The Literal Wittiness of Deutsch
By Merren, tour guide and lover of funny sounding words.
It’s a pretty widespread belief that the Germans have little sense of humour. Just take a look at this survey of 30,000 people conducted by Badoo.com, which ranked Germany as the world’s least funny country.
Now that I’m coming along in my understanding of the German language however, this stereotype seems a little unfair if you ask me. Indeed it is not until you delve deeper into any language that you can hope to gain some understanding of its speakers.
While German is notoriously literal, I’m coming to discover that it is also pretty damn hilarious.
Over the next couple of weeks I’d be delighted to share a few instances that have left me enjoying and embracing the unembellished brilliance of Deutsch. Here goes:
A compound word that translates literally to “grief-bacon” but denotes the concept of emotional overeating and the excess weight gained as a result. (Yep, been there, done that!)
You know that feeling of coming up with the perfect comeback to a smart-alec comment a good hour or two after it was needed? Is there an English word dealing with this notion? I couldn’t come up with one but the Germans have. Treppe (“stairwell”) + witz (“joke”) = the things you should have said but only occur to you too late (e.g. When you’re walking away down the stairs).
Don’t ask me to type that one again as my fingers are tired. This one is the single word the German language has derived for “the struggle to come to terms with one’s past”.
Hehe, this one never fails to make me chuckle. Not only does the word make for a delicious vernacular treat, it is actually a fried potato fritter delight. Say it a couple of times. Go on, you know you want to.
This may be a simple adjective meaning “clumsy”, yet deconstructing it leads you along a fun path of linguistic enlightenment. Patsch means something akin to “splat”; the sound liquid makes on impact. And toll means “great” or “terrific”. So, rolling with my entirely intuitive understanding of etymology, I’ve managed to remember the meaning of tollpatschig as “terrifically splatty”, which is, after all, exactly what a clumsy person is. (Believe me, I know from the experience of being one).
Whilst eminent linguists will rightly call me out on a few of these rather simplistic (yet entertaining) trains of thought that I’ve ridden to arrive at such meanings, I can’t help but love these words. They are definitely some that have actually stuck with me when so much of this der-, die-, das-ing is going in one ear and out the other!
If you haven’t already, check out Part 2.