Driving to one of my classes, I was listening to the a chart show where listeners had voted for their favourite songs. According to the presenter, one of the top songs was "You can leave your head on" by Tom Jones.
I didn't know this song. I knew a lot of sayings with 'head' though.
If you are very forgetful, you may say "I would forget my head, if it wasn't screwed on!".
If you are very stressed and confused, you may "run around like a headless chicken".
If, however, you have a mature, practical personality, somebody might say that you "have your head screwed on".
But these didn't sound like topics a charmer like Tom Jones would sing about.
The presenter meant, of course, his song "You can leave your hat on".
German speakers often have a problem hearing and pronouncing the difference between a 'd' and a 't' at the end of the word, and this topic may be covered in a later blog post. However, the problem here was the vowel sound.
The 'ea' in 'head' is this sound /e/ . It is said very quickly with your teeth almost closed. You can hear the same sound in words like "bed" and "better". It is a sound used a lot in German and you can hear it in the German word "endlich".
The sound in "hat" is /æ/, which is a long, open sound. It is formed deeper in your mouth, so you have to open your mouth quite wide to say it. You don't have it in German, but you can hear it in English words like "apple".
Listen to the difference:
And remember: Apple (/æ/) hat nichts mit vereppeln (/e/) zu tun!