German is weird: A blog about the curiosities of the German language

German Is Weird: Crazy Words von Arschkarte bis Zielwasser - from "ass card" to "aiming water"

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Pariser

Clichés are very unfairly distributed. While the world sees us Germans as rather humourless organizational talents, the fine sense for physical pleasures is mainly attributed to the French.

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Arschkarte: When you are in the least fortunate position, Germans will say you have "drawn the ass card"

Arschkarte

The origin of this idiom is not entirely clear. However, many believe that there is a connection to the red card in team sports like soccer.

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Herrgottsbscheißerle (“little god cheater”): An alternative word for Maultaschen (Swabian dumplings)

Herrgottsbscheißerle

Italians have Ravioli, Slavs have Pierogi, Koreans have Dim Sum. And, most importantly, Swabians couldn’t even exist without their Maultaschen.

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Hamsterkauf ("panic buying")

Hamsterkauf

The term goes back to the hamster’s ability to collect vast quantities of supplies in its cheek pouches. Just like the Germans’ ability to stash vast quantities of noodles and toilet paper in their cellars.

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Aufgebrezelt: When you dressed yourself in an overly flashy or dolled-up way, Germans will say you are “pretzeled up”

Aufgebrezelt

Everyone knows that one person who is always dressed a little too fancy and always has a little too much makeup on—even in completely inappropriate situations.

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Welpenschutz (“puppy protection”): That’s what Germans call the special kind of leniency that newcomers are treated with.

Welpenschutz

It’s the grace period or the leniency shown to someone due to their inexperience, much like how you wouldn’t be mad at a puppy for chewing up your shoe.

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Kotflügel

The word comes from a time when the Germans streets were still dominated by horse-drawn carriages – and the tons of excrements they left behind.

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When the care label of your slip is showing, Germans will say you are “receiving an ass fax”

Arschfax

It’s every foreign intern’s nemesis in Germany: this old-fashioned communication device that looks like a discarded push-button telephone has banged a printer.

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Schnapszahl ("booze number"): This is what Germans call a number that is composed of a sequence of identical digits.

Schnapszahl

You know why Schnapszahl is something like the perfect German word? Because it combines two of German’s greatest passions: the passion for booze… and the passion for order. 

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Staubsauger: "A vacuum cleaner is called a “dust sucker” in German, and without any doubt, that’s an objectively better name."

Staubsauger

Just to get that right out of the way: “vacuum cleaner” is a crappy term, as my new Dyson does not clean vacuums, but carpets. In contrast, the German counterpart Staubsauger scores with perfect simplicity.

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Bauchpinseln: When you flatter someone to get in their favor, Germans will say you are “belly-brushing” that person

Bauchpinseln

A German proverb says: “Not complaining is enough praise.” We are truly not the masters of lavishing compliments. However, the concept of using feigned compliments as a weapon to win someone’s favor isn’t beyond a German’s reach.

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Wirtschaft: You know that a language is awesome when the word for ‘economy’ can also mean ‘pub’

Wirtschaft

Back in the days, when I watched my father reading the Wirtschaftsnachrichten („economy news“), I honestly thought he was trying to get informed about new restaurants in town.

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Brustwarze

Granted, the English equivalent “nipple” is not a happy choice either. But at least, it does not sound like something that you would immediately run to a dermatologist with. 

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Saftladen: When a business is poorly run, Germans like to say it's a "juice shop"

Saftladen

Oddly enough, a company does not need to be a shop nor particularly “juicy” in order to be called this way. The term just refers to any company that appears poorly organized or unpleasant in any other way. 

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Schnitzeljagd ("hunt for Schnitzels"): That’s what Germans call a game of treasure hunt.

Schnitzeljagd

I remember birthday parties where we had to walk through our town and follow clues to find a treasure. I also remember my birthdays being in February and everyone having a cold the next day ;)

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Scheißtage: During the "crap days", German workers had to work for free to compensate for the time they have on the toilet the months before.

Scheißtage

There are memorial days for pretty much every kind of nonsense – from “International Lost Socks Memorial Day” or “Wiggle Your Toes Day.” However, the “Crap Days” in Germany were a real thing, and pretty severe for the ones they affected.

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German is weird: Fun Facts and Trivia about the German language

This blog is a love letter to the curiosities of the German language that give it its poetic and, at times, oddly humorous qualities.

German Is Weird: Crazy Words von Arschkarte bis Zielwasser - from "ass card" to "aiming water"

The “German Is Weird” book is now available: order here!

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