After enduring the darkest winter in 43 years and floods from record-setting rains, the country has just experienced its worst hit yet.
Worse even than the great Nutella heist in which a 5 ton shipment of Nutella was stolen on its way to store shelves.
(Thieving Nutella is like snatching peanut butter sandwiches out of the hands of hungry kindergartners…
Germans can’t function without their daily dose of the chocolate-hazlenut spread.)
But now… the worst has happened.
Germany has lost its longest word.
Why, you ask?
Because it was outlawed.
It means: Law on the transfer of monitoring duties for labeling beef.
Of course it does. What else would it mean?
At 63 letters, it beats out the longest word in English (pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis) which boasts a mere 45 letters.
So why is Rind…whatever-the-heck-it-is no longer the longest?
It has to do with a law created to protect consumers from mad cow disease. The European Union repealed the law, hence the word is now defunct.
Fortunately, there is a solution. The reason Germans have such long words is because theystickabunchofsmallerwordstogether to make one big one. They call them tapeworm words.
So the hunt is on to find Germany a new longest word.
We are now taking nominations!
Click here if you want to find out how the last word to hold the honor was pronounced.
Can’t think of any? Click here to see 8 more ridiculously long German words.
I’m going to be in a lot of trouble when I move back to the U.S. from Germany. You see…to an English speaker, some German words just don’t sound quite right. Like, for instance, this one:
No, I’m not calling anyone a bad name. This is the name of a town on the Rhine River. According to my German dictionary, those first three letters mean Ace. Kind of gives a new meaning to phrases like “Ace in the hole,” “Having an Ace up one’s sleeve” or “Holding all the Aces,” doesn’t it?
Here is another not-so-bad-as-it-sounds word:
Would you be offended it I said “Gute fahrt!” to you? Don’t be! It means “Have a good trip!” Fahrt refers to a ride, journey, or trip. Gasse is the word for alley. The above picture is of a street sign in Heidelberg, Germany. Sorry to disappoint you … this is not a place to go after you’ve eaten too many German sausages.
Then there’s this word:
The literal meaning of this word is “thick.” I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that. The above sign is from Esslingen, Germany. It’s the name of a shopping center located inside an old factory of the same name. The company specialized in making butcher’s knives and tools. For some strange reason, this company was never successful in the American market. Perhaps they just don’t understand how we react to seeing this:
More like this:
Beer… something I know.
The German language … something I don’t know. The key to learning something new is to relate what you don’t know to what you do know. Germans love their beer … so what better way to learn their language?
Many English words for beer come from German, so we can use this knowledge as a starting point. Though it’s spelled differently, both languages use the same word – beer or Bier (Why did I capitalize it? See below!) – to describe this much-loved beverage. So the good news is… even if you don’t know any German at all, you can always order one of these frosty drinks!
Here are a few things you can learn at Beer Language School:
The word Bier teaches us two things about the German language: First, all nouns are capitalized in German, not just proper nouns. (But the pronoun ‘I‘ (ich) isn’t capitalized. What does that tell you about German priorities?) Next, when it comes to pronunciation, if two vowels are ‘walking’ … the second vowel does the talking. For instance, in the word Bier, the ‘e‘ sound is pronounced. Check out the next word to see what I mean…
This is the German word for white. It’s pronounced Vice. The second vowel (i) does the talking. Weiss also teaches us one more thing: W in German is pronounced like a V. What about V? It’s pronounced like an F. What about F? It’s pronounced like an F!!! (I didn’t say this would be easy!)
Never heard of Weissbier? You may have heard it called Hefeweizen (literally yeast wheat).
This word comes from the German word lagern, which means to store. Beer was invented before refrigerators, so beer was often brewed in the winter and then stored in a cool place until summer. Now you know your first German verb! Lagern, to store. Let’s try a couple of adjectives…
If you curse while you’re drinking, be aware that if you say “Hell!’ you might end up with another beer in your hands. Hell is the German word for light, and it’s often used to refer to a light beer.
If you prefer darker beers, then you probably know the word Dunkel … the German word for dark. The letter ‘u’ is pronounced differently in German. If you want to sound like a true German, don’t pronounce it ‘dunk-el,’ say ‘doonk-el.”
No discussion of German beer would be complete without mentioning a beer stein! Stein is the German word for stone. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Steins are a type of stoneware. But wait – there’s more! There is also a type of beer called Steinbier. It’s made by dropping hot stones into the brew. If you come across one of these, give it a try – this type of beer is becoming quite rare!
You’ve completed you first lesson at Beer Language School! You now know the German words for beer, white, light, dark, stone, and to store. You also learned some pronunciation tips and even a little history.
Not planning a trip to Germany? Oh well – at least this weekend you can impress your friends. (But if you’re not in Germany and you decide to say “Hell!” to your server… better watch out!)
By the way … there’s actually a German Beer Institute if you want to learn more!
As I continue my struggle to learn the German language, I’ve stumbled upon a few more words to add to my original list of Five Funny German Words.
No offense to speakers of this wonderful and challenging language, but to a person with a background in English… I find that certain words are worth a giggle.
5 More Funny German Words
Fahrtwind – I always get a kick out of Gute Fahrt. The phrase means Have a Great Trip, but it sounds like something else entirely (how perfect to see this phrase on a gas pump!). I recently looked up Fahrt in my German dictionary to check my interpretation …and lo and behold, I discovered another gem: Fahrtwind…the German word for airstream.
Puppen – If you say the Puppen out loud in English-speaking countries, thoughts in line with Fahrtwind may come to mind. The other day, I was strolling through the streets of a cute little German town with some friends. They spotted a sign that entertained them to no end: Puppenhaus. No…it wasn’t on an outhouse door…the sign referred to a House of Dolls and Puppets.
Handy – Here is a word that Germans would probably insist is English. Little do they know that we use this word in an entirely different way. If you ever drive in Germany, you may see signs that say Finger Vom Handy. The signs aren’t suggesting that you behave improperly with the handyman. They’re telling you to keep your hands off your cell phone.
Krank – This is the German word for sick. I think it’s perfect…when I’m sick, I’m definitely a Krank. And if I get really kranky, I am comforted knowing that I can be taken to the Krankenhaus (hospital) in a Krankenwagen (ambulance).
Kummerspeck – In all fairness, this word isn’t exactly used in everyday conversations, but I ran across it on the internet and just had to share. Kummerspeck refers to excess weight gained from emotional overeating. The literal translation?
I wonder what the German word is for Grief Ice Cream?