A masculine noun coined by students in the 19th century from the word air (“Luft”) and by adding the Latin ending -kus. Originally used to describe an airhead, i.e., a carefree man with his head in the clouds. In English one might equate it with someone who is featherbrained or a dreamer. Don’t you know someone who doesn’t quite seem to live in reality or just isn’t very grounded?
Today the meaning has shifted to describe somebody who is reckless, unreliable and superficial. It certainly seems to have a negative connotation to it. Phrases such as “she realized quickly what a Luftikus he was” are very common in today’s conversations among German speakers.
On the other hand, it can also be used to describe an eccentric person, an oddball or crack pot. A happy-go-lucky character who just wants to have fun.
Do you have a face pop up in your head right about now?
The “staircase joke” or “staircase wit” possibly gets its name from the witty retort or clever comeback that comes to mind when you are on your way out, walking down the stairs following a situation, i.e. after it’s too late.
We’ve all experienced a situation where a snappy response fails us in the heat of the moment, but only pops up after the fact or perhaps later in the day or on the way home. It’s known as the Treppenwitz phenomena.
The term originated from the French expression “l’esprit de l’escalier,” which translates to “staircase joke” as well. It was made popular in Germany by the author William Lewis Hertslet in his book titled Der Treppenwitz der Weltgeschichte (“The Staircase Joke of World History”). In the book, published in 1882, the author writes about tragic ironies of historical events.
Today, the term Treppenwitz is used in German to describe a silly joke, an irony of fate, or inappropriate, silly behavior.
Many of us seem to believe that food is a solution to our problems. We have all seen the romantic comedies with someone heartbroken sitting on the sofa drowning their sorrows in ice cream, chocolate or other unhealthy foods. The sugar might ease the current pain temporarily, but the so-called Kummerspeck will most likely stay with us a bit longer. The compound noun has no direct translation but loosely means “grief bacon” or “sorrow bacon”.
Kummerspeck is the word Germans use to describe the extra weight someone gains after excessive overeating caused by heartbreak, grief or sorrow. Many people turn to eating after a period of stress or boredom as well. It is a general word used to explain the extra weight gained after a time of comfort eating due to unhappiness or depression.
Studies have shown that eating foods with saturated fats can help fight negative emotions temporarily. Hormones in our stomach communicate with our brain influencing our mental state. So, the short-term positive effects of numbing our feelings are possibly not just our imagination?
Do you know the feeling of laziness that just keeps you from reaching your goals? The lack of motivation, will power or the force inside us that makes us stay passive when action seems risky or uncomfortable? Germans would call this their InnererSchweinehund, their “inner pig dog”.
Originally used to describe the dog that hunts boars and later used by students in the 19th century as an insult to describe someone who behaves unethically or breaks the rules, the word has certainly shifted its meaning again to what it is today: the inner voice of procrastination that stops us from being our best selves. There are many tips on how to overcome that inner demon, such as finding a personal motivation, creating a concrete plan, writing down your goals and starting immediately. Having someone by your side with a similar goal might help as well. The ultimate reward is certainly worth it.
So, get off the couch, get over your innerer Schweinehund as we say in German and do something great today!
Katzenjammer literally means “cat yowling or wailing” and is certainly not a pleasant sound. If you’ve ever heard a cat yowling during mating season, you may know what we mean. Many would say it sounds more like discordant music.
The word’s origin is somewhat ambiguous. However, many believe it was used during the second half of the 18th century among university students to describe the discomfort and ill feeling after a wild night of partying and excessive drinking, otherwise known as a hangover. Since the 19th century, it is also known as a general term to describe regret, disgruntlement, or misery. Some Germans even use the word to describe an uproar or bewilderment.
The word is sometimes used in English as well. Have you ever heard someone say, “I recommend you take some aspirin for your Katzenjammer,” “I do hope your Katzenjammer has gotten a bit better since last night,” or “the speech last night caused an outright Katzenjammer.”? The word is not as popular today as it was in the mid-20th century, but you can still find it in the English dictionary.
Mutterschutz is the German term for maternity protection or maternity leave. Mutterschutz in Germany is based on the Mutterschutzgesetz (Act on the Protection of Working Mothers) which provides for paid leave four weeks before and eight weeks after the birth of a new child. If you are expecting multiples or have a premature birth, the time period extends to 12 weeks.
Mothers in Germany also enjoy protection from being terminated during their pregnancy and up to four months after giving birth. Furthermore, each parent is entitled to stay at home for the purpose of raising the child without pay for up to three years.
We are thrilled that one of our colleagues has been able to enter Mutterschutz recently and we can’t wait to see the new arrival in a few weeks. We wish her all the best for the coming weeks and months.