I am currently taking a German language class and one of my assignments this week was to discuss a few of my favorite German words. This was a difficult assignment, not because I couldn’t find German words that I like but because there are too many.
There seem to be more compound words in German than in English and many of these words are descriptive in ways that are both funny and true. They also tend to be more accurate than their English counterparts. In addition, these words are easier to learn because they are essentially two easy words put together to form a more specific word, so if you know the two easy words you can easily understand the compound word.
For example, one word I find amusing is “Handshuhe” (all German nouns are capitalized). This word literally means “hand shoes” or in English you would call them gloves. I think someone learning German can understand “Handschuhe” easier than an English learner could understand, or remember, “gloves.”
A word that I really like is “Warteschlange.” This word not only sounds good but it has a cool meaning: “wait snake.” It technically means “queue.” It would be like the line at the post office or an amusement park that twists around like a snake.
Another great word is “Scheinwerfer.” This word literally means “light thrower” which is a much cooler word than “headlight.”
Then there is “Stinktier” or “stink animal,” which is much more descriptive than “skunk.”
“Faltier” or “lazy animal,” is a sloth. A “Staubsauger,” or “dust sucker,” is a vacuum. A “Stachelschwein,” or “spike pig,” is a porcupine. “Fledermaus” is a “flutter mouse” or bat. Another of my favorites is “Flugzeug,” which means something like “fly thing,” which, of course, is an airplane. There is also “Schildkröte, or “shield toad,” which is a toad with a shield, otherwise known as a turtle. There are many more similar words but I think you get the idea.
Finally, a word that I found to be quite amusing is more of an idiom than a description. “Schattenparker” literally means “shadow parker” and is a word that my teacher never heard before. It essentially refers to a man who is not very manly. The reason behind it is that a man who takes a shady parking spot rather than leave it for someone who needs it more is not behaving manly.
Of course, German does not have a monopoly on funny compound words. English has a few good ones too. “Aftermath,” for example, is a weird word. Perhaps it is the destruction that takes place after one does math. I don’t know. “Bulldozer” is probably my favorite English word but I have no idea why it is called that.
What do you think? Do you know any words, either in English or another language, that you really like or that are funny in their literal meaning or just funny in the way they sound?
And ironically, in some or many cases, we Germans don’t think that much about the meaning of compound words as we just learned them as babies or kids, visually (or associated with something). To explain what I mean… now that you wrote it, yes, I see the two words within “Handschuhe”. But generally, many compund words are visually connected to something that I, in some but not all cases, never would have noticed or realized it. No joke, it happened several times in my life that I realized 30 or almost 40 years later that a certain word is actually made of two words.
When I think of a time in my life where it occured more often to me, I think about my apprenticeship in German or Business German classes. One of the fellows sitting at my side was a Russian immigrant. He was excelent in Math, one of my weaknesses, but bad in written German. So, we supported each other. Since he made mistake like writing “warte Schlange” instead of the correct way “Warteschlange”, I suddenly noticed the meanings of different German words. In some cases I really never would have realized that certain words are actually desciptions put together by two different German words. I had a few “Wow!” moments 😀
That is interesting that you say that because I feel the same way about English but for the opposite reason. We sometimes say things that don’t make sense if you think about the meaning of each word. We say “am going to” in place of “will” which makes no sense. There are more examples but I can’t think of one at this moment.