Word of the Week: Gernegroß

Man with mp3 player

Gernegroß. This German word sounds like it would be simple to define – but it’s not. Although it translates to “wanting to be big”, it has nothing to do with one’s height, weight or physical appearance.

Gernegroß is a noun defining a person who sees himself in a better light than others do – someone who likes to brag, show off or act more experienced than they are. There is no English translation, but the words “wannabe” and the colloquial term “whippersnapper” (an overconfident or presumptious young and inexperienced person) come close. Unlike a young whippersnapper, however, a Gernegroß can be any age.

Being called a Gernegroß is not positive. If someone calls you a Gernegroß, they are probably annoyed by how you are acting. It may be time to stop bragging and gain a more humble spirit.

Word of the Week: Dampfplauderer

You know that friend of yours who just won’t stop talking? That person you can never get off the phone, or the person who goes on and on with pointless stories? Germans have a name for someone like this: a Dampfplauderer!

A Dampfplauderer is a person who has always has something to say, but never says anything of substance. This sort of person likes to hear him or herself talk. Unfortunately for the rest of us, we’re often stuck listening to a Dampfplauderer, pretending to care while contemplating how to end the conversation. The English translation for the word Dampfplauderer is “chatterbox” – and that’s a pretty good translation. The word chatterbox, after all, is usually associated with someone that has a lot of idle chatter, but says very few meaningful things. Listening to a Dampfplauderer, you might start wondering what the point of their story is, only to realize there is no point.

The term consists of the words Dampf, which means “steam”, and plauder, which means “chat”. So a literal translation could be “steam chatter” – someone whose words come out like steam – lacking real substance.

Whether it’s a friend who likes to talk or a colleague who speaks too much in meetings, I’m sure we have all got a Dampfplauderer in our lives!

Word of the Week: tote Hose

If you’ve ever been to a party that had nothing going on, you might want to call it tote Hose.

The German word tote Hose is a slang term that originated in the 1980s. Literally translated, tote Hose means “dead trousers”, but it has nothing to do with your pants. The phrase tote Hose is used to describe something that is boring, uneventful or dull – like a bad party or event.

Although it sounds like it should be used as a noun, tote Hose is mostly used in place of an adjective. You might tell your friend, “Gosh, last night’s party was so tote Hose – I only lasted an hour before I ditched my friends to go somewhere else.”

There is no English equivalent for tote Hose; you must simply imagine a phrase that describes an extremely boring or uneventful situation. The phrase remains highly popular among youth in Germany today. There is even a German rock band that named themselves Die Toten Hosen.

So next time you’re bored at a party, feel free to describe it as tote Hose to impress your German friends with your cool new slang. Just don’t tell the host that – or you may never get another invite!

Word of the Week: Schrottwichteln

If you’re American, you’ve probably heard of “Secret Santa” or “White Elephant” gift exchanges. In Germany, however, we have what’s called Schrottwichteln, which basically means “the exchange of crap”.

The holiday season is all about gift exchanges. Even if you’re giving away junk – it’s the thought that counts, right? In German schools, workplaces and social circles, people often organize a so-called Schrottwichteln. The word Schrott means “crap”, “garbage” or “junk”. Wichteln is the organized exchange of gifts during the holiday season. So people who participate in Schrottwichteln essentially give each other things they don’t want themselves – like that ugly Christmas sweater they received from their grandmother or an overly fancy candleholder for which they have no use. Often times, they will regift an item or contribute a gag gift. It is not
uncommon for these gifts to be wrapped up in newspaper, rather than gift wrap – anything to make it look more like junk.

When people organize a Schrottwichteln, they will often set a limit on the value of the item – perhaps 5, 10, 15 or 20 Euros. Participants usually have a few days to decide on a gift – and will often search for the ugliest, funniest or most useless possible item they can think of. Sometimes Schrottwichteln organizers will choose a “winner” – a gift that is the most worthless of all.

Those who participate in Schrottwichteln parties do so for the holiday spirit and the humor associated with it. And if the gift they receive is perfectly useless, they may regift it the following Christmas at another
Schrottwichteln party.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Suppenkasper

Were you a picky eater when you were young? Did you refuse to finish your meals, or sit in front of your plate for hours? Germans would have called you a Suppenkasper!

Literally translated, the word Suppenkasper means “Soup Kasper”, and it refers to a finicky eater – someone who doesn’t finish his or her food. For many parents, this can be frustrating.

But why call their child a Suppenkasper? The term originates from the classic children’s book “Der Struwwelpeter” (published in 1845 by Heinrich Hoffmann). The book features a healthy young boy named Kasper, who sits at the dinner table and refuses to eat his soup (Suppe). As the story goes, Kasper is determined not to eat his soup, and after five days of withering away, he dies of starvation.

© dpa / picture-alliance

The story is meant to teach kids a lesson: always clean your plate, or else! Today, the story might seem rather harsh and intimidating, and some  would argue that there’s better ways to teach your kids to finish their food. But regardless, the term Suppenkasper is still a popular term to describe finicky eaters. Do you have a Suppenkasper at your table?

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Hochwasserhose

Are your pants too short? Are your socks visible when you sit down? You may be wearing a Hochwasserhose!

The word Hochwasserhose means “high-water-pants” and it refers to a pair of pants that don’t quite cover your ankles. Such pants would be great if your bathroom is flooded – or if heavy rains are flooding the streets outside! After all, you wouldn’t want to get your pants wet, would you?

Originally, a Hochwasserhose was designed to be worn during floods. In 1534, a German physicist “invented” the concept, creating stylish pants that were short and perfect for rainy weather.

Today, however, people jokingly use the word Hochwasserhose to make fun of someone’s super short pants, which do not fit them the way they are supposed to. Parents, for example, might refer to their child’s Hochwasserhose after their kid has a growth spurt, leaving their pants too short at the ankles. In the workplace, you might spot a colleague whose pants are too short, exposing their dress socks for the world to see. In this case, wearing a Hochwasserhose is not the most stylish decision!

But in some cases, a Hochwasserhose can be intentionally designed that way – either for purposes of fashion or utility. So-called “ankle jeans” – which end just before the ankle – are intentionally designed to be short and considered stylish.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Kaufrausch

When the holiday season begins, the stores are filled with shoppers trying to collect gifts for loved ones.

Parking is difficult, stores are overcrowded, lines are long and many items are sold out. This is all due to the so-called Kaufrausch.

The German word Kaufrausch means “shopping spree”. It comes from the words kaufen (“to buy”) and Rausch (“rush”).

The word can be used in many different contexts. If, for example, someone is seeking retail therapy, that person may be on a spontaneous Kaufrausch by him-or herself on a quiet day at the mall.

In another case, someone may be fighting mobs of shoppers who are all on a Kaufrausch at the same time – like during the holiday season. During the week of Thanksgiving, Black Friday sales also instigate a Kaufrausch in shopping centers across the US. Some of you may even be participating in one this week!

© dpa / picture-alliance

A person is most likely to go on a Kaufrausch when there are good sales, but it can happen at any time. So if you’re getting ready for a Kaufrausch today, just be mindful that you may not be the only one!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

 

Word of the Week: Mutterseelenallein

Do you feel lonely? On a scale of 1 to 10, how lonely do you feel? If it’s a 10, Germans have a special word for this type of extreme loneliness: mutterseelenallein.

Directly translated, the term means “mother’s soul alone”, indicating a severe level of loneliness. If you’ve ever reached that level, you might have felt that you were so alone that even your mother’s soul was not there for you.

But even though it may sound like it’s related to your mother’s company (or lack thereof), it actually has little to do with her.

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Word of the Week: Pantoffelheld

If you’ve ever encountered a man who fearfully submits to his wife’s every will, you’ve probably met a Pantoffelheld.

Comprised of two nouns, this German word directly translates to “slipper hero.” But a Pantoffelheld is not heroic in any traditional sense: the closest English rendition is a “henpecked” or “whipped” husband, thereby defining a man who is plagued by the commands of an overbearing wife.

A Pantoffelheld may act tough in front of his friends, but flees any situation at the first sign of danger and is unable to stand up for himself. At home, the henpecked husband takes orders from his wife – the person wearing the Pantoffeln (slippers). In fear of being crushed under her slippers, the henpecked husband becomes submissive: he has little to say in the household and tries only to please his lady.

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Word of the Week: Hexenschuss

Have you ever had a sharp pain in your back – one that leaves you cringing in pain or crouching in agony?

Germans would call that a Hexenschuss – a shot by a witch! Literally translated, Hexe means “witch” and Schuss means “shot” (as in, a gunshot). It might sound strange – especially since witches carry broomsticks and not guns. But either way, any sort of bewitchment on your back is bound to be unpleasant!

A Hexenschuss refers to the sort of lower back pain that leaves you crippled for at least a few seconds – but perhaps even a few days or weeks. Maybe you pulled a muscle or injured yourself. Most likely you’ll reach for the Ibuprofen and hope that the pain subsides. But back in the Middle Ages, Germans had more supernatural beliefs attributed to this sort of pain.

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