The Literal Wittiness of Deutsch
By Merren, tour guide and chronic giggler.
“German giggles” may still seem a little oxymoronic, but just take a look at the first word I want to introduce you to this week and hopefully you’ll appreciate what I’m trying to get at here:
Have you ever thought, “that person just needs a high five, in the face, with a fist”? I’m reasonably sure we’ve all experienced that feeling, however fleeting. At such a time, this is the word that sums up your sentiment perfectly for it has come to mean “a face that’s begging to be slapped”. While the origin of the word is unclear, it is known that Backpfeife was used in northern Germany in the 19th century and comes from Backe (“cheek”) and Pfeife (“whistle”). A face (Gesicht) with a cheek whistling for attention is how I’ve literally attributed meaning to this term!
What is a “head-movie” you may well ask. Turns out it’s those rolling pictures that pop into your mind as your imagination runs wild. More often than not it is used with negative connotations, such as when you envisage with unfounded certainty the most unfortunate outcomes of a situation.
Not a disease or parasite you might pick up in the jungle as the literal impression “ear-worm” might give you. No, this simply describes having a song stuck in your head as if it wriggled itself into your brain through your ear.
This is a pretty unique one and doesn’t sound right when you directly translate it to “should-break-spot”. But it is useful: it describes the predetermined breaking point of an object, such as the ridges in a bar of chocolate where you break off a square, or the point in the emergency break window you hit with the little hammer on a train. As you may have noticed by now, Germans really do have a word for everything!
That’s your “inner pig dog” and we all have one apparently! Just can’t drag your bum out of bed when the alarm goes off? Happy to talk yourself out of starting that new exercise regime today? Homework remains undone until the last minute? Totally not your fault. The blame actually rests with your “inner pig dog”, the tiny voice in the back of your head which is trying to convince you to live a life of inertia, and which you will have to overcome to rid yourself of Kummerspeck (see #1).
These might not be the most useful of all words you could employ if you’re visiting Germany, but they sure are fun to deconstruct. Til next time… Auf Wiedersehen!
If you haven’t already, check out Part 1.