Retourkutsche | Word of the Week | DW | 04.06.2013
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Word of the Week


Where is your carriage headed?

A horse-drawn carriage - Kutsche in German - is typically associated with a wedding, or with a royal outing in the idyllic countryside. But a Retourkutsche is anything but romantic.

Up until the beginning of the 20th century, carriages served as the main means of public transportation, particularly in rural regions. In the morning, a carriage would take people into town, and in the evenings a return carriage - or Retourkutsche - would take them back. Retour is French for "return," lending the carriage an even more romantic flair.

These days, however, the word Retourkutsche refers to a cheeky reply to an insult or verbal attack. One Retourkutsche in Germany is especially famous: the Quadriga on the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. This statue of Victoria, the goddess of victory, seated on a chariot drawn by four horses was taken home to France by Napoleon after he conquered the city in 1806. But when the Prussians defeated Napoleon in 1814, they took it back. Since then, the Quadriga has been known as Berlin's Retourkutsche.

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