How Germans can’t stop using English’s filthiest words

When it comes to swearing in their own language, Germans seem much more reluctant than us foul-mouthed Anglophones. But if they start cursing in English, it's a whole different matter.

If Germans were to say “Fi*k dich!”, that would be considered extremely rude – and it's very rarely heard. But you might have noticed that, if they're even slightly irritated, they'll start effing and blinding in English like nobody's business.

For some reason, Germans don't see English swear words as being nearly as offensive as their own. Even German companies, advertising firms, and newspapers are happy to use them in ways that would be completely inappropriate in Britain or the US.

Here are three times when Germans have sworn rather unexpectedly.

1. The German word “Shitstorm”

This isn’t even that common a word in English. We know what it means, and you might hear it in a comedy programme, or coming out of the mouth of your boss when you’ve messed up at work.

But in 2013, “Shitstorm” was actually entered into the Duden dictionary, which is the German equivalent to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Spiegel Online described the fallout as a 'Shitstorm' Shitstorm, after Duden was awarded the 2013 Sprachpanscher (language adulterer) prize from the Association for the German Language (VDS).

The word has now slipped into everyday German, and is particularly beloved by the media.

For example, with the revelation last week that Toblerone chocolate bars were changing shape in the UK, German weekly news magazine Stern described the affair as a “Schoko-Shitstorm”.

Germans don't even seem to realize it's rude in English. Take a look at this German man being interviewed on British television when he accidentally slips the taboo word into his post-match analysis:

2. Don't f*ck with the Berlin Transport Company

In 2016 the Berlin Transport Company (BVG) – which runs the capital's bus, tram and metro system – posted a new photograph on their official Facebook page.

Known for their unusual approach to advertising and their hashtag #weilwirdichlieben (#becauseweloveyou), the advert fits with their abrassive, hip image.

Referencing the famous American hip-hop group, the Wu-Tang Clan, the photo caption reads: “We’ve heard the frontman of the Wu-Tang Clan is in town. So we have to make this clear”.

The photograph’s slogan reads “U-Bahn-Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with.”

This new “down-with-the-kids” BVG image made headlines at the end of last year when they released a rap video called “Ist mir egal” (“I don't care”) by rapper Kazim Akboga.

3. Unilever’s “Fuck the Diet”

Germany is clearly becoming more used to this casual use of English profanities, since BVG has not come under nearly as much criticism as consumer goods company Unilever Germany did back in 2012.

They used the slogan “Fuck the Diet” to advertise their “Du darfst” (“You’re allowed”) range of allegedly healthy food products.

In the advert, the voice-over tells viewers that “Du darfst means above all that you don't have to do anything. Just help yourself: fuck the diet”, reverting to English for the final exclamation.

After complaints from the public, Unilever changed the advertisement from “Fuck the diet” to “Diät ohne mich” (“Diet without me”).

They told that “we have seen… that some people have felt irritated by the slogan of our campaign. This was and is in no way our intention.”

By Alexander Johnstone

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How (and when) to swear like a German

We are certainly not advocating the use of these words, but they are important to know (in case anyone uses them against you). Here are some of the German words you certainly shouldn’t use with elderly in-laws.

How (and when) to swear like a German
"Are you talking to me?" Photo: DPA


We’ll start with a word so common you’ve probably even heard some embarrassing politicians use it as they try to get down wid da kids

Geil is used to mean “cool” or “wow”. To show extreme approval, you can draw it out and say guy-el. The word literally means “horny”. It is often used in the following phrase “ej, du geile Sau”, which is a pretty crude way of telling someone you find them attractive (hey, you horny pig).

Our advice: be careful with this word! As common as “geil” is in everyday slang, it could still cause your conservative father-in-law to choke on his Lebkuchen during Christmas dinner.

READ ALSO: Nerdy flowers to alcoholic birds: the 12 most colourful German insults


This one is a shout out to all the old Bavarian men out there. “Kruzifix!” or “Sakrament!” is something you shout out in pain in the southern state if you’ve stubbed a toe or accidentally hit your finger with a hammer.

Our rule: don’t scream this word out in the presence of a priest. Avoid using on Sundays.


Here is a classic German joke for you: An American tourist driving through the German countryside is lost. He pulls up at a farm and shouts to the nearest farm hand “Hey Mister, I need some help.” The puzzled farmhand replies “Ich bin nicht der Mister, ich bin der Melker.”

The joke being – a Mekler is someone who milks the cows. A Mister would theoretically be someone he cleans out the Mist, the manure.

The word Mist, which you mutter when something has gone wrong, literally dung, is even an acceptable word for children to use and is equivalent to “flip or “darn it” in English.

Our advice: one to avoid if you’re trying to impress teenagers, otherwise safe.

Leck mich!

This is an abbreviated version of a sentence that is just a bit too rude to appear in a news publication of our standing.

It means “lick me.” Let’s put it this way, it’s not a sexy invitation to someone to lick chocolate from your chest. It refers instead to a less appetising brown substance and essentially means “f*** off!”

We don’t know what Baden-Württemberg’s former culture minister, Gabriele Warminski-Leitheußer, was saying here… but we’re pretty sure we know what she means. Photo: DPA


This word belongs to the fantastic German tradition of making up insults to throw at people based on perceived cowardly behaviour.

A Schattenparker is literally someone who parks in a shadow. Sensible behaviour, one might think. Not to the hardy German though – parking in shadow proves you can’t take the heat.

Famed members of this very manly collection are Warmduscher (warm showerer) and Frauenversteher (woman understander) – even if these should not exactly be insults. You can make up just about anything to add to the list, as this website proves.

Our advice: throw in a few original ones at Christmas dinner and German relatives will be cooing at the progress you’re making in German.


This word is the equivalent to the English expression “as thick as two planks.” You use it to insult someone’s intelligence “Ej, du Vollpfosten”, which means “hey, thicko”, or literally “you big pole”.

Our advice: One to keep in your arsenal if a driver cuts you off on your cycle to work and then fails to apologise.

“Ey, du Vollpfosten!” Photo: DPA


We all know the German word for shit, but one of its most appealing qualities is the fact that you can stick it to the front of just about any noun to indicate disapproval. “Der Scheißkerl” means “that arsehole”, but you can add it to anything, really. Scheißwetter, Scheißaufgabe, Scheißauto… the possibilities are endless.

Our advice: have fun with this one.


A seasonally relevant one to end things. Literally “arse cold” – we’re not really sure why – but it’s a good way to hate on the long, grey German winter.

Our advice: will go down well with a Berliner if you want to show you’ve got a bit of Schnauze.