɔɪ̯/. - -sche (discuss) 19:26, 13 February 2014 (UTC)

Considering that the sound developed from an earlier /yː/, then /ɔʏ̯/ is probably an older pronunciation that preserves the rounding. It could also be a dialectal difference. I don't really know much else about it. —CodeCat 19:34, 13 February 2014 (UTC)
I tend to use /ɔʏ̯/ (or even /ɔʏ/ since the falling sonority is predictable) because that's what most sources I've seen use (Duden's /ɔ͜y/ is just a notational variant of /ɔʏ̯/), but to be honest I can't hear any difference between the German diphthong and the English diphthong of choice. —Aɴɢʀ (talk) 19:45, 13 February 2014 (UTC)
The actual pronunciation, as far as I know, can range from /ɔɪ/ via /ɔʏ/ to /ɔø/ (in my native Rhineland also /œʏ/, but that's not standard). So /ɔʏ/ seems to be in the middle and it's also what you would normally see in a pronunciation guide. The Duden /ɔy/ is probably the same /ɔʏ/. I don't think they really mean that it's [ɔy]. Then again, I think the German wiktionary uses /ɔɪ/, but I've rarely seen that anywhere else. Long story short, I clearly prefer /ɔʏ/, but if you were to agree on /ɔɪ/, that's fine too.Kolmiel (talk) 00:54, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
Also, when I pronounce the word Leute very carefully and slowly it becomes something like Looöüüte it doesn't become Looiite, but I think that's depending on personal accent. I'm very sure that both [ɔɪ] and [ɔʏ] actually do occur, and that it's almost impossible for a native speaker to distinguish. So, again, it's really a question of preference.Kolmiel (talk) 11:42, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
Yep, both options are fine with me, too, although I have a slight preference for [ɔʏ̯] (I once read that it's closer to the actual pronunciation, but I can't really judge that). Longtrend (talk) 13:29, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
OK, it looks like most people favour /ɔʏ̯/. We can wait a few more days to see if anyone else has an opinion, and then we can see about moving the Rhymes pages and finding and updating any pages that use /ɔɪ̯/. I just noticed that we already have an appendix to record our pronunciation conventions, Appendix:German pronunciation. I'll add a link to it to WT:ADE, since it does document some "considerations (beyond those covered by general policies) which apply to German entries", which is WT:ADE's remit. - -sche (discuss) 15:39, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
These 163 pages use /ɔɪ/ or /ɔɪ̯/. - -sche (discuss) 20:57, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

Now that we're talking about it...[edit]

I’ve noticed some other things about IPA that should probably be considered by the "group". I read above that you agreed on pronunciations being given in /phonemic/ and in [precise] version. So far most words only have phonemic pronunciations, precise ones will of course be a little more difficult.

1. We’ll have to give aspiration. As far as I know [p], [t], [k] are per se aspirated in the standard accent, but not not after syllable-initial [s] or [ʃ], and not before a fricative, a plosive, or a syllabic consonant. We’d need to check the precise rules, but they will probably make the whole thing a little tricky.

2. The alternatives [ən] vs. syllabic nasal, as well as [əl] vs. syllabic [l] are often given as phonemically distinct forms. The same is true for alternatives such as [ɛʁ] vs. [ɛɐ] or [ɔʁ] vs. [ɔɐ]. I myself have done this so far, but those differences are of course allophonic and should be given in [...] from now on. To this again, there is one exception: /çən/ is phonemically distinct from /çn/, because diminutives in -chen are never pronounced with a syllabic consonant.

3. As to /ç/ vs. /x/ I am of the opinion that they are not allophones, but distinct phonems, because we have e.g. Rauchen vs. Frauchen. So in my opinion they should be kept distinct in phonemic IPA. too. (Which they are, as far as I’ve seen.) If any distinction should be made between [x] and [χ] I don’t know. I’ve read contradictory things about their usage.

4. I hope there is a consensus that common and widespread substandard pronunciations should be given under the standard one[s] (which I have been doing a lot so far). These, I think, should only be in phonemic notation, because if we go on to give allophonic differences, then we may end up with fifteen possible pronunciations for some words.

5. I feel that word-initial [ʔ] should not be treated as a phonem in substandard pronunciations. It is a phonem according to the prescriptive rules, all right. But in less careful speech it can always be elided and has no phonemic status. So standard: yes, substandard: no.

Now, all of this is of course just what I’ve noticed and what I think about it. What are your opinions?Kolmiel (talk) 19:05, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

  • I don't see any reason to include aspiration. We don't include it in the phonetic transcription of English either; it would just be a distraction. I think /əl/ and /ən/ are fine for phonemic transcription, while for phonetic transcription we can include [l̩] and [n̩, m̩, ɱ̩, ŋ̩, ɴ̩] etc. Whether /ç/ and /x/ are separate phonemes is a question for the theoretical phonologists, but a dictionary should certainly treat them as if they were. [x] and [χ] are definitely not separate phonemes, though, and should be distinguished only in phonetic transcription. [χ] appears after [a], [aː], and often [ʊ], [ɔ], and [aʊ], while [x] appears after [uː], [oː] and usually [ʊ], [ɔ], and [aʊ]. [ʔ] is not a phoneme but should be included in phonetic transcription word-initially and at the beginnings of stressed syllables. —Aɴɢʀ (talk) 20:03, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
  • Re aspiration: I don't think it should be obligatory to include it (because it is tricky, as you note), but I'm not sure it should be forbidden, either... we do include it in the narrow transcriptions of some English words, e.g. cat. I agree with Angr on all other points:
    I think we should use /əl/ in broad transcriptions, while allowing both [l̩] and [əl] in narrow transcriptions.
    We should certainly treat /ç/ and /x/ as separate phonemes in broad transcriptions; see my comments above.
    [x] and [χ] can be separated in narrow transcriptions; in broad transcriptions, /x/ should be used.
    Regarding [ʁ] vs [ɐ], cf. WT:T:ADE#R.
    [ʔ] should not appear in broad transcriptions but can (and probably should) appear in narrow ones.
    Regarding "substandard" pronunciations: they should be listed after/under the standard pronunciations, yes. Beyond that, our treatment of them should match our treatment of nonstandard / dialectal / etc pronunciations in other languages; in English, most pronunciations are given in broad transcription, but sometimes narrow transcriptions are informative... it depends on the circumstances. If a word has many nonstandard / dialectal pronunciations, they can (should?) be collapsed under Template:rel-top. - -sche (discuss) 22:23, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
  • Aspiration: I agree with Angr and -sche in that we shouldn't make it obligatory. But we should allow it IMO.
    I also agree with you about syllabic consonants. However, I have never heard it said that "diminutives in -chen are never pronounced with a syllabic consonant", as claimed by Kolmiel. In fact, I'd doubt that. Do you have any source for this claim?
    Yes, treat /ç/ and /x/ as separate phonemes and use only /x/ for [x] and [χ]. However, I think we should make the use of [χ] optional, similar to aspiration.
    Agreement with -sche about substandard pronunciations: I wouldn't disallow phonetic transcriptions for these per se. I don't really get the concept of using phonemic transcriptions for these anyway. Each regional and substandard variant may have its own phonemic system, no? Longtrend (talk) 20:24, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
One reason to avoid transcribing aspiration is that we're likely to get people adding it to the ends of words, where it doesn't belong. I knew a German once who insisted that he distinguished Rad and Rat as [ʁaːt] vs. [ʁaːtʰ], but that is wholly artificial and doesn't (AFAIK) reflect anyone's actual unselfconscious pronunciation. I'm afraid if we start allowing [tʰaːk] it won't be long before we start seeing things like [ʁaːtʰ] show up. —Aɴɢʀ (talk) 20:38, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
As to the chen-thing, I just recently read that in an (admittedly somewhat older) DUDEN. I don't have that book here right now, but I can give you the quote in three weeks' time if you're still interested. Maybe if I said "never" that's not true, indeed. Maybe some people do pronounce it that way. I just judged from what I read and from my personal idiolect in which Eichen ("oaks") and Eichen ("little egg") are a definite minimal pair, the first being pronounced [aɪçn], the second [aɪçən]~[aɪçɪn]. Same thing with Seuchen ("plagues") and Säuchen ("little sow").
==> Really just by accident I just found that a user Dr. Karl-Heinz Best wrote on German wiktionary: "Ob [n̩] oder [ən] zu setzen ist, richtet sich nach der lautlichen Umgebung, d.h. nach den vorhergehenden Lauten. Grobe Regel: Nach Sonanten steht [ən], sonst [n̩]. Aber: -chen [çən]." [2] (In the section: "Widerspruch: Empfehlung und Praxis") Note: I only added this link because [çən] vs. [çn]. The rest of his "grobe Regel" is quite misleading, because [leːbn̩] for example doesn't exist. It's eithr [leːbm̩] or [leːbən], as you all know. Kolmiel (talk) 23:35, 17 February 2014 (UTC)
Concerning what Longtrend wrote about phonemic transcription for substandard varieties, I don't think this problem is all that big. Of course, traditional dialects may have very distinct phonemic systems, but modern regional colloquials tend to have the same or roughly the same as the standard. What they do is use different phonems in particular words, and that we can denote. But I also agree that precise transcriptions should not be banned, they just shouldn't be overused, because that would end in a chaos.
[ʔ] is indeed a phoneme in standard German proper. The well-known example is will ich versus willig. But I'm very fine with not including [ʔ]. I'm not a fan of it anyway, because it's basically a made-up prescription to say that [ʔ] must be used before any word with initial vowel. Has no basis in normal speech.
Now, as to aspiration I'm not sure whether you all agree on leaving it to personal preference, or whether ANGR wants to do away with it. I think it would be very misleading to give aspiration just in some words, but not others. By hazard, really. In that case, I would really prefer to say no aspiration. Although that's not technically correct, at least it's clear and unambiguous. Making it optional would be the worst choice. And I would also say the same about [x] and [χ]. I don't think making these things optional is good, because it confuses people.Kolmiel (talk) 22:25, 17 February 2014 (UTC)
Yes, please do give the quote about *[çn̩] if you find it, thanks! I'm still very skeptical about it (at least "lexicalized" diminutives such as Mädchen are regularly pronounced with a syllabic consonant, I'm quite sure).
Regarding aspiration and [x] vs. [χ]: Making it optional is the status quo, and I don't think there's any problem with the status quo. We don't even need to regulate it IMO. If there are problems with the optionality (i.e. edit wars) we can (and probably should) decide for one option or the other. But as long as this doesn't happen, I don't really see a reason to change things. Longtrend (talk) 17:35, 18 February 2014 (UTC)
  • Angr and Kolmiel both have good points about aspiration. The point that marking aspiration in some narrow transcriptions but not in others will cause people to think the latter are not aspirated is particularly salient. I am persuaded that our narrow transcriptions of standard German should omit aspiration. (De.Wikt does not mark aspiration in its narrow transcriptions, either.) Regarding [x] vs [χ]: my understanding is that the current "optionality" of [χ] means simply that if you don't know whether to put [x] or [χ] you can put [x] and someone will eventually clean it up to [χ]; no-one should be (and AFAIK no-one is) changing valid [χ]s to [x]s (though I have seen people correct /χ/ to /x/). - -sche (discuss) 17:51, 18 February 2014 (UTC)
Okay, [x] vs. [χ] is not that likely to confuse anyone, let's leave that as optional. But concerning aspiration I think it would be quite important to find a rule here. Not because there must be a rule to everything, but because this may confuse learners of German, particularly those who don't aspirate stops in their native language.Kolmiel (talk) 21:59, 18 February 2014 (UTC)
To the best of my knowledge, voiceless stops are aspirated in German in the same places as in English, namely (1) at the beginning of a word, and (2) at the beginning of a stressed syllable, thus Tomate is [tʰoˈmaːtə] (not *[tʰoˈmaːtʰə]) and Kartoffel is [kʰaʁˈtʰɔfl̩]. —Aɴɢʀ (talk) 22:06, 18 February 2014 (UTC)
I'm persuaded by the argument that we should have a rule saying "don't indicate aspiration". Appendix:German pronunciation, which the IPA template links to, can then house a note saying that we don't indicate aspiration in entries. The same note can go on the explain where aspiration does occur, and why we don't indicate it (it's regular, not contrastive, etc). - -sche (discuss) 22:38, 18 February 2014 (UTC)
As far as I know there are also different degrees of aspiration. In stressed position, stops are aspirated more than otherwise, which doesn't necessarily mean they're unaspirated in unstressed position. And of course, there are regional and individual differences. Central German tends to have less aspiration than Low and Upper German, even no aspiration at all in some dialects. -- But be that as it may, there are rules as to when a stop should be aspirated in the standard pronunciation. I've seen such rules, we could use them. But after all, I also think: Let's say that aspiration should not be indicated and let's delete the little h'es where we have them.Kolmiel (talk) 17:50, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
Dialectal differences, of course, exist also in English. I recently saw an interview with Irish financial minister Michael Noonan and he speaks with a much more than average amount of aspiration. Maybe that's from Gaelic? I only know that Scottish Gaelic has very heavy aspiration, maybe Irish too. Don't know.Kolmiel (talk) 18:59, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
Re aspiration: I don't think the argument about not confusing users is a very strong one (nobody is confused about the aspiration diacritic in English cat, AFAIK) and I still don't see the need for regulating it, but it's fine with me. Definitely better to proscribe it than to make it obligatory ;) Longtrend (talk) 19:38, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
Well, if no one objects, I'll start getting rid of little h'es from now on. (Not systematically, but when I see them.) I still think it is confusing. Imagine a French speaker who knows the IPA, knows what aspiration is, and knows that German voiceless stops are aspirated in some environments, but not all. If he reads say Kopf with aspiration, but köpfen without: couldn't that get him confused? Now, of course, if it were just for that... But it's also what Angr said and the fact that a clear rule like this (in spite of being a little rigid maybe) makes things plain and simple.Kolmiel (talk) 20:27, 22 February 2014 (UTC)