Dog (3) – Scooping the poop

26 Feb

Vienna, like many big cities, has pooper scooper laws and–much as anyone who has moved or visited here recently is likely to doubt it–they have made a big difference. There is still a lot of poop on the ground, but there used to be more.

As with many things the Vienna municipal government has tried to motivate citizens to comply with the laws (a) by using humor and (b) by making it as easy as possible. In numbers: over 1,000 stands with plastic bags for the poop, which can be deposited in any of the 20,000 regular public trash bins, and 30,000 (humorous) signs to remind dog owners to scoop. (http://www.wien.gv.at/rk/msg/2007/0920/016.html)

The sign itself I find a masterpiece. (In fact is has even attracted attention in Berlin: http://www.fensterzumhof.eu/4869/berlin-wien-hundehaufen-aktion/) The perky dog has a sign in his mouth that says: Sind dir EUR 36 wurst? A very clever play on words, reminding the dog owners of the possible financial consequences of failing to scoop. “Wurst” means sausage in high German, as in the kind you eat (think “Bratwurst”). In Viennese dialogue it has two meanings. If you say, “Das ist mir wurst” it means “I don’t care” (word-for-word translation: it’s sausage to me). At the same time, I’m sorry to say, “Wurst” is also used to describe precisely what dog owners should be scooping. So the little dog is asking, “Do you really not care about EUR 36?” and referring to the poop in the same sentence.

The overriding slogan for the campaign also relies on Viennese dialect, as if to say, we are all in this together: Nimm’ ein Sackerl für mein Gackerl. This means “take a bag for my poop” but, sadly doesn’t rhyme–and isn’t very memorable or motivating–in English. The “erl” at the end of both “Sackerl” and “Gackerl” in Viennese dialect serves the function of the diminutive “chen” in high German, so we’re talking about a little bag (“Sackerl”) for a little pile of poop (“Gackerl”–a very Viennese expression).

This phrase has even inspired a song, such as it is, which can be viewed on YouTube ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdDPaAR66aQ). The verses are about the dispensers being empty and the trash bins being full so that Frau Huber has to bring her own bag and then has nowhere to dispose of it. This has not been my experience so far. Perhaps the song is a few years old?

One thing is probably no accident–that it is *Frau* Huber. My, granted not all together scientific, observations have suggested to me that it is middle-aged women who are most assiduous in cleaning up after their dogs. And I, at 50, have joined their ranks!

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