If you’re a writer, you use Gänsefüßchen all the time. But the word means nothing what it sounds like. Directly translated, Gänsefüßchen would mean “little geese feet”. The term comes from Gans (“goose”) and Füßchen (“little feet”).
These geese feet, however, are not attached to a bird. Instead, they find themselves enveloping words or sentences. The English definition for Gänsefüßchen is “quotation marks”. So what’s with the odd metaphor?
Well, if you look at a goose, you’ll notice that is has very short legs with big feet. Its tiny legs could (with a little imagination) resemble quotation marks. Rather than calling them Anführungszeichen (the proper term for quotation marks), many Germans prefer the more colorful, colloquial term Gänsefüßchen.
By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany