The German language has a reputation for being logical and systematic, but sometimes German compound nouns require a bit of imagination. So when Germans start talking about Bauchpinseln, they aren’t literally talking about brushing tummies.
Composed of Bauch (stomach) and pinseln (to brush), the verb actually means “to flatter” or “to fawn over something”. It supposedly comes from rubbing the tummies of cats and dogs when they’re being cute, or you want to give them attention.
But it’s probably not a good idea to literally start rubbing the tummy of someone you want to flatter; they might find it a bit of a surprise.
Ich fühle mich ganz gebauchpinselt.
I feel completely flattered.
Die Lehrer bauchpinseln den Direktor.
The teachers are flattering the headteacher.
Do you have a favourite word you'd like to see us cover? If so, please email our editor Rachel Stern with your suggestion.