Word of the Week: Gänsefüßchen

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

Word of the Week: Fruchtfleisch

With summer around the corner, many of us are drinking more smoothies and fruit juice than usual. From fresh squeezed orange juice to strawberry smoothies, there’s plenty of options to energize yourself on a hot day! But here’s a question for you: with Fruchtfleisch or without? Some of us love it, some of us don’t. Fruchtfleisch comes from the words Frucht (“fruit”) and Fleisch (“meat”). But this type of “meat” is one that our vegetarians can comfortably consume. Fruchtfleisch means the “meat of the fruit” – basically, the internal part of a fruit (the part that most people eat). Fruchtfleisch can refer to the inside of the fruit or it can refer to pulp (since pulp is made up of a fruit’s “meat”). Some people prefer their juice with Fruchtfleisch, while others buy it without it. When you peel an orange, the inside of the orange is called its Fruchtfleisch. Similarly, when you drink orange juice with pulp, you would refer to the pulp as Fruchtfleisch.

The Fruchtfleisch has more vitamins than the juice alone. So make sure to eat your meat!

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Augenblick

If you’re familiar with German, you’ve surely heard the phrase “einen Augenblick!” But an Augenblick (literally “eye-glance”) is usually a longer period of time than the word suggests. The word Augenblick comes from Auge (“eye”) and Blick (“glance”). It defines a very short period of time (like the glance of an eye). The best English equivalent is “blink of an eye”, but the English language does not have a single word to describe a very short moment. In German, a cashier might tell a customer to wait one moment while she checks the price of an item. In German she may say, “einen Augenblick!”. In English, however, you cannot say “wait for a blink of an eye”; it does not make sense. You could perhaps say “wait one second”, but the metaphor of an eye-blink/glance would not exist here.

As we all know, Germans love metaphors. Most likely, if you are telling someone to wait for an Augenblick, you don’t mean it literally. A blink of an eye takes 300 to 400 milliseconds (which is about one-third of a second). A glance can be a little longer, but it is not defined. If you’re asking someone to wait einen Augenblick for you while you finish tying your shoes or while you respond to an e-mail, you are ensuring them that you will be quick, but realistically, you will take at least several seconds or minutes. Comparatively though, einen Augenblick is faster that ein Moment. An Augenblick is the fastest way a “short moment” can be described in German.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Blumenpracht

If you visit a small town in Germany in the spring or summer, we’re sure you’ll see at least one beautiful Blumenpracht on someone’s balcony. That’s because Germans love to show off their flower displays! The term Blumenpracht comes from the words Blume (“flower”) and Pracht (“splendor” / “glory” / “magnificence”). Blumenpracht describes a glorious display of flowers – one that has any nature lover turning their heads in awe. Blumenpracht is more than just a few flowers in a pot; it’s a very serious display of flowers that goes beyond what your average person would have at home. This type of flower display requires lots of attention and care.

But Blumenpracht is not necessarily found in someone’s home or garden. It can also be found in public spaces – like a park or botanical garden. If it makes you whip out your camera or stop in awe, then you’re surely looking at a magnificent Blumenpracht.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Lebenskunst

Is your life as beautiful as a painting in an art gallery? Then you have mastered Lebenskunst! Lebenskunst means “the art of living well”. It comes from the words leben (“to live”) and Kunst (“art). If your life is filled with fine wines, exotic travels, delicious food, strong friendships and many hobbies, you have probably mastered the art of living; in other words, your life itself is beautiful – like art. You don’t have to be wealthy to be a Lebenskünstler (“artist of life”). You simply need to understand how to make the journey through life as joyful as possible.

Every individual has a different idea of how to create an artful, magical life that gets you excited to wake up every morning. Some people may be struck by the magic of a beautiful sunrise, and need nothing more to experience joy. For others, drinking a $300 bottle of wine would be an example of Lebenskunst.

But here’s one tip we can give you: if you see the beauty in every detail of life and use this beauty to create your own happiness, you’ll be on your way to becoming a Lebenskünstler. In very little time, examples of Lebenskunst will surround you.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Frühlingsbote

How can you tell that spring is around the corner? For some, it’s the weather forecast. But for others, it’s the Frühlingsbote.

The German word Frühlingsbote means “herald of spring” or “harbinger of spring”. It consists of the words Frühling (“spring”) and Bote (“herald”/”harbinger”) and it refers to a person or thing that signals the approach of spring. A few examples of Frühlingsboten would be birds chirping at sunrise, flower buds emerging on the trees, restaurants opening their outdoor patios and clothing stores displaying shorts sandals in the store windows. A prime example of a Frühlingsbote is also the blooming of the cherry blossom trees (which exist both in the US and Germany). The cherry blossom trees typically bloom before other species, signaling that spring is right around the corner. After the Yoshino trees bloom, other trees will soon follow. Before long, you’ll be walking out in shorts, tees and sunglasses as you soak up the rays.

The Frühlingsbote marks the start of a new season. Which means Biergartenwetter is soon to follow.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Handy

If you have German friends, you may have heard them talking about their Handy. Although this device is in fact a handy accessory, it has a very different meaning in German than in English. In German, the word Handy means “mobile phone” or “cell phone”. Many Germans seem to believe that this word comes from the English language, but – as you know – Americans do not use this word to describe their cell phones. Although it sounds exactly like the English word handy (which means “convenient”), it is probably not related to the English adjective (although Handys are, of course, convenient to have). The origins of the German word Handy are unclear and there are various speculations on how the word arose. Some believe that it came from the word Handfunktelefon (an early German word for a handheld mobile phone). Others believe the word originates from the Motorola HT 220 Handie Talkie – a type of walkie-talkie that was introduced during World War II.

But regardless of its origins, the term Handy is so commonly used today that most Germans won’t call their cell phones anything else. Words such as Mobiltelefon are way too old-fashioned.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Kater

If you’ve ever drank too much in one night, you’re surely familiar with the headaches and nausea that plague you the next morning. In English, we call this a “hangover”. In German, however, it is called a Kater.

The word Kater has two meanings in German, and they’re completely different from each other. Most of you might know the word by its first definition (a “male cat”). But in another context, Kater also means “hangover”. While one Kater is cute and furry, the other Kater makes you want to scream in agony. When you have an alcohol-induced Kater, you probably want to stay in bed and wait for the headaches and feelings of nausea to go away.

It is not clear how the word for a male cat became used to describe a hangover, but some say it evolved from the Greek word Katarrh (which was also used in German), which describes a type of unspecific respiratory illness with mucus build-up. Of course, the symptoms of a hangover have completely different symptoms, but this is the closest word that many people believe this type of Kater could have evolved from. In context: Ich habe einen Kater. “I have a hangover.” German Missions in the United States Welcome to Germany.info By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Abschiedsschmerz

Few things are more painful than saying goodbye to someone you care about. In German, there’s a word for this
type of pain: Abschiedsschmerz.
The term comes from the words Abschied (“farewell”) and Schmerz (“pain”) and it defines the pain associated
with parting ways from someone you like, love or care about. Here at the German Embassy, some of us
experience Abschiedsschmerz when a beloved coworker moves away. At an Embassy, many diplomats and
staff come and go every summer. Although it is often sad to see people leave, true Abschiedsschmerz only
arises when you part ways with someone who’s very close to you. Sometimes, working with someone for three
years will create a bond that ends in Abschiedsschmerz when it’s time for one person to leave.
Of course, Abschiedsschmerz is more likely to arise between family members and loved ones. Saying goodbye
to someone who has been with you for many years is often much harder. Parents often feel this type of pain
when their children move away to go to college or obtain a job halfway around the world. Lovers may feel the
pain of saying goodybe when one of them leaves for a long trip. Abschiedsschmerz can be particularly bad when
you’re dropping someone off at the airport, saying your final goodbye and watching them go through security. In
just a few minutes, that person is out of your sight and the pain of their absence starts to sink in.
Abschiedsschmerz can also arise at goodbye parties or if you’re simply seeing someone for the last time.
One thing that may help curb your Abschiedsschmerz is to perceive the Abschied as more of a “see you later”
than a “goodbye.” Fortunately for those in the diplomatic service, there are plenty of “see you laters”, since job
postings can bring former colleagues together again in the future.
By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

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!

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany