Unusual Language (German)
Language can be beautiful as well as complicated. So I want to use this discussion to gain more fluency in German by finding unusual words and colloquialisms. Please add, critique and discuss!
Erklärungsnot - Explanation poverty
It’s what you find yourself in when put on the spot without a sufficient explanation or excuse for something you have done or failed to do. Most often used in the form of in Erklärungsnot geraten or in Erklärungsnot sein.
Fernweh - Distance pain
Is a longing to travel to far away places. It is an antonym of Heimweh (homesickness) Wanderlust can also be used to mean the same thing.
Fremdschämen - Exterior shame
It is to feel ashamed about something someone else has done. Or to be embarrassed because someone else has embarrassed themselves without noticing.
Innerer Schweinehund - Inner pig dog
Is the voice in your head that incites lazy procrastination and putting something off!
Kuddelmuddel - Confusion
Is an unstructured mess, chaos, or hodgepodge. Alternatives which are equally awesome include Tohuwabohu, Wirrwarr, Mischmasch, and Kladderadatsch.
Kummerspeck - Grief bacon
This means the excess weight put on by emotional overeating!
Lebensmüde - Life tired
Means to be weary of life. Used to call your friends when they are attempting something especially stupid and possibly life threatening.
Ohrwurm - Ear worm
Describes having a catchy song stuck in your head that you can't get rid of, long after you've finished listening.
Sitzfleisch - Sit or seat meat
Describes the strong character trait of endurance. The ability to endure or carry on with an activity.
Schattenparker - Shadow parker
An insult for men which to accuse them of unmanly behavior. In this case, of parking their car in the shadow to avoid heating up the interior. Other insults include: Warmduscher (someone who showers with warm water), Sitzpinkler (a man who pees while sitting down), or Turnbeutelvergesser (someone who used to forget their gym bag in cardio class).
Torschlusspanik - Closing-gate panic
Is the feeling of urgency to accomplish goals in life before some imaginary gate closes and that time has run out. Before, "its all too late".
Treppenwitz -Staircase wit
Is the conversational remark that comes to your mind on the way down the stairs after talking with your neighbour after the opportunity has passed. Also in French: l'esprit de l'escalier.
Weltschmerz - World pain
The kind of feeling experienced by someone who understands that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind in a world that isn’t perfect. More often than not, it fails to live up to what we wish it was.
Weichei - Soft egg
Slang term for wuss, softy or wimp. A soft egg, in German, means someone who is weak and cowardly. The similar is also conveyed by calling someone Würstchen, the diminutive of sausage.
Zungenbrecher - Tongue breaker
Tongue twister. E.g: A common one in German is Blaukraut bleibt Blaukraut und Brautkleid bleibt Brautkleid.
Thanks for reading!
What a nice idea and beautiful list! It makes me really happy to see you enjoying German so much and appreciating the language! I would like to add to the fun:
etwas auf die lange Bank schieben - "to push something onto the long bench" or
etw. vor sich her schieben - "to push something around in front of oneself":
To avoid doing something that has to be done, i.e. to procrastinate
die Kirche im Dorf lassen - "keeping the church in the village":
usually used in a manner of telling someone not to exaggerate or not to mingle different topics/facts, e.g. "Na, jetzt wollen wir die Kirche aber mal im Dorf lassen!"
aus einer Mücke einen Elefanten machen - "turning a midge into an elephant"
"to make a mountain of a molehill", making something more dramatic or more important than it really is (especially a problem or something negative)
etwas verkramen - (kramen = to rummage) - note: colloquial and not sure if used everywhere
to lose something in chaos, in rummaging, e.g. "Wo ist denn dein Buch?" - "Ach, das habe ich irgendwie verkramt..."
jemandem ein Ohr ablabern - to talk somebody's ear off (labern = to babble)
to keep talking endlessly, often without noticing that the other person doesn't want to talk anymore and in an annoying way. E.g. can be used as a complaint: "Hans hat mich angerufen und mir schon wieder ein Ohr abgelabert!" but can have a more friendly connotation, simply making fun of the fact that someone babbles a lot.
kratzbürstig sein / eine Kratzbürste sein - being a scratch brush
being a "scratching-cat", i.e. a mieschievous woman
ein Unschuldslamm sein - being a lamb of innocence
being a "choir-boy", i.e. a very innocent person or, depending on the tone and context, somoeone who pretends to be totally innocent
ein Angsthase sein - being a fear rabbit
"being a chicken", being more scared than the others, being afraid of something harmless, not being daring
ein Kuscheltier - a snuggle-animal
a stuffed animal :)
ein Scherzkeks sein - being a joke cookie
being a joker, depending on the tone sometimes also used for someone who makes a lot of jokes that aren't really funny e.g. "Ha, ha. Du bist ja ein richtiger Scherzkeks!" (not)
"Schwein gehabt!" - Had a pig!
An expression used to demonstrate that you were really lucky, or that you got off lightly in a difficult situation.
Hope you like these. :-)
Wikipedia actually has 3 different explanations that are possible: 1. Whoever lost a athletic competition in the middle ages would be given a pig as consolation and thus receive something without actually deserving it. 2. In some German card games (like Doppelkopf or others) the highest card (the ace) is called "sow" (a female pig). When you have the ace (the sow) you will probably be lucky and win. 3. When someone rescues a pig e.g. during a catastrophic event like a flood, it means he rescued something very valuable and be well off given the circumstances (Wikipedia has a picture showing someone rescuing a pig from a flood hanging in the city hall of Hannoversch Münden)
From your original list? I think it differs. You may have more "Erklärungsnot" in your life than "Weltschmerz". I am prone to "fremdschämen" and immune to "Fernweh". But generally, most of these are pretty common words, with the exception of "Treppenwitz", which is not much in use at all, and "Schattenparker" as well as similar words like "Sitzpinkler" and "Warmduscher" are insults that were funny a few years ago but lost their wit since (the German word for this is "abgedroschen"). People frequently create new ones like these, you can find a list here: http://www.gerstlauer.de/andreas/fun/warmduscher.html
Thanks! I can see how the joke would wear thin but on a first encounter I'm finding some of these hilarious...
Since most of these are not really something bad, they are mostly used as a joke. Often between young men who want to call others a wuss and at the same time paint themselves (also jokingly) as macho manly men who of course only shower in ice cold water and open beer bottles always with their eye socket. So yes, it's more jokey banter than anything. I can't recall hearing any of these being used against a woman, but they are sometimes used by women to mock men.
yes, the words of your list are in usage.
Ohrwurm - Ear worm - Och nee schon wieder ein Ohrwurm. Der geht mir heute schon den ganzen Tag nicht aus em (=dem) Ohr.
Erklärungsnot. Er geriet in Erklärungsnot, als seine kleine Tochter eines Abends ins Elternschlafzimmer kam.
Lebensmüde - Life tired - Du musst doch lebensmüde sein! Bungeejumping! Wie kannst du nur!
Torschlusspanik - Closing-gate panic - yeap, common, very common if you have it.
Weichei - Soft egg - Du bist ein (solches) Weichei! Du kannst nicht mal mit der Faust auf den Tisch hauen! (the second sentence: You are not able to say your opinion.)
Kummerspeck - emotional fat (bacon) on/in your body - also a word for the time after Chrismas and for all the other seasons! ;)
Innerer Schweinehund - (the inner lazyness) Every year after the first January the advertisement told you 'Du musst deinen inneren Schweinehund überwinden!' -to get sporty, or something else.
Kuddelmuddel - Confusion- is more used in the north of Germany, but the others out of the south parts of Germany will understand it as well, won't they?
Wirrwarr, Mischmasch, and Kladderadatsch.
Tohuwabohu, is not in my active language usage (='Sprachgebrauch')
Fremdschämen - (Exterior shame) is a more modern word, I guess.
Fernweh - 'Du leidest unter Fernweh.' Es zieht dich in die Ferne. 'Fernweh' is not so often used, because there are less situations, in which you can use it. 'Reiselust', 'Wanderlust' we are more often interested in other places than to be attact of boredom, which leads us in another country or place. More often people feel 'Heimweh'.
Sitzfleisch - Sit or seat meat -not in my active language usage, ask others they will say, they use it often.
Schattenparker - Shadow parker
Treppenwitz -Staircase wit -exists, but I can nothing tell about.
Weltschmerz - World pain, rarly used, we talk about war, crisis, and so on
... Zungenbrecher - Tongue twister. E.g: A common one in German is Blaukraut bleibt Blaukraut und Brautkleid bleibt Brautkleid. -it is a normal word, such normal as joke.
Where I live, there is the Blaukraut red and therefore we call it Rotkraut. But 2/3 of the German population eat Blaukraut. Some chemists here? No? The color change from blue to red because of apples, and other sour ingredients.
This would be my ranking.
Dreikäsehoch is often used for children's size. 'Noch bist du ein Dreikäsehoch, also rede nicht so klug daher! (smile)' Backpfeifengesicht exists not everywhere in Germany, please take the word not at the first position. Kuddelmuddel seems in my eyes also a word which is not everywhere used.
"Dreikäsehoch" means "three - cheeses - high", meaning the kid is as big as three loaves of cheese on top of each other (so rather small).
"Backpfeifengesicht" comes together from "Backpfeife", which is a pretty outdated word for a slap in the face, and "Gesicht", which means face. Together, it means a face that begs to be slapped.
I don't know where "Kuddelmuddel" exactly comes from, but I guess it's just a messy word to describe a real mess.
The only thing like this that I know, is this:
"Wenn Fliegen hinter Fliegen fliegen, fliegen Fleigen Fliegen nach" - When flies fly behind flies, flies fly after flies.
I overheard it in a conversation in Germany when I was about 7 years old or whatever, but completely forgot about it. Until someone on Duolingo posted it about a month ago! And there are loads of others if you're interested: http://german.about.com/od/pronunciation/a/tonguetwisters_2.htm
I'm from Germany, and you got it wrong! It's „Wenn hinter Fliegen Fliegen fliegen, fliegen Fliegen Fliegen nach“. It's still working, but since the subject and the adverbial are swapped, you've got six ‘fliegen’ in a row, not just five. And your version I never even heard.
This reminds me of the classic 'Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo' sentence in English, although any number of Buffalo's from 'Buffalo buffalo' to 'Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo' are grammatically correct sentences in English, if sometimes a bit differently parsed as you add and subtract from the number of buffalo's.
It uses three meanings of buffalo: Buffalo, New York; the animal; and a somewhat obscure use as a verb that means "to bully."
So "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo" parses as "Buffalo, New York bison (that other) Buffalo, New York bison bully (also) bully Buffalo, New York bison."
I love these! :) A little contribution:
Here are some phrases to express that someone isn't quite right in the head. They all mean the same.
nicht alle Tassen im Schrank haben
nicht alle Latten am Zaun haben
einen Knall / einen Vogel / eine Meise haben
einen Sprung in der Schüssel haben
nicht ganz bei Trost sein
And some phrases to use when you're going nuts or when you just can't believe what's happening:
Ich glaub, ich spinn!
Ich glaub, mich tritt ein Pferd!
Ich glaub, ich bin im falschen Film!
Ich glaub, mein Schwein pfeift!
Some people like to make literal English translations of these phrases for fun, so you might hear phrases like "I think I spider!" or "I think my pig whistles!" from a German eventually :D
"spinnen" has nothing to do with spiders, but with yarn. Back in the old times, women sat at their spinning wheels in the evening and told stories (that's where all the Grimm's tales were originally passed). Since these were mostly fantasy stories, "spinnen" (to yarn) soon started to also mean that you let your imagination run wild and tell weird stuff, which eventually developed into the meaning of "being bonkers". "Ich glaub' ich spinne!" therefore means "I think I'm (going) nuts!"
I love some of the silly words like "papperlapapp" and "hoppala", but I only hear these on tv shows. I don't know enough regular German speakers yet. :( But as an aside, don't let anyone tell you German isn't a beautiful language! I saw someone saying that the other day on here and I am so tired of that baseless notion. :( [yawn] If you can hear this (http://youtu.be/4pbMUEHvoAo) and think German isn't an absolute treasure that is just quatsch! ;) Lastly, I finally got to see "schadenfreude" used in context a couple times in the last few days and it was really fascinating! Long live language learning! hee hee. :)
etepetete is also a great word even though I use it as a form of "bla bla bla" or "papperlapapp" it apparently means niminy-piminy or highty-tighty in english
but my favourite german word that does not exist in english:
verschlimmbessern: "To improve something but actually making everything worse"
We all had at least in one or two exams in school where the answers we wrote were correct but we thought in the test that it is wrong and replaced it with a wrong answer
I saw the movie Run, Lola, Run when I was in High School and this song "Wish (Komm Zu Mir)" (http://youtu.be/Wk0jJfQvLmU) is in it. After hearing it, I was so fascinated with German and wanted to understand it and be able to sing along so bad. It sounds so beautiful to me. It just flows so nice. Even listening to it now, I still feel the same!
I read all the posts now. Here is some more: Jemanden durch den Kakao ziehen: Pull someone through hot chocolate. It means to make fun of somebody. Erbsenzähler: Somebody that counts peas. It is the german word for nitpicker. Mit dem Kopf durch die Wand gehen: Go trough the wall with the head. It means that you make your thing without a compromise
Hackepeter is copped meat with spice and salt, some add a whole egg to, some only a part of an egg, and I guess some omit an egg. You don't cook it, you don't bake nor roast it. So you eat it like sushi, raw (german: roh) ! Hackepeter is served on bread. You should not store it, because of the egg and because of the raw meat.
'Ein Hexenschuss' hurts very much. 'Es sind höllische Schmerzen' ~hurts like the hell. The doctors call it "Lumbago" or "acute Lumbalgie".
some other good phrases in German are:
- die Stimme ölen
- um den heißen Brei reden
- sich bei jemanden einschleimen
- Himmel hoch jauchzen
- Wenn Blicke töten könnten. -I guess you have this phrase, too.
Hackepeter is a synonym to the more common word “Mett”. Wikipedia says Hexenschuss is “low back pain” or the mentioned lumbago in English. I guess that “Himmel hoch jauchzen” is really “himmelhoch jauchzen”, but that term is rarely used nowadays. It isn't an idiom. But anyway, here are translations for the phrases: die Stimme ölen: “oil the voice” — I don't know what this is supposed to mean. um den heißen Brei (herum) reden: “talk around the hot porridge” — to beat around the bush sich (bei jemandem) einschleimen: “to slime in to someone” — to suck up to, to kiss up to someone Wenn Blicke töten könnten: “If looks/gazes could kill” — when someone looks at you very angry
to oil the voice. ~ if you have a non-normal/non-good voice, you can 'oil your voice', like a rusty machine, and afterwards your voice sounds good. -In English you can not use this phrase!-
Have you heart of 'Der Wolf und die sieben Geißlein' (The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats)? There the wolf eats chalk to get a higher voice.
In the end, your voice stay like it is. I have never eaten chalk, - maybe someone has and can tell us - but I don't believe the voice change.
Helium and other gases, like you all know, can change your voice.
There are a lot of words and phrases that came from Hebrew over Jiddisch into the German language: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_deutscher_W%C3%B6rter_aus_dem_Hebr%C3%A4ischen_und_Jiddischen
I see nothing wrong with shadow parking.
Nothing wrong with showering in warm water either! I think that's the point of these expressions -- they jokingly imply that the speaker is used to some ludicrously exaggerated standard of macho behaviour.
(I confess the "cardio class" one confuses me a little though. Surely signing up for a cardio class at all puts you in the Schattenparker category -- all the Kaltduscher, Sonnenparker, Stehpinkler types would be getting their exercise through activities like ice-climbing and bear-wrestling...)
I think it is just explained wrong. In Germany, you have sports as a normal part of your school curriculum, at one or two days a week. It is a big shame for a kid if you forget your sports clothes (in your Turnbeutel, which is a cloth bag for your sports clothes) that days and you have to do the exercises in street clothes or borrowed stuff. So a "Turnbeutelvergesser" (=one who forgets their sports bag) is the kind of oblivious kid that gets bullied in school.
I agree they seem a little outdated and quite sexist when read in English. The cardio one, I think refers to 'accidentally' forgetting your gym kit when being made to run for example cross country at school where it is mandatory! I can't help but read Sitzpinkler and giggle though, can you!
Nice list! Thanks! Here's my favorite word in return: Kokolores - rubbish, nonsense,
Synonyms: Käse, Blödsinn, Schmarren, Humbug, wirres/sinnloses/dummes Zeug, Stuss, Quatsch, Mumpitz, Krampf, Kohl, Tinnef, Koks, Blech, Nonsens, Unsinn
An examples of its use from the web I could find:
[...] sollten erfahren, daß der britische Premierminister John Major vor wenigen Minuten im Unterhaus in Beantwortung einer Anfrage über den Bericht des Untersuchungsausschusses, den wir heute nachmittag hier erörtern, diesen Bericht als "eine Menge Kokolores" bezeichnet hat. europarl.europa.eu
Translation : I thought this House should know that just a few minutes ago in the House of Commons the British Prime Minister John Major, in answer to a question about the report from the Committee of Inquiry which we are discussing this afternoon, referred to it as 'a load of tosh' .
It's just a word that sounds exactly what it means :)
Ich schätze, das ist vielleicht von der Region abhängig? Mir ist "Kokolores" zum Beispiel ganz geläufig, auch wenn ich es nicht allzu oft benutze.
It just came to my mind: "Pipifax" is another word like this! :D It is used for something that is irrelevant, unnecessary or unimportant (and a little silly).
Some more that came to my mind:
jemanden an die Wand reden - to talk someone against the wall
meaning that someone is superior to another in talking or in a discussion, so that the other person figuratively stands with their back against the wall.
etwas ausbaden müssen - (baden = to bathe)
to have to go through something that has been caused by a mistake of oneself or someone else, e.g.: "Na toll, du hast was angestellt und ich darf es wieder ausbaden!" (etw. anstellen = to get up to something / to get into mischief)
die Suppe auslöffeln müssen - to have to spoon out the soup
to have to solve a problem or go through a tricky situation
jemandem etwas einbrocken - (der Brocken = the chunk)
to get someone into trouble
jemandem die Brutter vom Brot nehmen/klauen - to take/steal someone's butter off their bread
to get the profit for another one's effort, often snatching it away right in front of them
mit jemandem ein Hühnchen zu rupfen haben - to have a chicken to pluck with someone
to have to talk to someone about something they did wrong or an offence/a problem; usually forecasting that they will get into an argument (but can be said jokingly as well)
Thank you all for a great post! My contribution: a TV show in German, available on YouTube, in which Germans of all walks of life are interviewed, using daily language but at the fast pace of native speakers. Their language is spiced up with interesting expressions. For example, in http://youtu.be/Dotioao__Jw someone is asked if Düsseldorf "ist eine ... Schickimicki Stadt". Translation? A "fancy-schmancy city" (the interviews are fortunately subtitled). I hope you enjoy it. Alles Gute.
Guten Abend, Bibeaults. I too have asked myself why "Easy German"? Maybe to encourage everyone to listen to this program. One has to admit that having subtitles makes it easy to understand and learn. A trick that helped me: listen to a particularly interesting sentence with the subtitles; then say that sentence reading the subtitles; then listen to it again and understand it all without any help, and then get a sense of accomplishment. It may seem laborious, but it is not hard at all. Besides, at level 16, I am certain you know much more German than you realize! Hals- und Beinbruch! // Good luck! Break a leg!
Guten morgen. :) Maybe that is why. Yes, the subtitles definitely help. When I see Easy German and then I only understand a words here and there it is a little discouraging. Oh well, at least I can understand duo's German robot lady. I have definitely made progress though. I watched the Easy German lesson on swear words months ago and literally understood nothing.
Good luck to you, too.
Hallo, Bibeaults. Swear words? I do not understand swear words, not even in my native tongue. They all seem to come from a place where the speaker is overcome with ire and where grammar, common sense and reason have evaporated, ha, ha. Just imagine the beautiful voice of Duo's German 'bot enunciating foul language --- the magic would be gone forever. Alles gute! :)
Do you know this song? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Va2nGWTchBk
My flatmate works in a kindergarten and showed it to me. I've read that it is sometimes used in german classes? There is this funny word for sweets in it I often use: "Naschi" ^^ (it is a shortened form of the old word "Naschwerk"/Süßigkeit)
yes.. they have the same origin. verb = "naschen" (nibble)
-you often use "naschen" when you take a bit of something forbidden.. like cookie dough when "your mother said not to do so".. or the chocolate you only get from your grandmother - like in the song
and "nibble" is better translated with "knabbern"