German has a rep for being one of the harsher sounding languages. It’s a language that can make “butterfly” sound menacing. (Schmetterling! Argh!) But through two decades spent trying to tackle zee German language, I’ve encountered heaps of words that are fun, funny, or just a bit goofy. Hence, I’ve composed a list of seven German words that I think will tickle your fancy!
Don’t be afraid to unleash your Inner German!
That’s what I tell those who attend my Beginner German For Travelers class as I try to get them to pronounce some über-guttural word. Fahrvergnügen, anyone?
Fahrvergnügen is the pleasure of driving. Well what about Sprachvergnügen — the pleasure of language? Without further ado, and in the interest of Sprachvergnügen, let’s take a look at those seven German words, beginning with the dreaded:
Kakerlake! Kakerlake! Kakerlake! Say it three times fast, and I dare you not to smile! Etymologically speaking, Kakerlake isn’t related to the German word Kacke. But it should be. They are both unpleasant brown things that start with a kak sound. (Kacke meaning “poop,” and Kakerlake meaning “cockroach.”)
While Kakerlaken are far more terrifying than Kacke and exponentially more disgusting than Schmetterlinge, the word Kakerlake is pleasantly goofy sounding. It has a nice alliterative quality to it.
This one stands out for me because I vividly remember the first time I tried figuring out the meaning of the word. Like many German words, it’s actually a combination of words. In this case, hoch meaning “high,” and Zeit, meaning “time.” So, OF COURSE, when I first came across Hochzeit, I thought it meant “high time!” After all, in English we say it’s “high time we did such-and-such” all the time.
But it didn’t make sense in the context. So then I thought maybe it was “high” in the sense of feeling exalted or merry or even intoxicated. But that also made no sense in the sentence. Thus, I had to get my big fat tome of a dictionary out.
(I was studying German in the days before Google Translate, you guys! My homework assignments would have been so much easier now, with fantastic resources like leo.org.)
Long story short, Hochzeit means wedding, and those are generally pretty fun affairs. High time, indeed!
Once again, two words are combined here to form the German word, Brustwarze. Brust means “chest,” or also “bosom” or “breast.” Warze means “wart” — you know, like the ones witches have on their nose and chin? So Brustwarze, broken down and recombined in English, is “chest wart.”
It means nipple, you guys.
Free the Brustwarze!
One simply does not go to Oktoberfest celebrations without hearing this word. And that’s because it’s German tradition to sing about it. In unison. Usually while lubricated.
Sing with me now! “Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit!”
You’ll likely hear the masses belting out those lyrics if you step into any of the fourteen ginormous beer tents on the Theresienwiese fest grounds in Munich.
Zum Beispiel: (For example:)
Roughly translated, “Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit!” means “A toast, a toast to Gemütlichkeit!” But what is Gemütlichkeit? We don’t have an exact word for it in English. So let me try to break it down for y’all!
Firstly, Gemütlichkeit is the noun form of the adjective, gemütlich. If something is described as gemütlich, it connotes a quality of being comfortable, without any disturbing influences. Sitting by a cozy fire in a delightfully decorated room can be gemütlich. A holiday, a locale, or an atmosphere can be gemütlich. It can also describe being in pleasant company, as in: enjoying a gemütlich evening with friends.
Something done slowly, without haste, can be gemütlich. Like taking a gemütlich stroll through the park. Gemütlichkeit is coziness and good cheer. It’s geniality and cordiality. It basically gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. So let’s hear three cheers for Gemütlichkeit!
Here’s another one that combines two words! Ohr is “ear,” and Wurm is “worm!” So that would be “earworm” in English! It’s basically the word Germans use when you get Aha’s “Take On Me,” Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” or some Britney Spears tune stuck in your head. Or worse, that obnoxious Badger Song, for example.
Getting any song hopelessly stuck in your head means you have an Ohrwurm. Let’s hope it’s not the Badger Song.
I just love this word because it’s near and dear to me. As you might know by now, I suffer from an incurable case of Wanderlust. We have the same word in English, ’cause we borrowed it from zee Germans. But while in English one of the root words — “lust” — mainly refers to sexual desire or sometimes, greed for power, in German, the meaning is more varied.
It means the wish or desire to have something, which can include sex, as in English. But it also means “delight,” “appetite,” or being “keen” on something. And FYI, lustig, means “funny.”
Have you ever driven on the Autobahn? Then I’m sure you’ve seen an Ausfahrt sign. Ausfahrt isn’t a town in Germany. It means “freeway exit.” Likewise, Einfahrt is “freeway entrance.” The root word of both Ausfahrt and Einfahrt is Fahrt. Pronounced similarly to the English word, fart. Yeah, it’s lustig in a juvenile kind of way.
Then there’s also Kreuzfahrt, meaning “cruise,” or Kreuzfahrtschiff, meaning “cruise ship.” These words are all derived from Fahrt, meaning “drive,” “ride,” “tour,” “trip,” or “journey.”
I once heard Rick Steves talk about the word Fahrt. He said that whenever he sees his Dad before leaving on another trip for Europe, his Dad is always sure to tell him, “Have a good Fahrt!”
Those are words to live by! So please, whatever it is you decide to do in this life, just be sure to have a good Fahrt, y’all!
Now, please tell me, which awesome German words have I missed? I’m sure there are heaps more out there that deserve a mention! Please chime in with your favorite Deutsche Wörter in the comments section!