Erdmöbel ("earth furniture"): A charmingly bureaucratic word for “casket” that originated in communist East Germany

Literally: “earth furniture” / meaning: “casket”

The GDR existed for 40 years. Long enough to leave traces in language. The East German ductus is said to have a tendency to use overly complicated and sometimes euphemistic terms. At least in expressions that the apparatchiks of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) came up with.

Probably the best-known example is the “anti-fascist protective wall.” Another example for this type of linguistic refinement, the Erdmöbel, is still the subject of the wildest myths. To this day, it is not entirely clear whether the expression is actually an invention of the state leadership—or a satirical word creation from GDR citizens to make fun of precisely this kind of bureaucratical expressions. 

Either way, the word has taken on a life of its own over time, for example as the name of a German indie pop band. Just search for “Erdmöbel” in your favorite audio streaming app. Pretty interesting music. From Cologne, mind you, a city as West German as it gets. What a triumph for a word that may never have really existed. 


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

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

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