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: 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: Farbenfroh

Are you wearing red pants, a blue shirt and green socks? If so, we’re sure you stand out – and you’re definitely farbenfroh today!

The German word farbenfroh means “color happy”. It is an adjective used to describe someone or something with many colors. Someone’s outfit is farbenfroh if they are wearing many different colors – or even just one bright color that catches people’s attention. An apartment can be described as farbenfroh if its decorations are colorful or if the walls are painted in different colors. Even a program of events can be described as farbenfroh if it includes a diverse program (in English, we would call this a “colorful event”).

Most of the time, farbenfroh is used in a positive context (because after all, who doesn’t like colors?). But if you notice your coworker proudly wearing a bright orange dress that makes her look a little ridiculous, you can simply call her farbenfroh (which is more of a fact and in this context and neither an insult nor a compliment).

Although you can be farbenfroh at any time of the year, it might brighten up a rainy, cloudy or cold day if you add a little bit of Farbe to your life!

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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

Building bridges with German at the 2018 ACTFL conference

German language education and New Orleans? Wunderbar together!
The German Embassy and German language education community in North America was well represented at the 2018 American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Annual Convention and World Languages Expo in Louisiana.

Of the 8,000 ACTFL convention attendees, around 400 are members of the German language education community. These include members of the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG), as well as representatives of the Mexican and Canadian partner organizations; representatives of the Goethe-Institut in the U.S. and Germany; international scholars of German language pedagogy; and German government representatives, among others. Such a large-scale gathering of DaF (Deutsch als Fremdsprache—German as a foreign language) devotees ensures a lively discussion of the pressing issues in the field.

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Word of the Week: Abseitsfalle

The World Cup games are underway! Who will take home the gold this year? With soccer tournaments this big, some teams are willing to do anything to win. Let’s take a look at one type of soccer tactic that might prevent someone from scoring – the so-called Abseitsfalle.

In German, the word Abseits means “offside” and Falle means “trap.” Abseitsfalle therefore means “offside trap”, and refers to a tactic used primarily by a team’s defense to maneuver an opposing player into an offside position.

For those of you unfamiliar with soccer, an attacking player is in an offside position when he is closer to the opposing goal than the opposing defenders, as well as the soccer ball. If the attacker receives the ball while in an offside position, the opposing team is awarded a free kick – a good way to get the ball back to the other side of the field.

In some cases, defenders work together to push an opposing player into the offside, therefore winning a free kick for themselves. But as you can imagine, this is a risky maneuver. In order to successfully push an attacker into an Abseitsfalle, defenders must move forward at the same time while the attacker is about to receive the ball. If one defender stays back or moves too slowly, the attacker may obtain the ball – without being offside – and attempt to score while the goal is unguarded by its defense.

In the World Cup, a successful Abseitsfalle has the potential to prevent a goal. But of course, having a strong and deeper defense is always a safer way to play. A well-executed Abseitsfalle, however, can make a game much more interesting to watch – especially in the World Cup. Let’s see how many Abseitsfallen we can spot during the games!

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Fanmeile

© dpa / picture-alliance

During big televised sporting events – like the World Cup – thousands of Germans gather in the streets to watch the games together on large screens throughout the city. They will usually be waving flags, cheering and sporting their favorite team’s colors. In German, this sort of area is called a Fanmeile (“fan mile”) – a public space that is transformed during significant sporting events.

With the 2018 World Cup about to begin, Fanmeilen will be popping up all over Germany. This summer in Berlin, the street between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column will be transformed into a massive Fanmeile (the largest in Germany!), complete with food and drink stands. Television screens will air the games while up to 100,000 people gather on the street to watch.

Germans sometimes refer to a Fanmeile as a “public viewing”, which they use to describe places that air sports games. But while a public viewing can also take place in a smaller locale such as a bar, restaurant, school or church, Fanmeilen are large-scale outdoor regions that typically accommodate thousands of people.

© dpa / picture-alliance

Fanmeilen originated in Germany during the 2006 World Cup, which means they are still relatively new. In 2006, Germany hosted the World Cup – but not everyone could get tickets. FIFA-sponsored Fanmeilen were therefore set up for people without tickets to watch the games. The concept was a huge success, and the screenings became events in themselves – especially the screening of the Germany vs. Argentina game in the 2006 World Cup quarter-finale. The longest Fanmeile was located in Berlin and brought together 900,000 soccer enthusiasts.

Consequentially, the word Fanmeile was selected by the Gesellschaft für Deutsche Sprache as the 2006 Word of the Year.

Berlin’s Fanmeile is still the largest World Cup viewing area in Germany – and the number of fans will surely increase if Germany makes it into the finals this summer. Additionally, Fanmeilen have popped up all over Europe – including countries like Austria and Switzerland.

Whether or not you’re a soccer fan, make sure to check out a Fanmeile if you’re in Germany. It’s the experience that counts!

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany