27 Comments This discussion is locked.
Weiß means white. As a verb it also means to know. It is the 'Ich' form from the word 'wissen' which means 'to know'. Eg: Ich weiß. Sie wissen.
As for why it has separate meaning, each language has such things called Capitonyms where the context determines the meaning. Grave as in buried ground and grave as in serious. March is a month and also something that soldiers do.
You just have to keep a note of these peculiarities.
"s" is usually pronounced as "z" in English, as in "Sie sind" = (Zee zind), unless followed by a "t", in which case it's pronounced as "sh" sound. For example: "Strasse" = Sh-trasse.
ß = ss and is pronounced the same way you would pronounce the "s" in the English words "See" or "Sorry"
ß is essentially a double s. As a general rule, ß is used after a long vowel (the ei combination of "weiß" counts as a long vowel), and ss is used after a short vowel. ß is never used at the beginning of a word.
The spelling reform of the mid 1990s changed a lot of words that used to be spelled with ß to ss in order to match the long vowel/short vowel rule. So if you are reading books printed before the spelling reform, you will see ß used in many common words with short vowels, for example isst used to be spelled ißt.
I'm in Austria quite frequently and have not seen any disappearance of ß, or heard anything of it happening. Duden and Wikipedia don't seem to know of any such development either.
However, if your lecturer was writing in block capitals, then the substitution was correct: while there is such a thing as a capital ß, it is not widely used.
You will, however, be completely understood if you spelled it that way. Especially if it's apparent that you cannot, for whatever reason, use Umlate. Best to get used to those keyboard shortcuts, or use a German keyboard layout, so you can get familiar with them, but if absolutely necessary, you will survive with ss, at least when chatting online. This, at least, comes from experience, with times I'm not able to use Umlate, or just can't be bothered to use those shortcuts.
The English (British) layout's shortcuts are:
ü = ALT + 0252
ö = ALT + 0246
ä = ALT + 0228
ß = ALT + 0223
Seems crazy, but it becomes second-nature, after a while. xD
If you can't use those, for whatever reason:
ü = ue
ö = oe
ä = ae
ß = ss
Those will suffice, although I personally think they look ugly and are harder to read, but that's just me. :P