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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Ehrenrunde: If you have to repeat a year at school in Germany, you are “running a victory lap”


Winston Churchill did it – and so did former German President Christian Wulff as well as Thomas Mann, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. And Eminem, of course.

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Drehwurm: When you feel dizzy after riding a carousel, you literally have a “spin worm” in Germany


Drehwurm may sound like one of these jolly modern neologisms. However, the word has a serious and somewhat sinister background. There is actually a species that is popularly called Drehwurm, which is not a nice one.

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Nonnenfürzle: There is a traditional southern German carnival pastry whose name translates to “a nun‘s little farts”


Granted, not everyone in Germany knows this sweet dish – at least if they live north of Swabia where Nonnenfürzle originated from. However, its hilarious name and backstory make it just to good not mention. 

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Einen Korb kriegen: When you are rejected by your crush in Germany, you literally "get a basket".

Einen Korb kriegen

The phrase “einen Korb kriegen” is very commonly used in Germany to describe the situation where someone is rejected. Originally, this expression developed from a medieval custom.

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Mutterkuchen: The German word for placenta literally traslates to “mother‘s cake”


The word generously ignores the fact that the placenta actually bears more resemblance to a steak tartare. Interestingly, the word “placenta” itself is cognate to German “Plätzchen”, meaning small biscuits.

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Dachshund, Kindergarten, Sauerkraut, Wunderkind: There are more than 400 German loan words in English

German loan words 

German loan words are used not only the French and Arabic speaking world, but also in distant places like Papua New Guinea, Kenia or Korea. First and foremost however, the English language is literally packed with them.

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Backpfeifengesicht ("cheek whistle face"): Someone who makes you feel the desire to punch him in the face just by looking at him


Backpfeifengesicht is a perfect example of creative insults that the German language has on offer. It is highly effective, yet innocent enough to not have you bleeped out.

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Schlitzohr ("slit ear"): That's how Germans call a rascal or someone who is not trustworthy


Everyone knows that one guy you wouldn’t buy a used car from. I don’t mean like a convicted criminal. More that Moe Szyslak type of person. That’s what Germans like to call a “Schlitzohr”.

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Vorglühen: To have some drinks before a party with a few close friends


“Vorglühen” usually takes place at the home of whoever lives closest to the party. The trick is to get just that tiny bit tipsy without feeling drunk yet.

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Feuerzeug: A cigarette lighter is simply called a "fire thing" in German


The German language seems to have an obscure obsession with “things”. You can describe virtually any type of device by combine the word Zeug (“thing”) with the actual purpose of the object.

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Erbsenzähler ("pea counter"): A very pedantic person


There are tons of clichés about German manners, most of them revolving around our somewhat pedantic attitude. In other words: Germans will break out in sweat if not everything is in perfect order.

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Torschlusspanik: The anxiety of missing out on your goals in family planning because you are too old


it’s mainly the long-time Tinder power users among my friends and colleagues who, at some point in their mid 30s, look a bit dumbfounded.

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Stinktier: The German word for skunk literally translates to "stinky animal"


The German language has a strange tendency to use defaming names for certain species. This is also true with this cute but somewhat stinky guy.

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Die Nutella vs. Das Nutella


Although Nutella is not a German product, many of my compatriots have an almost cult-like devotion to the spread. It even has a tradition of causing emotional fights at the breakfast table about its true gender.

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Schadenfreude: The feeling of joy over other peoples' mishaps


You know that situation when the bully gets his butt kicked for once? Or when the glamour boy arrives at school with a giant ugly zit on his nose? This is the point where Schadenfreude kicks in.

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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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