Tag Archives: Language

How to Horrify an American with One Easy German Expression

Scary Horrified German Man

“God damn, dude. Did you really have to go THERE?” — Image Credit: Vik Nanda (https://www.flickr.com/photos/viknanda/) — Subject to CC 2.0 License.

A while back, my German wife purchased some cheap-ass insoles from Mäc-Geiz. (Mäc-Geiz is kind of like a dollar store here in Germany, or a variety store, if you want to make it sound a little less awful.) She wanted to put the insoles in her shoes so they would be more comfortable, and she bought an extra pair for me too. I thought this was nice, and I totally intended to try them out, but these insoles were huge — the kind you have to cut down to size with scissors before they’ll fit into your shoes. I could never quite muster the energy to do this, so the insoles sat in my office for the next several months. Finally, after my wife had blown through her own dollar store insoles, she asked for my pair back. I handed them to her and asked if she would be cutting them down to size. She looked at me like I was the dumbest motherfucker on the planet and said:

“Of course. How big do you think my feet are?
Like I’m wearing kids coffins?”

*From the slang German expression, “Deine Schuhe sind so groß – voll die Kindersärge,” which translates literally (and horrifyingly) to “Your shoes are so big – totally like children’s coffins.”



“Dropping Trow” – My German Wife Destroys yet Another Classic Phrase from American Slang


“Oh, you need to ‘use the restroom’? I’m sorry, but we only speak AMERICAN in this house.” — Image Credit: Joseph Choi (https://www.flickr.com/photos/josephers/) — Subject to CC 2.0 License. Edited for contrast.

Not only am I an American graphic designer, but I am also a professional writer, blogger and editor. Reading is my absolute favorite hobby, and when it comes to the English language, my tastes are both widespread and discerning. Therefore, you might reasonably assume I would refrain from all things linguistically crude or lowbrow, but you would be very wrong: I swear like a motherfucker.

Not only do I swear, but I use a remarkable amount of slang too: vulgar phrases, nonsensical jargon and stylistic idioms are all frequent aspects of my everyday speech. This might make me an amusing conversationalist for some, but it plays hell with my German wife’s ongoing education in the English language.

Let’s say I need to use the restroom for the specific purpose of evacuating my bowels. I won’t just saunter away quietly and do my business like a normal person. No, I will loudly announce my intentions to my wife in a manner which maximizes their vulgarity. For example, I might run down the staircase screaming, “Oh sweet Jesus, I gotta take a shiiiiiiiiiiiiiit…” or “Outta the way, sweetheart; I’m about to blast hot lava all up in this bitch,” or “Mother of God, my puckering anus can no longer contain the vile spirits within!”

And then there are the old classic sayings, like “drop a deuce,” “lose some weight,” or “lay some pipe.” I like to use these every once in a while just to keep things classy. So the other week, I kept saying to my wife, “I gotta drop trow” — also spelled “trou” — which refers to the act of preparing to defecate by dropping one’s pants around the ankles. (Note: In America, we call them “pants,” but those dandies in the UK call them “trousers.”) Anyway, after hearing me use this expression enough times, it finally crept into my wife’s vocabulary, resulting in her emerging from the bathroom one day and proudly announcing:

I dropped my trout!


“Nailed it.” — Image Credit: Bugeater (https://www.flickr.com/photos/bugeaters/) — Subject to CC 2.0 License. Cropped from original.


Why American Expats Like Me Should NEVER Become English Teachers in Germany

Bad Teacher

“Do you have a learning disability? Because you should just KNOW this shit.” — Image Credit: Patrick Bell (https://www.flickr.com/photos/druidicparadise/) – Subject to CC 2.0 License.

As I’ve said many times before, my wife is German and she is a Gymnasium teacher here in Hannover, Germany. As such, she teaches two primary academic subjects, but she is also required to conduct elective classes. These classes are usually fun things, like arts and crafts, sports or cooking. (But not beer drinking. I checked.)

Not long ago, my wife was tasked with teaching an elective baking class to a bunch of snot-nosed 8th graders. They were going to make a Black Forest Cake, also known as a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. Now, I don’t know why, but my wife wanted the recipe to be in English, so she downloaded one from the internet — which had clearly been translated from German into English — and asked me to proofread it for spelling and grammar mistakes.

What I found was an absolute clusterfuck of linguistic crimes, any one of which would — in an ideal world — warrant death by hanging. (Followed by the deceased author’s body being dragged through the streets and beaten with rubber mallets, then thrown into a pit of acid-spitting vipers which reduce the corpse to rendered lard, thereby enabling it to be molded into tiny, adorable birthday candles.)

Below is the Black Forest Cake recipe from the internet, complete with my edits indicated in red. ***WARNING*** Contains swearing and one rather graphic illustration. (Click image to enlarge.)

German and English Language Editing - Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake) Funny Recipe Corrections


Look, if the situation were reversed and I had to write this cake recipe in German, I would fail so hard I would have to throw myself off a cliff. Still, I cannot excuse such heinous linguistic crimes. This is why I must award this recipe with a despicable 1 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds:

Merkel Diamond from Angela Merkel, Prime Minister of Germany

Would you be a good English teacher? Have you ever had a particularly good or bad language teacher? We’d love to hear all about your experience in the comments section below…

Graphic Designer in Portland, Oregon and Hannover, Germany - Grafikdesigner Illustrator Copywriter

The German Accent: Ain’t No Place for the English “T-H”


“You just put your lips together and… blow.” — Image Credit: tiffany terry (https://www.flickr.com/photos/35168673@N03/) — Subject to CC Generic 2.0 Copyright.

I love my wife’s accent. It’s cute — sort of ambiguously European — with a rare subtlety which likely stems from so much time spent in the United States and her years of being married to me; an American book nerd who experiences heart palpitations whenever someone misuses the homophones “there” and “their.”

But who doesn’t enjoy a good foreign accent? They sound cool and unique. More attractive, even. (Except for that God-awful Cockney English accent. Holy shit.) So I cherish what precious little remains of my wife’s German accent, and record it whenever she lets fly with a real zinger. Yes, her mispronunciations make me laugh out loud, but I do not mean to mock her; I truly enjoy the linguistic differences. (And this road goes both ways, I’ll have you know: My wife laughs her sweet ass off whenever I try to say “ice cubes” in German. The word is “Eiswürfel,” pronounced, “Ice-vuhr-fell,” but I can’t stop saying “Ice-TZWUHR-fell.” Makes her lose her shit every time.)

One remnant of my wife’s accent is still going strong, however, and that is her total disregard for the English <th> sound, as in “theater,” “weather” or “Thor, God of Thunder.” (And yes, I am a comic book dork, as well as a fantasy nerd and sci-fi geek. I loved the movie Prometheus. It rocked so hard I’ve been hassling my wife to watch it with me since 2012.) So it was with much glee that I wrote down my wife’s quote the other day, after she came home from a particularly arduous day at work and demanded immediate relaxation, saying:

“I want to watch a movie so hard. We could even watch a sci-fi. We could even watch your ‘Pro-mee-toys.’ “

If you would like to read another classic mispronunciation post, check this one out: My German Wife Gets Stuck in Traffic, Struggles Adorably to Pronounce the English Letter ‘J’

Unsolicited Marriage Advice from an American Expat: Be a Good Listener and Your German Spouse Will Thank You


“What’s that you say, dear? I’m having trouble hearing you over all this dysfunction.” — Image Credit: Sue Clark (https://www.flickr.com/photos/perpetualplum/) — Subject to CC 2.0 Copyright.

My German wife and I have only been married since 2012, so I’m not an expert or anything, but being a good listener seems to be a pretty important part of marriage. That is, if you want to stay married, I mean. If you’d rather catapult yourself through a sudden divorce, go ahead and let your eyes glaze over whenever your spouse starts talking to you. Hold your thumb down on the TV remote, steadily increasing the volume until the sound of her voice is drowned out entirely. You’ll be on your own in no time.

But being a good listener doesn’t necessarily mean you have to actually do anything. In fact, the less you do while your spouse is talking, the better. When it comes to daily communication — like when you tell one another about your respective workdays — listening is really all about being present. Face your spouse. Keep your eyes open. Nod every once in a while. Maybe throw a grunt or two in there. It’s so easy! By merely being present (in body, if not in mind), what you’re actually doing is allowing your partner to vent. You’re refraining from doing or saying things which might hinder the verbal diarrhea your partner so desperately needs to spray you with. Just square up to that fire hose and take it in the eardrums.

Obviously there are times when you need to actively comprehend what you’re hearing and then offer up some kind of response, like, “Yes, honey, it sounds like that woman on the train was being a bitch. That bitch.” — but those times are pretty rare. On a daily basis, most people just need to unload their emotions onto something slightly more animated than a freshly painted wall. This is why, when my wife comes home and tells me in vivid detail all about her day at work, I just shut my dirty hole and watch her talk. And for this small amount of effort — 9 times out of 10 — my German wife will reward me by wrapping things up with a sigh and saying:

“Thank you for your open ear.”*

*Translated directly from the German saying, “Danke für dein offenes Ohr.”

If you would like to read another classic Denglish post, check this one out: My German Wife Struggles to Organize A Traditional Swiss Raclette Dinner in America



North vs. South: Where to Choose a Job in Germany Using Your Gastrointestinal Instincts


“You can take that job and shove it in your food hole.” — Photo Credit: Niels Heidenreich (https://www.flickr.com/photos/schoschie/) — Subject to CC 2.0 Generic Copyright.

After my wife finished her time as a Referendariat teacher-in-training — AKA: 18 months of stress-induced psychosis — she was faced with the grueling task of applying for jobs in various German cities. We were already living here in Hannover, but weren’t sure if we wanted to try someplace new, like Hamburg or Bremen. One thing we knew for sure, however, was that we did not want to move any further south.

I find the social dynamics between northern and southern Germans completely hilarious; they make fun of each others’ accents, food, weather, soccer teams — even their attitudes toward life in general. Northerners think of southerners as overly conservative, self-entitled brats with too much money and one great big boner for Jesus Christ. Southerners look at northerners as depressing, humorless robots with lumps of coal where their hearts should be. I love it. (Especially because the rest of the world is pretty sure all Germans are humorless robots.)

So as my German wife was applying for jobs back in 2013, she explained her search criteria to me thus: She would only be applying to cities in the north because we are not “Southies.” She went further to clarify why she would be choosing between certain job offers, saying…

“Right now, I want to pick out the raisins where I have a good stomach feeling.”

If you would like to read another classic Denglish post, check this one out: My German Wife Warns Me About the Mythological Beast in Our Bathtub



How to Evade a Guilt Trip, as Demonstrated by My Lovely German Wife


“Don’t mess with the best.” — Photo Credit: Trevor Butcher (https://www.flickr.com/photos/27888428@N00/) — Subject to CC 2.0 license. (Image adjusted for color and contrast.)

My wife works hard. Like, hard as balls. She gets up around 5:00 am, commutes to the Gymnasium high school where she teaches classes all day long, then comes home so she can plan lessons and grade tests for the next day. (Unlike me, who sits in front of the computer all day long making logos and shit.) I’d say my wife averages about 4.5 hours of sleep per night — which is nowhere near enough — but she handles it with grace and humor.

One drawback to all of this hard work, however, is my wife’s total inability to stay awake in front of the TV for longer than an hour. Halfway through a movie, I will hear a marked change in her breathing; it slows and deepens, until finally I look down to find an unconscious German on my shoulder.

I don’t fault her for this — she works her ass off — but I cannot resist the urge to tease her about it, especially because I’m the one who has to put away the food and dishes, turn off all the lights and turn the bed down. (You know, real backbreaking labor.) After all this is done, I gently wake my wife so she can brush her teeth before bed, and that’s when I like to make some shitty remark about having to watch the movie all over again tomorrow night. She would be justified in flipping me off or calling me names, but instead she just shrugs, saying:

“Please don’t smear this on my bread.”*

*From the German saying, “Schmier mir das nicht aufs Brot,” which figuratively means, “Quit bringing that up again.”

If you liked this post, you might also like this one too: My German Wife Struggles to Organize A Traditional Swiss Raclette Dinner in America