A portmanteau word of “ja” and ”nein”
“Did you watch the match of the German national team yesterday?” – “Jein. I left the TV on. But my Tinder date came to visit, so I didn’t catch that much of it.” Of course, in English you also have the option to answer a question with “Yes and No.” But we Germans are once again guided by the idea of efficiency here, so we pack the same level of ambivalence into just one tiny word.
The word Jein reached its career peak in the spring of 1996, when the German rap trio “Fettes Brot” (“fat bread”) released their Top 10 hit with this very title. The song is about an affair with the partner of one’s best buddy. A delightful use case for this nice little term, because here it perfectly describes the dichotomy between rational reason and… let’s say, dumbass horniness.
Moreover, the word is often used in order to imply that something will only happen under a special condition. For example: “Would you like to spend the evening at my place” – “Jein. Generally, yes. But not if you are going to be an unromantic chump again and watch soccer on the side.”