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von ReaderMI (UN), 2015-10-27, 12:15  like dislike  Spam?  
I'm reading an English thriller where a German character asks an Englishman in 1946 "Sie Verfügen über ein Telefon?"  I just wanted to check whether this was perhaps an attempt to capture old-fashioned politeness.  I've looked up verfügen über and suspect the author was possibly not well versed in German and just picked the construction without knowing it's not idiomatic.  Wouldn't he have been more correct with the simple "Darf ich Ihr Telefon benutzen?" or "Haben Sie ein Telefon?"   Or, as mentioned previously, did Germans 70 years ago in fact use that construction speaking about telephones (and whatever else)?
von Windfall (GB), 2015-10-27, 12:28  like dislike  Spam?  
Like in English, in German there are lots of ways of expressing the same thought or meaning. "Verfügen Sie über ...?" is one of the ways of asking "Do you have ...?" and is still in use today: Google: "verfügen Sie über"
Google: "verfügen Sie über"
I think you'd have to be either a bit silly or not familiar with foreign language learning to use this phrase to ask someone who wasn't really quite fluent in German if they had something, but it's a perfectly valid phrase and perfectly fine to ask someone who's fluent in German if they have a telephone.
Telefon  #821904
von ReaderMI (UN), 2015-10-27, 12:40  like dislike  Spam?  
Thanks!  The character is asking a complete stranger who doesn't speak English at all.  Thanks, too for the link; is asking if there's a room available the same as asking if a phone is available?  

On another note: Does class play a role?  Is the construction perhaps more elegant?  

I did notice that the author elsewhere made a basic mistake in German so I was extra curious about this usage I hadn't seen before.

The scene: the woman hurries into a shop in London, afraid for her life/afraid of being kidnapped, so she's under immense stress.
von Dracs (DE), Last modified: 2015-10-27, 13:36  like dislike  Spam?  
In den 1940er-Jahren waren Telefone eine Seltenheit und sehr teuer. Privatpersonen hatten normalerweise kein Telefon, aber viele Leute konnten an ihrem Arbeitsplatz ein Telefon benutzen. Die Frage: "Verfügen Sie über ...?" schließt also das "zur Verfügung stehende" Telefon am Arbeitsplatz mit ein.
Auch damals wurde nicht so geschwollen geredet, aber das formelle "Verfügen Sie ...?" drückt hier den grundsätzlichen Respekt vor dem Privileg eines Telefons aus.
von Windfall (GB), Last modified: 2015-10-27, 12:56  like dislike  Spam?  
The "verfügen über" way of asking is like asking if you have one at your disposal. I'd say it's more formal than asking "Haben Sie" and possibly hints that the person asking has a white collar job. It would be a phrase most people wouldn't use with a young child (I wouldn't expect an average German 5 year old to understand it - any more than I'd expect an English 5 year old to understand "Do you have a telephone at your disposal?"). At a guess, if the author has used incorrect German before, they've probably not carefully thought through the precise implications of this phrase. Possibly they got a friend to translate the phrases they needed (and maybe miscopied one). Quite often when you get a friend to translate things for you, they don't spend hours thinking of the right phrase for precisely the context you need, but simply make some assumptions about what you might need the phrases for and come up with their best shot. What I'm mainly saying is that I wouldn't read too much into it.
von Windfall (GB), 2015-10-27, 12:53  like dislike  Spam?  
4;ReaderMI, what Dracs just answered to you was: In the 1940s, telephones were a rarity and very expensive. Private individuals did not normally have a telephone, but a lot of people were able to use a phone at their work. The question: "Verfügen Sie über...?" thus includes the telephone at the persons disposal "zur Verfügung stehende" at their place of work. Even back then, people didn't speak so turgidly, but the formal "Verfügen Sie..?" here expresses the fundamental respect for the privilege of a telephone.
Telefon  #821910
von ReaderMI (UN), Last modified: 2015-10-27, 13:13  like dislike  Spam?  
Dracs, that makes total sense, and though she's afraid, she's also self-possessed enough to keep her manners.  Thanks very much.  The author had good advice on this question, clearly.  PS: Windfall, thanks for the translation but I read German and got what he said.  I'm a slow typist in German and prone to errors, so I don't ask questions in it.  :-)  But as for "reading too much into it," I think authors owe their readers accuracy when they include snippets of foreign languages--or they should avoid the usage altogether.
Telephones  #822030
von Catesse (AU), 2015-10-28, 01:39  like dislike  Spam?  
Background: Year 1946. Private telephones were not all that common. Even many businesses did not have a phone. During the war, virtually no private telephones were installed, and after the war there was a long waiting list for applications. So you could not assume that a small shop would have one, and something like "Do you have access to a telephone?" would not have seemed an odd question to ask.

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