So besides some occupational therapy (I've decided to finally repair the water-damaged wall and paint it), the best potential cure I could come up with is listening to STS. I got hooked on them back at the college while listening to Austrian radio which would play one of their biggest hits, Grossvater, at least twice a day.
Now wait, that's a bit misleading. Let me rephrase that relative clause:
... which would play one of their biggest hits, Grosvoda ...
Messrs. Steinbäcker, Timischl and Schiffkowitz all hail from Styria and their lyrics (mostly written by Steinbäcker) betray it with every word. It took me a week of very attentive listening to even decipher the title (and the first word of the chorus) and even longer (plus, admittedly, the help of Google) to comprehend the entire text. The whole dialect angle would have been enough to capture my interest, but I really love that song and once I got my hands on several of their albums, there was no going back.
The STS music is difficult to fit into neat categories. As for genre, I really have no idea what it is these guys do. Rock? Folk? I really don't know, nor do I care. In a state of mind like this, I just can't get enough of their more private, emotional, personal songs like Zeig mir dein Himmel, Es kommt wieder a* Sommer, Mach die Augn zu, Überdosis G'fühl or the anthem of the overworked Irgendwann bleib i' dann duat*. But Steinbäcker's genius as a poet really shows in his socially engaged lyrics. A few years ago, some of them seemed like soooo 80s. These days, songs like Das Neue Vaterland, Es fangt genau so an (both inspired by right-wing extremism), Wohin die Reise ("Alles muß immer mehr werd'n und immer schneller / Die Krallen g'schärft, die Ellbog'n knochenhart"), Die Kinder san dran, Kalt und kälter (both referring to nuclear weapons and energy) or Wie a Sternschnupp'n seem as current as ever. Let me give you one example from Es fangt genau so an (roughly: "It's starts all over again") which speaks of refugees and hatred. Just a few years ago, this song could have been about our people in Austria. "Ein westliches Land" may be just a simple description to some, but I can't even begin to describe to you the feelings of hope that will forever be associated with this expression to those of us who know what it was like before 1989. And in any case, there but for the grace of God go I:
Es san die Zuständ' daham unerträglich
Die Versorgung ist komplett am Sand
Und ka Aussicht auf irgendeine Zukunft
Die einzige Chance, a westliches Land
All's is fremd und man muss akzeptier'n
Dass auch die Leut' da was besseres san
Immerhin kann man sich frei bewegen
Obwohl manche Blicke net harmlos san
The situation at home is desperate
There are no supplies left
There's no future for us here
The only chance we have is a Western country
Everything is so foreign and we have to accept
That the people here are better than us
At least you can move around freely
Though some looks are far from harmless
Kalt und kälter (or rather Koit un köölter) is one of those I can listen to over and over again - the chorus is simply beautiful and uplifting and Steinbäcker skilfully employs dialect words to connect with the audience: Austrian "reärn" (instead of "weinen") doesn't just provide a solid rhyme, but unlike its Standard German counterpart also sounds real, honest and intense when coming from a Styrian mouth.
And so as it came up again in my Winamp playlist, the following verses caught my attention:
I spir* zwar an* ganz leisen Schock, doch mit'n Pivo in der Hand
Denk i: Was soll i ändern an die Probleme von an so fremden Land
I feel a slight shock, but with a beer in my hand
I'm thinking 'what can I do about the problems in a country so far away?'
As anyone who has ever been to Prague knows, pivo is Czech (and Slovak, Croatian, Serbian etc.) for "beer". It's nothing strange to find a Czech loanword in any Austrian. Check the Vienna phone directory and you will begin to understand the extent of social and linguistic contact in the Austro-Hungarian milieu. But to see this particular word appear in this particular context gives a food for thought.
In every case of linguistic contact, there is a language or a variety perceived as dominant or High (H, usually the language of the political and social elites) and one or several languages with a Low (L) status. Borrowing and other contact phenomena usually take place in one direction, H > L. One would thus find French loanwords and phrases in the colloquial Arabic of Algeria and Morrocco (Darja), Arabic influence in Farsi, English elements in US Spanish, Russian words and concepts in Georgian and Armenian, German and Czech elements in Slovak and Hungarian and/or Serbian influence in Romani.
But every once in a while, that effect is reversed. I'm not talking about such obvious and easily explained phenomena as L loanwords in H in semantic domains for which H had no original terms (Amerindian names of plants and animals in Latin American Spanish or Slavic household and agricultural concepts in Hungarian). This particular type of exchange seems to mostly involve slang and other non-standard modes of expression. Consider examples like Arabic words in French slang, isiXhosa and Sesotho words in Afrikaans and perhaps most famously, Yiddish words in US English.
One would think that borrowing words from the people at the bottom of the social ladder would be rare, but far from that. Quite the contrary: the social context of those words and expresion may even lead to their popularity. After all, slang is mostly the domain of the young and the rebelious who are the first to be enslaved by fashion and passing fads. Using a new word for an established concept is a necessity - and should that word come from some people your parents wouldn't even shake hands and would be horrified to see you with, that's just an added bonus. As a result, such loanwords do not fully replace the original term, but take on a different, often negative, connotation - dreck in US English for example, is not just dirt, but anything unpleasant, undesirable or disgusting, too. Čávo (from Romani o čhavo = "boy") in Slovak is not just a young male, but also a flashy macho type of guy.
And so I suspect that the use of the word "pivo" in the verses above is another example of this phenomenon. The author uses this well-known, though not common, Czech loanword to distance himself, to express - as the whole song does - disillusion, disdain and emotional coldness.
Speaking of our former brothers - here's two lines from Das neue Vaterland:
Hängt im Wirtshaus umadum
Und tschechert si an
Hangs out in the tavern
and gets wasted
A brief search in the Datenbank zur deutschen Sprache in Österreich revealed the following:
tschechern = to drink alcoholic beverages (Styria: to get wasted)
antschechert = to be drunk (Styria: perceived as Viennese)
While it does not provide any etymology, I suspect a Czech. The word "ein Tscheche", that is. Which, come to think of it, is rather strange. Not the fact that the Czechs are behind this - there are behind everything even slightly detrimental to the Slovak people. But the fact that this time they are tarnishing our reputation as number one drunkards in Central Europe is simply outrageous. They get a loanword and we don't? That's it, I'm taking this up with the European Commisssion. That'll teach them!
*Not to disagree with their official website, but I clearly hear "a", "duat", "wüll", "stüll", "spir" and "an", respectively. I won't be fooled!