Aha-Erlebnis

Literally, an “aha experience,” this great German term means revelation or eureka moment. I had one last night.

I was lying in bed, thinking about German grammar — a great way to fall asleep. And while contemplating which verbs take “to be” vs. “to have” in the past tense, I recalled something my sixth-grade French teacher, Madame Dupuy, taught me. To differentiate between verbs that took “être” and ones that took “avoir,” she drew a house, with various verbs of motion around it: “to climb” climbing up the stairs and “to descend” coming back down, “to fall” toppling down from the balcony, etc. (I think this is a widespread thing, not a Dupuy-specific one.) And she called it the maison d’être.

Only last night, at 12-something a.m., in a half-slumber, 14 years later, did I finally get the wordplay.

That’s an Aha-Erlebnis if there ever was one.

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