A dedication to German

I once tried to learn German, but not in a classroom environment. This meant that I was learning it, around the age of 13 through to 18, from various German exchange students that I knew. Of course this is a horrible way to learn any language. You have very limited exposure and an (or in my case many) untrained “teacher(s)” and this led to me learning three things:

1. Very basic nouns and verbs
2. Very basic phrases
3. Intricate curse-words and insults

And let’s be honest, it’s mainly the latter. It was, however, the curse-words that sparked my love for German and the huge variety of words they have that English simply does not have any equivalent for. The example I’m thinking of is Standgebläse /ʃdɑːndgɛblæzɛ/ and you can find its definition here because I’d like to keep this a little PG at least. So here are a few German words that I’ve picked for their morphological complexity, because I like the way it’s all just smashed together. Before I start I’d like to thank Kathi for her help with the phonology of this entry. Danke, Kathi, du bist einfach unglaublich.

Kummerspeck /ˈkʊmɐʃbæg/ Noun. Literally means “grief bacon” and I find that hilarious. Its proper definition is ‘fat which comes about from emotional gluttony’. “Frau Müller put on so much Kummerspeck when her dog died.”

Neidbau /naɪ̯dbaʊ̯/ Noun. A word which literally means “spite house” this is the kind of structure that is built solely to annoy one’s neighbours. “Let’s build a Neidbau to block Herr Schmidt’s view of the lake.”

Tantenverführer /’tantɛnfeʁfyɐ/ Noun. Now this is interesting because it literally means “aunt-seducer” but the implication is that of someone who has suspiciously good manners. I’m curious as to why Germans are so concerned about good-mannered boys seducing their aunts. “Little Krause is such a Tantenverführer, I wonder what he wants.”

Umweltverschmutzung /ʊmvɛltfɐʃmʊʦʊŋ/ Noun. Pollution, but it puts it so harshly that it makes you pay attention when all we hear about today is global warming and smog-coated cities because what it really says is to dirty the world. And that is deep man. “I’m so glad Stuttgart isn’t covered in Umweltverschmutzung like Berlin.”

Brustwarze /bʀʊstvaʁʦə/ Noun. “Breast warts” because Germans like to be oh so romantic when they’re talking about nipples. “Oh Fräulein Naumann’s Brustwarzen are so pretty.”

Schwangerschaftsverhütungsmittel /ʃvaŋɐʃaftsfeʁˈhyːtʊŋsˈmɪtl/ Noun. A word this long must have a complicated meaning. It’s got to be something crazy, something only the Germans could think up… Nope. That’s ‘pregnancy aversion remedy’ or as we English speakers call it; Contraceptives. “Oh no! I forgot to take my Schwangerschaftsverhütungsmittel.”

But if you thought that was long you’re in for a treat here:

Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz /ʀɪndflaɪ̯ʃeti:keti:ʁʊŋsyːbɐˈvaχʊŋsaʊ̯fɡaːbənyːbɐˈtʁaːgʊŋsɡeˈzɛʦ/ Noun. Possibly the longest German word, certainly that I could find, and absolute proof that Germans love their compound words. This wee beauty is the law governing “beef labeling regulation and delegation of supervision.” Whatever that means. “Herr Lehmann, you did it wrong! Now we might be sued because of the Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz.”

Of course this seems stupid to us but if you understood German then you have everything you need to define your word right there, in the word itself. Sounds a lot easier to me than figuring out what erinaceous means.


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