German is weird: Fun Facts about the German Language

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

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Hexenschuss: The German word for a sudden lower back pain literally translates to “shot by a witch”

Hexenschuss

Yes, it’s painful! And it comes without any warning… All it takes is one clumsy movement and you suddenly feel like an 80 year old crock who shouts out in ache every time you stand up from your seat

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Meerbusen: A gulf is literally called a "sea boob" in German.

Meerbusen

Of, course, there is a good reason for this. The word Meerbusen is a loan translation of the Latin “sinus maritimus.” The word “sinus” can refer to both a bay and… well… a breast.

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sturmfrei (“storm-free”): The state where no parents are at home and kids are free to do whatever they want.

sturmfrei

Sturmfrei is one of these German terms for which dictionaries do not even offer a vague equivalent. It does not only describe a certain state, but a special feeling where you really intend to use this temporary freedom.

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Leichenschmaus: A funeral reception is called a “corpse feast” in German

Leichenschmaus

I remember finding the word Leichenschmaus extremely off-putting when I was a kid and could not believe that a concept like this even existed. But it does indeed, and no, it is not linked to cannibalism…

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Trostpflaster ("patch of solace"): A small, usually insignificant compensation for a great disappointment.

Trostpflaster

The term is also frequently used in sports: For example, soccer fans often refer to the entire Europa League as a “Trostpflaster” for clubs that did’t make it to the Champions League. 

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Götterspeise (“dish of Gods“): That’s how Germans refer to jello.Well, if I was God, I’d probably choose something else...

Götterspeise

Even as a kid, I kept asking myself: Of all the treats in the world – why on heaven and earth does this gooey mess carry such a sophisticated name? 

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Fingerspitzengefühl ("finger-tip feeling"): A fine sense of how to act in delicate situations

Fingerspitzengefühl

The word describes a mixture of empathy, psychological sensitivity, politeness, and eloquence that is needed unless you want to create an awkward atmosphere.

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Pustekuchen: When a German shouts “blowcake” at you, it means they don’t agree in the slightest with what you just said

Pustekuchen!

“Dieses Jahr wird Bayern München die Meisterschaft verpassen”—„Pustekuchen! Das wird nicht passieren” (“This year, Bayern Munich will miss the championship”—“Blowcake! That’s not gonna happen”).

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Schnapsidee ("booze idea"): An idea so crazyyou can hardly imagine someone came up with it in a sober condition

Schnapsidee

If you ever texted your ex at 3 a.m. after you have just recovered from the breakup, you know that ideas you have under heavy alcohol influence are rarely worth imitating.

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Hamsterkauf ("hamster purchase"): That’s how Germans refer to panic buying. However, they tend to hoard toilet paper rather than pets.

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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Eselsbrücke: When you are making up a little memory hook, Germans will say you are building a “donkey bridge”

Eselsbrücke

It has probably nothing to do with donkeys being stupid, but rather a bit stubborn. They refuse to wade through water – so their owners have to build an improvised bridge to make them cross a creek.

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Gänsewein: When you only have a glass of water with your meal, Germans will say you are drinking 'goose wine"

Gänsewein

A fine dinner without alcohol? This is hardly thinkable for many Germans. People from the Federal Republic tend to consider a glass of beer or wine an essential part of the meal.

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Maurermarmelade: If it’s too boring for you to say Mett, you can also call it “bricklayers’ jam.”

Maurermarmelade

Many nations have their nasty delicacies. The French have Roquefort cheese. The Mexicans have fried locusts. The Americans have pineapples on their pizzas. Germans, however, have Mettbrötchen.

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Zielwasser ("aiming water"): That’s how Germans refer to an alcoholic beverage that you drink with the intent to improve your aiming skills.

Zielwasser

The word describes a little schnaps that Germans drink whenever they need a good aim—like bowling, minigolf, or a shooting gallery at Oktoberfest.

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Kabelsalat: When your wires are all tangled and cluttered, Germans will say you have “cable salad”

Kabelsalat

The German word Salat is a tricky one, as it refers both to a salad and the typical ingredients a salad is usually made of, i.e. lettuce. It also conveys a connotation of chaos or disorder, like in this case.

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"Jein": German gives you the power to say yes and no at the same time with just four letters.

Jein

“Did you watch the German national team game yesterday” – “Jein. I left the TV on. But my Tinder date came to visit, so I didn’t catch that much of it.”

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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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