Tag Archives: German

False Friends: 15 Examples How the German Language Is Trying to Kill You

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“Oh yeah, those are the exact same thing.” — Photo Credit: Kirby Kerr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/rotofugi/) — Subject to CC 2.0 license. (Hue and contrast edited.)

False friends are pairs of words in two languages which look or sound identical, but are wildly different in meaning. The false friends between German and English are hilarious, and in some cases, lethal.

What follows is a list of 15 German nouns and their incredibly different translations in English:

  1. Das Gift
    In America, we know exactly what gifts are: Nicely wrapped boxes full of goods made in poor countries. In German, however, das Gift means poison. Straight up, rat-killing, slug-shrinking poison. If you want to say gift in German, you have to say das Geschenk — and I agree; the German version sounds more like a tool used to stab someone in prison.
  2. Der Rat
    Rats — those filthy little rodents which helped spread bubonic plague throughout Europe in the Middle Ages — now kept primarily as pets by high school nerds with Cheeto fingers. Unfortunately, der Rat means advice or counsel in German. Actually, that’s kind of perfect; lots of government branches in Germany are named using this root word, like der Bundesrat (federal council), which is just full of rats…
  3. Der Stapler
    Remember Milton from Office Space, with his bright red Swingline stapler? Well, before you go burning your workplace to the ground over one of these things, remember, in German der Stapler means forklift or stacker truck, so if your boss screams, “Achtung! Stapler!” don’t just stand there laughing — fucking run.
  4. Der Quark
    If you’re a huge nerd like me, the word quark immediately makes you think of the Ferengi bar owner from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (Who, by the way, was the best character on the show — I will fight you over this.) If you’re a smarter nerd than me, quark makes you think of the elementary particles which combine to form things like protons and neutrons. Anyway, in German, der Quark means cheese curd, and it tastes like really thin yogurt with all of the fun and joy removed.
  5. Der Hang
    Depending upon my mood, the word hang will either remind me of hanging out — like I did in the mid-’90s — or the verb to hang, like from a noose. (Generally it’s the latter, because gallows humor is the only thing which alleviates my crippling preoccupation with death.) In German, however, der Hang means a slope or inclination. Isn’t that boring? I would so much rather think about death by hanging and the hilarious boner it gives you.
  6. Der Mist
    Picture it: A beautiful meadow just as the sun is coming up. The air is crisp and cold. Red and yellow leaves are scattered across the grass. A gentle mist is drifting from the trees, moving across the ground and tickling your toes. It’s a beautiful day to be alive. No. Just, no. Der Mist means dung or manure.
  7. Der Pickel
    Pickles are awesome, right? They’re delicious — all bumpy and green — and you can wiggle them in front of your genitals like a Martian dick. But that’s not what the word means in German. Der Pickel is a zit or pimple, which, if you think about it, is way more revolting than my freakishly green weenie. “Kiss the tip!”
  8. Der Smoking
    Sounds like it has something to do with cigarettes, right? Maybe cigars or pipes? Something that really gives cancer the old middle finger. That’s what I thought, until I discovered der Smoking actually means tuxedo. Not even close! And now that I know what it means, I can’t stop picturing James Bond in a tuxedo smoking a cigarette. Just stinkin’ his tailored suit up real good, like a true asshole.
  9. Die Robe
    As an American, the word robe brings to my mind a soft garment worn immediately after a shower. There are fancy robes, like the ones Hugh Hefner wears, and shitty robes, like the ones your dad used to wear — you know, the thin, faded kind, which would, without fail, give you an eye full of his cock and balls every time he sat down on the couch. *Shudder.* Thankfully, in German, die Robe is an evening gown, and that is a mental image which does not make my right eyelid twitch.
  10. Die Lust
    Oh, this one’s gotta be good, right? Probably something naughty. Shunned or illegal, at the very least. Nope. Die Lust means interest or inclination. Isn’t that just lame as hell? On the plus side, in German, you can walk up to a woman and literally ask if she has any ‘lust’ to go out with you. That’s pretty hardcore. Might as well ask if she’s lubed up and ready to make a porno.
  11. Die Nutte
    Sounds like nuts or Nutella to me, so frankly I like where this word is headed already. Unfortunately, die Nutte means hooker or prostitute in German. Can you imagine asking your waiter or waitress for some extra Nutella, only you totally blow it with your American accent? Nothing like a totally unexpected insult to ruin someone’s double shift: “Excuse me. May I please have some more of this delicious hazelnut spread, you filthy whore?”
  12. Der Puff
    I get it, innocent stuff, like “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” cream puffs, and Puff Daddy — or whatever the hell he called himself before he turned into a beautiful butterfly. No, der Puff isn’t innocent at all; it’s a whorehouse or brothel. This one is so misleading, it’s like sitting down to watch an animated movie with your kids, only to discover you’ve brought home some hardcore hentai, complete with throbbing tentacle dicks and helpless girls who never fail to show you their undies.
  13. Der Tripper
    Sounds like Jack Tripper from Three’s Company to me! This word is sure to result in comic high jinks after a simple mix-up forces a hapless bachelor to inexplicably trip over every god damned thing in the apartment. No Sir! In German, der Tripper is gonorrhea or “the clap.” Man, what I wouldn’t pay to see John Ritter alive again, screaming as he falls down the stairs, “Mother of God, it burns when I peeeeeeeeeeee…!”
  14. Die Parole
    This is what happens after you get out of prison, right? Where you prove you’re ready to reenter the population by having absolutely no fun at all? In Germany, die Parole actually means password or slogan, so if you want to talk about being released from prison, you have to say, die Bewährung. (Great. Now I can’t stop thinking about how many of our devoted readers might be ex-convicts…)
  15. Der After
    Yeah, I get it. After. But after what? Well, after my puckering butthole, that’s what. Seriously. In German, der After means anus. Isn’t that awesome? I can’t wait to go back to the gym tomorrow, hit the showers and show everyone what comes after my butt cheeks. “Run, hobbits! The Eye of Sauron is upon you!”

If you would like to read another post about my experiences learning the German language, check out this one: The Absolute Best (and Weirdest) German Integration Class I Ever Had

 


 

Denglish 42: The German Sizes Up Daniel Radcliffe

As my wife and I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part II, I made a comment about Daniel Radcliffe’s remarkably slight, 5’6″ build:

ME: “My God that Harry Potter is small.”

THE WIFE: “In German we say, ‘Er ist eine halbe Portion,’ which means, “He is a half portion.’ ”

Click here to learn more about the term “Denglish.”

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Denglish 41: My German Wife Requires Garlic to Make It Tasty

Sometime last year, The Wife and I were discussing our shopping list over the phone. We were planning to make a casserole and our list was nearly complete, but I asked if there were any additional items we might need. She responded thusly:

THE WIFE: “Oh, we do need garlic. We make it nasty with stink!”

Click here to learn more about the term “Denglish.”

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Denglish 40: Our First German-American Pizza War

The Wife and I love making pizza together. We each choose a side of the dough, then select our own ingredients and arrange them however we like. But make no mistake — this is a violent competition to see who can make the better-tasting half. Seriously. People have been injured.

For our very first pizza, my wife chose to make some kind of hideous spinach and mushroom disaster (just kidding — it was actually really good, but don’t tell her I said that). For my side, I chose Greek olives, feta and red onions, and even my wife had to admit the ingredients sounded awesome:

THE WIFE: “Greek Salad Pizza? Oooo, I sneak up on your side.”

Click here to learn more about the term “Denglish.”

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Denglish 39: Impressing The German with “O-o-h Child”

I once informed my wife I was about to impress the hell out of her by singing a high-pitched rendition of “O-o-h Child” by 1970’s soul family group, the Five Stairsteps. She prompted the serenade thusly:

THE WIFE: “Yes, please impress me. I’m just kidding. That was a joke.”

Click here to learn more about the term “Denglish.”

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Denglish 38: My German Wife Speaks Bluntly About Ally McBeal’s Bosom

Inexplicably, my wife’s all-time favorite TV show is Ally McBeal. She owns every season on DVD, and finally managed to get me to watch an episode after henpecking me for a year, effectively breaking my spirit and leaving me an empty shell of a man.

Since then, The Wife and I have had numerous discussions about Calista Flockhart, the characters, storyline and overall substance of the show. My wife enjoys its silly humor, especially as it concerns young, professional, unmarried and childless characters. A great deal of value is placed upon independence, which, I believe, is what my wife likes most about it. However, the first thing she ever said to me about the show was…

THE WIFE: “In Season 2, Ally McBeal has no tits at all.”

Click here to learn more about the term “Denglish.”

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Denglish 35: My German Wife Cannot Smell the Scent of Happy Hour in New York City

During our 2010 trip to New York, The Wife and I made a point of visiting every Irish Pub we came across in Manhattan. On one occasion, we entered a pub on the Lower East Side to find the bar was completely full, but there was seating in the restaurant area. A friendly manager sat us in the restaurant, explaining we could still drink and eat at happy hour prices. Our waitress, however, was a grumpy New York waif, whom we deemed “Surly Sarah.” At the end of our meal, she brought us the bill with full menu prices, even though we’d ordered well within the happy hour timeframe. Surly Sarah was more than a little inconvenienced by the fact that we had not read her mind and reminded her of this beforehand.

THE WIFE: “You decide in your head to charge us full price? Can I smell this? No.”

Click here to learn more about the term “Denglish.”

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