Monday, 29 May 2017

German stuff

1. tollpatschig (adj.) - clumsy
Patsch means something along the lines of “splat”; the sound a viscous liquid makes on impact. And toll means “great” or “terrific”; your sarcastic response to the incomprehensibly lucky Patsch a pigeon may discard upon your brow as you cross Trafalgar Square. And so, with my very limited, entirely intuitive understanding of etymology, I imagined tollpatschig as “terrifically splatty”, which is, after all, exactly what a clumsy person is. Whilst eminent linguists will likely and rightly belittle this train of thought, the word has remained close to my heart and stuck in my head ever since I first made this little lexical calculation.


2. das Kopfkino (noun) - the head cinema
I guess you did some kind of apprenticeship to become a barber, and that you needed to interview for it. I guess you felt a little nervous as a young rapscallion about to embark on his career. I guess a few images of all the things that could go wrong tussled with your temerity and befuddled your brain. This is your Kopfkino; those rolling pictures in your head that predict with such unfounded certainty the most unfortunate outcomes of a meaningful situation or event.
3. die Naschkatze (noun) - the gnash cat
I remember you always used to give me sweets after you’d cut my hair. Do you remember that? And then I would slide awkwardly from the barber’s seat, land with a Patsch on the laminate flooring and look investigatively at the remaining assortment of multi-coloured sugar hits. This is because I was a rabid Naschkatze in my youth, bequeathed with the sweetest of tooths by generations of gnash cats before me.
4. der Ohrwurm (noun) - the ear worm
It’s that catchy tune, the worm in your ear, that you simply can’t get out of your head. So next time the conversation dies between the cutter and the cut, and a tune surges from your unconscious to whistle across your lips, blame it on the Ohrwurm.
5. die Schnapsidee (noun) - the schnapps idea
At some point you mustered the courage to open your own barber shop. You probably had a few dedicated customers, but were unsure as to whether you would succeed. You may have considered it a Schnapsidee, a schnapps idea - a nutty, crazy, crackpot idea - that could have been, and perhaps was, fuelled by an influential quantity of strong alcohol.
6. dickköpfig (adj.) - thick-headed
A recipe for success, or das Erfolgsrezept, may include eine Schnapsidee and ein bisschen Dickköpfigkeit, which could generously be translated as stubbornness, but perhaps more accurately as pig-headedness. I imagine you had to be a little dickköpfig in order to realize your Schnapsidee and turn your establishment into the Erfolgsgeschichte, or success story, that it is today.
7. die Ahnungslosigkeit (noun) - cluelessness
And no set of favorite German words is complete without a multiple-syllable verbal adventure. Its English brother has the prototypical blockiness, composed of its clue, or Ahnung, the absence thereof, expressed by the -less, or the -los, and its default nounification with -ness, or -keit. So nothing special here, then. Anything German can do, English can do just as well. Right? Perhaps, but while English pronunciation has turned many of these words into slurs of swallowed consonants, their German counterparts remain the tongue-twisting, vocal cord-cluttering delights which are simply so fun to say. Go on, say it! Ahnungslosigkeit.

"Aller Anfang ist schwer." (Every beginning is hard.)
 "Kein Bier vor vier." (No beer before four.)


"Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei." (Everything has an end, only the sausage has two.)
"Der Fisch stinkt vom Kopf her." (The fish starts stinking from the head.) Problems begin, and in fact only exist, in your head.

"Nicht jede Kuh lässt sich melken." (Not every cow lets you milk it.) This one is about resistance, resilience and establishing boundaries. 
"Erst kommt das Fressen, dann die Moral." (First comes the food, then the moral.)

"Ein gutes Gewissen ist ein sanftes Ruhekissen." (A clear conscience is a soft pillow.)
“Knapp daneben ist auch vorbei." (Coming close is also missing it.)

"Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof." (Life is not a pony farm.)