Tuesday, 11 March 2014

On speaking like a German (Part 2)...

I had so much fun writing my last post on speaking like a German that I couldn't resist writing another installment.  After all, there are just so many delightful words and phrases in my adopted language.  Here are a few more...

Fleißig – You know when someone's a real keener, a teacher's pet?  Well that's kind of what "fleißig" means.  When someone is being very fleißig, it means they’re extremely diligent and conscientious.  They do all the right things all the time.  They’re industrious and studious, always working very hard.  You probably kind of hate them.

Ugh, soo fleißig...

Kaputt – Such an apt word that we've started using it in English.  Kaputt means broken, busted, wrecked, finished - totally and completely out of order.  You could use it to describe something that isn't working anymore, like your computer.  Or you could even use it to refer to yourself after a particularly long and stressful day.  A very useful word indeed.

Ach so – An essential pondering sound.  This is what a German says when someone has corrected or clarified something for them.  As they process this new information and consider the situation in a new light, they say "ach soooo" and trail off thoughtfully.  It's kind of like saying "ooOOohhhh", but more specifically, it kind of implies the idea, "this changes everything."  To say "ach so" like a true German, be sure to linger with real emphasis on the "soooo".  And don't forget to really close that "o".

Geil – Literally, this word means "horny".  But over the last few years it's evolved to mean the same thing as "awesome" or "wicked" in English.  It's kind of like when Paris Hilton started calling everything "hot".

"That's hot."

If something is really really cool you might say that it’s "supergeil" - as is demonstrated by this extremely strange German supermarket ad.

Punkt – The epitome of German bluntness.  This is the word you use when you have nothing more to say on the subject, and want to avoid any further discussion.  Punkt.  Period.  End of story.

Bwoahhh – Spelling has been approximated.  This is the sound a German makes when they're really impressed with something.  Bwoahh, look at the size of that fish!  Bwoahh, that cake looks amazing!  Bwoahhh...  And so on.

Egal – A shortening of "es ist mir egal", literally "it’s equal to me."  In other words, I don’t give a shit.  Must be said dismissively with a casual shrug of the shoulders.

Total – Much like the English word "totally".  Germans use this word as a qualifier all the time.  It’s not just impossible, it’s total impossible.  It’s not just Scheiße, it’s total Scheiße.  Unlike the English "total", the German "total" can be recognised by its two crisp explosive t’s, a very closed "o", and the emphasis on the second syllable: "Toh-Tahhhl".  This makes the word much more strong and emphatic, and lets you know that a German really means business.

Gleichfalls – Similar to the English "likewise".  A useful little shortcut when you want to avoid repeating an entire phrase back to someone.  If someone tells you to have a nice day, simply respond with "gleichfalls" and they'll understand that you wish them the same thing.  It's like saying "right back atcha, kid."

Doof – Pronounced "dohhh-f".  Again, a long and extremely closed "o" is essential here.  This is a very descriptive word meaning stupid or foolish.  I love how dull it sounds.  Even saying it makes you sound dumb.

Quatsch – Nonsense, hogwash, rubbish.  Something that's total baloney.  Again, I love how descriptive this word is.  It sounds like something wet and messy which shouldn't be there.  The next time someone's bullshitting you, try declaring "Quatsch!" in an accusatory tone.  Tell me that sound doesn't make them think twice about what they just said.

Pech – In English, you either have good luck or you have bad luck.  They're two varieties of the same concept.  But Germans have two completely different words for luck.  "Glück" is the positive word, meaning good luck, while "Pech" is the negative word, meaning bad luck.  If you've had a hard time of it lately, you've really had some Pech.

Spinnen – This literally means to spin, but it also has a colloquial use.  To "spin" is to be crazy.  Yes, that's right.  There’s a verb for being crazy.  When someone's talking Quatsch, you might tell them that they're "spinning".  It’s kind of like saying that they're trippin'.  Only not quite as gangsta.

Jooo – There's a charming little habit which I like to call The German Pout.  When you ask a German a question and they want to politely consider it, rather than dismissing it outright, they round their lips into a little pout.  Thus a thoughtful "ja…" becomes something more like "jooo…"  The more uncertain they are about the question, the further they will pout their lips as they mull it over.  Sometimes they even smack their lips a bit, as if they’re tasting the idea.  I’m not even joking here.

Hübsch – Pretty, cute, lovely, handsome… basically, very good-looking.  If a German comments "Hübsch" on your facebook photo, you should take it as a real compliment.

Dutzen – As in many languages, German has a formal and informal version of the word "you".  "Sie" is for older people, strangers, or authority figures.  "Du" is for younger people or friends.  So when your friendship with someone reaches a new level, they might tell you that you can "dutzen" them.  In other words, you may now address them with the less formal "du".

Natürlich – Naturally, of course.  This word can be used in a friendly way.  "Can I sit here?"  "Why yes, natürlich!"  It can also be used in a condescending way, as in "duh, that should be obvious."  "Is this your seat?"  "Ja, natürlich."

Gar – Another qualifying word, similar to "total".  Used to really emphasise a statement.  I know a certain conductor who, when he gets frustrated, likes to burst out with "das geht aber gar nicht!"  The closest English translation I can find for this is "that will never do at all!"  But somehow that doesn't sound quite as strong or angry as the German equivalent.

Bummeln – Tell me I'm not the only one who giggles upon hearing this word!  To "bummeln" is to hang around and do nothing in particular.  It might also mean wandering around and window-shopping.  It's sort of like the English word "loitering", but I find it much more evocative.  It just sounds so lazy.  It makes me think of "bumming around" in my comfiest pair of sweatpants and a baggy old hoodie.

Yeah, this is the life...

The more I learn this language, the more I discover delicious words like these ones.  German is just full of irresistable linguistic gems.  So be sure to look out for my next installment of "speaking like a German" - it should be out within a couple of months...

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