Word of the Week: Holzklasse

Are you on a budget, but love to travel? Most likely you will be booking the Holzklasse whereever you go!

Literally translated, the German word Holzklasse means “wood class”, and it’s basically the least desirable place you can sit on any mode of transportation. Unlike first class, the “wood class” is where you’ll find the cheapest tickets.

When the word Holzklasse first came into use, it was used to describe the economy class seating in trains, since this seating area usually consisted of wooden planks as benches. If you’re looking at a 10-hour train ride, this isn’t too comfortable. As transportation evolved, so did the meaning of the word. Today, the Holzklasse on a train is much more comfortable. But the word is also used to describe the economy class in airplanes, which often consist of small seats with very little leg room.

But first class comes with a hefty price, and for many, the Holzklasse is simply their only option.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Waldeinsamkeit

When Henry David Thoureau took his leave into the woods of Walden, he said he wanted to learn to live deliberately. He claimed to “need the tonic of wildness” and that “we can never have enough of nature”. Since it is officially spring and the forests are coming alive again, it might be useful to rediscover the feeling of Waldeinsamkeit. The feeling you get when you are walking in the woods all alone with natures wonders all around, that is Waldeinsamkeit.

Waldeinsamkeit consists of two words: Wald meaning forest, and Einsamkeit meaning loneliness or solitude.

It is the feeling of being alone in the woods, but it also hints at a connectedness to nature. The feeling plays a big role in religion. Shedding one’s material possessions is often a prerequisite for joining an order of monks or priests. This act is called monasticism. Christianity has a long tradition of Saints who live in on the land and pursue Waldeinsamkeit. One famous example is St. Trudpert, who was given a piece of land within the Black Forest and retired there in a simple church in solitude, surrounded by nature. The image above was taken at St. Trudpert’s Abbey.

The solitude of wilderness as a motif is prevalent in both religion and literature. The entire literary movement known as Romanticism (1800-1850) centers on returning to nature and becoming a part of untamed nature. In Germany, authors and artists depicted individuals quelled by nature’s glory. Authors from this movement included E.T.A. Hoffmann, the Brothers Grimm, and Heinrich von Kleist. The word Waldeinsamkeit belongs to this movement; it describes not only a feeling, but an entire motif in romantic literature. Ludwid Tieck, a well known romantic German author, once composed an ode to Waldeinsamkeit in his story Fair Eckbert :

“Waldeinsamkeit, “Woodland Solitude

Wie liegst du weit! I rejoice in Thee

O dich gereut, Tomorrow as today

Einst mit der Zeit. – Forever and ever

Ach einzige Freud Oh how I enjoy,

Waldeinsamkeit!” Woodland Solitude!”

The woods, it seems, is the place to go to contemplate the loneliness of ones existence – or maybe just to get some fresh air. Regardless, spring has sprung, so its time for some Waldeinsamkeit!

Word of the Week: Schnarchnase

You’ve been staring at the ceiling for hours. Despite all your attempts, you just can’t fall asleep – and you blame the Schnarchnase beside you for that!

Literally translated, the German word Schnarchnase means “snoring nose”. The term comes from schnarchen (“snoring”) and Nase (“nose”), and it identifies someone who snores loudly while sleeping. The reasons for this can vary – maybe the Schnarchnase has a stuffy nose, maybe it’s sleep apnea or maybe there’s no explanation for why this person snores every time he or she goes to sleep. Regardless of the cause, sleeping next to a Schnarchnase can be annoying – especially if you’re a light sleeper!

But the word doesn’t always define someone who snores in their sleep. The term is also used to describe someone who has messed up a task or is slow in finishing something. A so-called sleepy-head or a slowpoke (like, for example, a slow driver) can also be called a Schnarchhase. Even if someone has good intentions, he may still be called a Schnarchnase because he can never seem to get it right.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Sollbruchstelle

When you break off a square of chocolate, you are breaking it at its Sollbruchstellen.

The German word Sollbruchstelle is unique and not easily translatable. But it is useful: this word describes the predetermined breaking point of an object, such as the ridges in a bar of chocolate where you break off a square. As you’ve probably noticed by now, Germans really do have a word for everything!

Directly translated, Sollbruchstelle means “should-break-spot” – in other words, the spot where you should break the object. This word can be used to describe points on many different objects.

If you’re assembling furniture, opening a can of soda, dividing a bar of chocolate, or setting up a brand new fish tank, you are using the Sollbruchstelle to open, peel or break the object in a predetermined location. Thanks to the Sollbruchstelle, your life is a whole lot easier! But describing the Sollbruchstelle is no easy task in English, since there is no word for it. You’re better off using German!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Strohfeuer

©dpa / picture alliance

Few things last forever. Many of them are Strohfeuer, such as interesting fashion trends or a summer fling.

Directly translated, Strohfeuer means “straw fire”, and it describes something that’s strong, but short-lived – like a fire that’s fueled by straw. Straw can quickly become engulfed in flames, but once the fuel is out, so is the fire.

An English equivalent to Strohfeuer is the phrase “a flash in the pan.” As a metaphor, the word Strohfeuer can describe a range of temporary phenomena, from relationships to the stock market. Although you might perceive your new-found love as a long-term partner, he or she might be nothing more than Strohfeuer! If you just started your own business and it’s going well, keep in mind that your success might also just be Strohfeuer. And if you’ve seen a spike in the stock market, be aware of the fact that this too might just be a flash in the pan.

So don’t draw conclusions about your state of affairs too soon, and learn to recognize the difference between a Strohfeuer and lasting success!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Frühjahrsmüdigkeit

When spring arrives, not everyone is struck purely with joy and vitality. Some are just the opposite, developing a fatigue that Germans call Frühjahrsmüdigkeit (“spring tiredness”).

In German, the word Frühjahr means “early year” – as opposed to Frühling, which means “spring.” But regardless, Frühjahrsmüdigkeit is usually attributed to weariness, laziness and lethargy in the springtime — generally between mid-March to mid-April.

Do you find yourself staring at the cherry blossom tree outside your window, unable to concentrate on your work? Has it become more difficult to wake up early? Do you get headaches more often than usual? Do you spend weekends on the couch rather than outdoors? Then you might be suffering from Frühjahrsmüdigkeit.

“Spring tiredness”, however, is a phenomenon that has not yet been scientifically confirmed. In fact, it stands in contradiction to what Americans call “spring fever”, which usually refers to a surge in energy. But some scientists speculate that springtime weariness comes as a result of changing seasons, which leads to hormonal readjustments in the body. When the days get longer, the body increases its production of seratonin and reduces its production of melatonin. During this transition, the body may be more tired than usual. Additionally, fluctuating temperatures can affect blood pressure, which may also lead to tiredness.

But the scientific basis for Frühjahrsmüdigkeit is still being studied. And there’s also plenty of Germans who speak about Frühlingsgefühle (“spring feelings”) — a state of vitality, joy and liveliness that is comparable to “spring fever”.

But these aren’t the only German words that deal with the changing seasons: while Americans talk about “spring cleaning”, Germans have their own word for it: Frühjahrsputz (“early-year cleaning”). Perhaps it’s the cleaning that leads to feelings of Frühjahrsmüdigkeit. Maybe it’s the weather or the allergies. Or perhaps it’s just an excuse for slacking off.

Whatever the cause may be, one thing is certain: at this time of year in Germany, you’re likely to hear complaints about Frühjahrsmüdigkeit, while also hearing uplifting comments about the Frühlingsgefühle that come with the warm weather. Which begs the question: which one do you feel today?

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Frühjahrsputz

The temperatures are rising, the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming. It’s time to put away those heavy winter coats and bring out the shorts! With the change of the seasons comes substantial housework, which Germans call Frühjahrsputz (spring cleaning)!

Directly translated, Frühjahrsputz means “early-year-cleaning”. It refers to a time in the spring when Germans clean their homes and yards, putting away winter clothes and winter equipment. A Frühjahrsputz is much more thorough than a regular cleaning spree and also involves a lot of reorganizing. Americans use the term “spring cleaning” just as Germans use the word Frühjahrsputz! But the origin of the concept of spring cleaning is neither German nor American.

Some researchers trace the concept to an ancient Jewish practice of cleansing the home ahead of the Passover feast. Similarly, the Catholic Church conducts a thorough cleaning of the church alter before Good Friday. Today, many Germans do their spring cleaning in the days leading up to Easter. But of course, a Frühjahrsputz can be conducted at any time in the spring. So open your windows, dust your furniture and let the sun shine into your spotless home!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Frühschoppen

It’s 10 a.m. on a Sunday – too early to drink? Not necessarily! There’s even a German word for early-morning drinking: Frühschoppen!

The term is a fusion of the words früh (“early”) and Shoppen (a classic German word for a glass that holds a quarter or half a liter of wine or beer). In Germany and Austria, the term is often used to describe a very traditional brunch that often consists of – or includes – white sausage, pretzels and (*drum roll*) beer! In the most traditional sense, a Frühschoppen takes place in a tavern on a Sunday morning, bringing together a group of regulars who like to discuss life and politics. Often, a band is present to play Volksmusik (traditional music). The most famous example of Frühschoppen would be the early-morning beer gatherings that take place at Oktoberfest, complete with pretzels and live music.

However, the term is also used more loosely to describe any instances where people gather to drink in the morning – regardless of whether it’s a Sunday or a Wednesday. A Frühschoppen does not necessarily have to have food or music at all. Simply having a beer before lunch can be considered Frühschoppen. In some regions of Germany, people gather at a pub after church – something that is considered Frühschoppen. But regardless of where it is, as long as it’s in the early hours, your drinking can be considered a Frühschoppen. Cheers to learning a new word!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Lausbub

Some kids are sweet, some kids are annoying and others might be called a Lausbub! This German word describes little rascals who are always up to no good.

The German word Laus means “louse” and Bub means “boy” – a combination of words that seems fitting for the term’s definition. A Lausbub is usually a young boy who is brash, naughty, up to no good and loves playing pranks. The closest English translations would be “rascal”, “scamp” or “scallywag”. You can never trust a Lausbub, because you can never be quite sure what sort of mischievous activities he is planning!

© dpa

Adults often use the term to describe a little rascal in a loving way. Occasionally an adult might also be called a Lausbub – but that probably suggests he is acting childish.

The term Lausbub is most often used in southern Germany. Synonyms include Lausejunge, Bengel, Lümmel, Lauser, Rotzbub and Rotzjunge.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Backpfeifengesicht

Do you ever look at someone and feel like punching them in the face? Well, Germans have a unique word for that face: a Backpfeifengesicht — a face that’s badly in need of a fist.

This is one of those strange words that’s uniquely German with no English equivalent. The word Backpfeife means “punch/slap” (on the cheek/face) and Gesicht means “face”. The word Backpfeifengesicht therefore means something along the lines of “a face that’s begging to be slapped” – or punched. Or hurt. You get the picture.

We’re sure you know someone with a Backpfeifengesicht – someone you just can’t get through to without a good punch or a slap. Maybe it’s your mortal enemy. Maybe it’s someone with a stupid grin that you’d like to wipe off that face. Maybe it’s a person who tells insulting jokes that make others cry. Or maybe it’s someone whose face you just can’t stand, for whatever reason. To you, that face is is need of a fist – and you’re thinking about giving it one.

A well-known German punk band, Die Ärzte, titled one of their songs “Backpfeifengesicht”. The lyrics revolve around a person who has a stupid look on his face – a look that nauseates the songwriter.

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