I love German. Not only is it the least romantic language of them all (“I love you” in German sounds more like “I will hit you with shovel”) but it sounds great in a deep voice (think Rammstein) and almost everything sounds vaguely sexual (think Rammstein), particularly if you say it with a slight smile. It is the only language to capitalise every noun, which not only wears out Shift keys faster but is deliciously ironic given German people’s reputation for efficiency. Not only that, but every noun is given a gender with often bizarre results- a small girl is neuter rather than female, and the ocean can be either male, female or neuter depending on what term you use to describe it (Ozean, Meer, or See). Mark Twain even wrote of his experience with the German language “surely there is not another language that is so slipshod and systemless, and so slippery and elusive to the grasp. One is washed about in it, hither and thither, in the most helpless way; and when at last he thinks he has captured a rule which offers firm ground he turns over the page and reads, ‘Let the pupil make careful note of the following exceptions.’ He runs his eye down and finds that there are more exceptions to the rule than instances of it.” So without further ado, I present to you meine Damen und Herren, my top 17 favourite funny German words and phrases.
In English it’s a pen, in French a stylo, in Spanish a pluma. Only in Germany would such an everyday object have so many syllables. It’s like they just have so much time to spend speaking, why rush? Literally translated, Kugelschreiber means “ball scriber” which is also funny for other reasons.
Or as we would say in English “hash brown”. I’m not sure why but every time I read this on a menu in Germany or hear someone say it, it brings a smile to my face. It just sounds so cute, like a baby penguin.
Wow, such a long word, this must be an abstract legal term or a chemical name, right? No, it’s the word for “speed limit”. What!!!?
14. Herr Doktor Professor
In English we generally go by one title such as “Mister” or “Doctor” or “Captain”. Not in Germany where you are expected to know their full set of titles. Something of a collective German identity crisis? It’s like “I am at once a male, a doctor and a professor, why would you seek to rob me of any one of those attributes?!”
You might think this would be a house for rats, with little holes in the wall and rats darting to and fro. Alas, it’s the town hall, though it does show what Germans think of their local government.
12. Fahrt, Einfahrt and Notfahrt
Has nothing to do with breaking wind, breaking wind once or never breaking wind. Fahrt means ride or trip, Einfahrt means entrance and Notfahrt means emergency trip, apparently. Can a Notfahrt be to the bathroom? What’s that? I can’t put that on the website? But I’ve already done so.
Pardon me if I got rather excited about visiting this park in Berlin. I’d imagined something akin to a debauched garden of Eden. It turns out it just means the more general “pleasure garden”.
10. Ich hab keine Lust
Likewise, when you say “I have no lust” in German it doesn’t mean you’re impotent, it just means you cant really be bothered to do anything.
This is a law that refers to the correct labelling of beef. Obviously considered important enough that there’s a (very long) word for it. Then again, there has been that horsemeat scandal in Europe lately.
I initally thought this must be some kind of German dinosaur like Kohlensaurus Rex but it just means bubbles. In your soda.
Sounds absolutely filthy, but it’s their word for art. You thus hear refined people say it all the time. Likewise a Kunsthalle is an art gallery. Just get the consonants around the right way and you’ll be fine.
In English we would try to disguise what we are eating by calling it something quaint like “pork”. Not so in Germany- “our special today is black caviar and fresh garden salad with PIG FLESH”
Sounds like it might be the word for limp, flaccid or droopy but in fact is what they call apple juice.
Pronounced something similar to “knob lock” it sounds excruciatingly painful until you realise it’s just garlic. (As a side note, I once ordered a type of delicious looking sauce with my kebab in Germany. A German colleague said “are you sure? It’s garbage”. I asked him what he meant, but he just kept saying “it is garbage,” so finally I ordered something else. It turned out he had been trying to say it was garlic. Now whenever I go to visit his company we make a point of going out for “garbage kebabs”.)
A Botschafter is not somebody who has sex with automatons. It’s an ambassador, of course! Thanks to reader Phil S for that one.
2. Ich Liebe Dich
As previously mentioned, when said correctly sounds like you are saying “I will hit you with shovel” or “I will leave you” or “I love Dick”. And if your boyfriend’s name is not Richard that might be a hard one to explain to your parents.
1. Ihre Mutter säugt Schweine
Said only to an enemy or a very easygoing friend, it means “Your mother suckles pigs” and is thus the most brutal insult known to mankind.
That’s all folks! (What, you were expecting more?) Now you can go out and use these at Oktoberfest! Haben Sie eine gute Fahrt!
And if you loved this, you’ll love 18 Strange Observations of America (from an Australian Living in the USA)
by RationalMatthew Follow
PS: I love Germans! So that renders any criticisms null and void!