Expressing the Inexpressible in German
It's common in German to see one word that expresses something that might take five or ten words in English. Some examples are:
Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän = captain of the society for Donau (river) navigation
Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachung = monitoring of beef labeling
Telekommunikationsüberwachungsverordnung = telecommunication surveillance provision.
Here's a proposal for adding a few more words to the German language:
The word does not exist, maybe you mean Eisenbahnschienenbewegung (which I have never heard either)?
Are those really one word? It looks to me like many words glued together. Germans don't seem to want to breathe!
They're all compound words consisting of several constituent words. Quite often, you'll find that the English translation (usually a phrase rather than a compound word) is almost or just as long as the German word. In some cases, the English translation may even be longer as you need to add prepositions and articles.
They do want to breathe. A classroom full of German teenagers struggling to pronounce a bunch of those in a text is one of the funniest things in existence.
My favorite is Kadavergehörsam. Colorful, memorable, and the meaning is instantly apparent. :-)
Lebensabschnittsgefährter. Wonderful term to denote the person you are currently with and at the same time implying that it is only for the time being and not forever.
Lebensabschnittsgefährte. But don't forget, maybe next time you are the Lebensabschnittsgefährtin...
Another lovely word is "Jahresendflügelfigur".
It's paraphrase for Engel / angel used in GDR administration as religion was only tolerated by the socialist government :o)
Das war die Wortschöpfung von Ernst Röhl, Autor der DDR-Satirezeitschrift "Eulenspiegel". Die DDR-Behörden haben zwar Sprachungetüme geschaffen und benutzt. Dieses jedoch nicht.
Does anyone remember the punch line to an old joke about German engineers? They wanted to make the world's most efficient farm animal, and it took ten years but they finally brought to market "der Eierlegenwollelnwachsenspeckmachennutztiere," which was supposed to combine the best features of the chicken, sheep and pig. Somehow everything went kaput but I don't remember exactly how. Maybe most of the joke is in the name!
The term eierlegende Wollmilchsau (or Eier legende Wollmilchsau), a feminine noun because of the Sau, colloquially refers to an all-purpose object or solution, combining many advantages without having any disadvantages.
It even has its own Wikipedia page: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eierlegende_Wollmilchsau
Das ist sehr lustig. Danke für die Geschichte! I especially like the picture of the eierlegende Wollmilchsau.
"Das eierlegende Wollmilchschwein" wurde zum geflügelten Wort in Ost- und Westdeutschland und stammt aus einem humoristischen Gedicht zum 70. Geburtstag des Schriftstellers Ludwig Renn, Aufbau-Verlag Berlin, 1959, S. 135 („Der Kampf um das eierlegende Wollschwein“).
This thread is a beautiful thing. I absolutely think some of these should be included in the lessons! :D
Does anybody know if it is true that in Mexiko the word "Fahrvergnügen" became popular because of a Volkswagen commercial?
The words are highly intellectual and some make sense but could be used only once in a lifetime - "Tantalusqualerlösung"- neverless thanks for the link Julika
I'm applying to uni this summer so my new favorite is Hochschulzugangsberechtigung, roughly meaning "the authorization to be admitted into university". All the university sites use it and shockingly enough, it actually saves a lot of space.