10 German words English should adopt
Two English authors think there are some German expressions that would really enrich the English language. So they translated them for an international audience in their new book, "Denglisch for Better Knowers."
Two Englishmen, Adam Fletcher and Paul Hawkins, recently published their book, "Denglisch for Better Knowers," in which they translate unique German expressions into English. One of the words the authors would love to see adopted in English is "side jump" ("Seitensprung"). In German, it means an extramarital affair. "It's so metaphorical and poetic," Fletcher told DW.
Another German expression that convinced the authors with its lyrical feel is "lazy sock" ("faule Socke"), which is used to describe those without much drive. "There is a certain poetry to the idea of a lazy sock. Socks come in pairs, so no matter how lazy and flawed you are as a person, somewhere out there is someone else who matches perfectly to you. I find that very comforting," Fletcher says.
If someone is considered wimpy or cowardly, he might easily be called a "warm showerer" ("Warmduscher") in German. "The expression makes absolutely no sense because everyone likes warm showers," Fletcher says. "But what I like about it is that you can turn it into a bravery test. Even if you've never skydived, every morning there is a German opportunity to show your bravery in the shower."
Two common stereotypes that haunt Germans are bureaucracy and efficiency. So it's no surprise that there is also a word Germans like to use to insult a typical bureaucrat who's everything but efficient. A "chair farter" ("Sesselpupser") is a person who just sits around all day, not really doing anything at all (except clearing their bodily cavities).
In German, a mental trick for remembering something is called a "donkey bridge" ("Eselsbrücke"). "The English expressions 'mnemonic device' or 'memory aid' don't have the same poetry - they're too scientific - whereas with a donkey bridge you can imagine this little trusty donkey that carries all of the things you want to remember and you walk it over the bridge to memory ville," Fletcher says.
If you're not a brave person or you get scared easily, Germans might call you a "fear bunny" ("Angsthase"). "In English you say scaredy cat, but cats have nothing to be scared of. The vulnerability of the bunny makes 'fear bunny' much better because cats are basically immortal; they have more lives than they need. You can throw them off buildings and they still magically survive," Fletcher says.
The German verb "vögeln" ("birding") is colloquially used to describe the act of lovemaking. It stems from the 14th century when it was used for catching a bird. "I didn't understand why sex would ever be described as birding," Fletcher says, "but it seems so cute that I think the English language must adopt it."
One reason one might want to go "birding" could be the fact that they're "emergency horny" ("notgeil"). According to Fletcher, there is no English word that can describe the urgency with which one becomes aroused and the need to do something about it as adequately as the word "emergency horny," which is why he thinks the expression must be adopted by the English language.
If you literally translated the German word for "outer space" ("Weltraum") into English it would be "world room," which Fletcher finds fascinating. "I wonder how many Germans ever think about what the word 'Weltraum' actually symbolizes. Rather than outer space, which is very far away, it's just another room out there waiting to be explored. It's a beautiful, poetic concept," he says.
In German, there is a word to describe the phenomenon getting a song stuck in your head: "ear worm" ("Ohrwurm"). "The best English can currently do is 'involuntary musical imagery' but that doesn't encapsulate the annoying and uninvited nature of the problem," Fletcher says. "If there is only one word the English language adapts from the book, then I hope it's ear worm."