Steckenpferd | Word of the Week | DW | 12.06.2012
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Word of the Week

Steckenpferd

Are you still carrying around your hobby horse?

Many of us played on hobby horses when we were kids. And it turns out quite a few adults have them, too. Steckenpferd, a compound of the nouns Stecken (stick) and Pferd (horse), is the German word for hobby horse. The word is used as it is in English, to describe a person's favorite pastime, or hobby, allowing adults to become children once again. But the word can also be used in the pejorative sense to describe a particular issue over which a person nitpicks. Etiquette, for example, was the Steckenpferd of the German writer Adolph Freiheer von Knigge (1752 - 1796). He's best remembered for his book "On Human Relations," an authoritative guide to politeness and social etiquette. The Knigge Society still exists in Germany today. They hit the headlines last year for their campaign against kissing as a form of greeting in the workplace. So a Steckenpferd could be anything from climate change to good manners, as any upstanding member of the Knigge Society would (politely) tell you!

Author: Helen Whittle
Editor: Kate Bowen

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