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German word of the day: Die Engstirnigkeit

Our word of the day could be a useful one for family gatherings if you ever have to call relatives out.

German word of the day: Die Engstirnigkeit
Photo: Depositphotos

Now that Christmas is over, you might be happy to have a rest from some of your more narrow-minded relatives. You could say their Engstirnigkeit endangered the peace at the Christmas dinner table.

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Engstirnigkeit literally translates to “narrow foreheadedness“, which doesn’t make any sense, we know. Luckily, there’s a handy English word for it: “Parochialism.” Parochialism describes a state of mind, where a person focuses on a small section of an issue without considering its wider context. You could say they have a limited or narrow outlook.

The German word engstirning, however, is a much more figurative word for parochialism. The Stirn (forehead) stands for the brain in this case. An accurate English equivalent could therefore be “narrow mindedness.“

An example that brings us right back to the Christmas dinner table: Your uncle Klaus had one or two drinks too many and started ranting about immigrants.

To make his point (perhaps it was something like: “immigrants are all criminals“ or the like) clear, he uses examples he read in a tabloid that is known for taking a certain stance.

This tabloid might have written about a case of robbery, where it mentioned that the robber had a, let’s say, Tunisian background. It failed to mention, though, that the man is from a family who has lived in Germany for three generations.

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Your uncle Klaus completely disregards the wider picture and paints a picture of criminal immigrants overflowing Germany.

In this case, it would be very good to tell him: “Onkel Klaus, sei mal nicht so engstirnig“ (Uncle Klaus, stop being so narrow minded!“) and present the wider picture to him.

In many cases, Engstirngkeit can be avoided quite easily. The key is education and to look at the whole picture, not just a part of it.

Examples:

Ich verstehe nicht, wie man so engstirnig sein kann.

I don’t understand how a person can be that narrow-minded.

Deine eigene Engstirnigkeit steht dir im Weg.

You are blocking yourself with your own parochialism.

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This article was produced independently with support from Lingoda.

Do you have a favourite word you'd like to see us cover? If so, please email our editor Rachel Stern with your suggestion.

Member comments

  1. Good grief! The Local should look up “tendenziös” and make that their word of the day. And their official motto, while they’re at it.

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German phrase of the day: Auf dein Nacken

Get to know this colloquial phrase and use it with your German friends.

German phrase of the day: Auf dein Nacken

Why do I need to know auf dein Nacken?

This is the kind of phrase you’ll never find in a German textbook, but you might hear it in the wild so it’s good to learn it for informal situations. 

What does it mean?

The phrase auf dein Nacken! literally translates to on your neck and means something like ‘this is on you’ or ‘Your treat’ or ‘you pay’. You can also use it on yourself with mein/meinen Nacken which then means: ‘this is on me’, ‘my treat’ or ‘I got this’. 

You can use this expression in the context of paying for something, for example when the bill comes in a restaurant or if it’s your round at the pub you might hear this from friends. 

However, the phrase can also mean something like: ‘I’ll do it’ or ‘I’ll handle it’ so it doesn’t just have to apply to money situations. In this context, it’s more about when someone takes the lead on something. 

A group of friends clink beers in Leer, Lower Saxony.

The German expression “auf dein Nacken” is used among friends. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lars Klemmer

For the eagle-eyed among you, you’ll notice that the grammar of this phrase isn’t technically correct. It should be: auf deinEN Nacken. 

The imperfect grammar represents the origins of the phrase, which comes from young people speaking and chatting on social media or text.

However, sometimes when people use it to apply to themselves, they use the correct grammar: Auf meinen Nacken. But it can be shortened too. Basically, don’t worry too much about grammar rules on this one and just go with the flow!

The phrase has become more mainstream after it was a runner up in the German Youth Word of the Year 2018.  

READ ALSO: What are the meanings behind Germany’s youth words of the year?

Keep in mind that this expression is for use with your good friends, not with your German boss (unless you’re on very friendly terms).

Use it like this: 

– Hey, hast du Bock auf Binge-Watching Netflix mit Sushi?

Auf dein Nacken oder wie?

– Hey, are you up for binge-watching Netflix with sushi?”

– Your treat or what?

If you want to use the expression yourself, you can easily integrate it into an informal conversation over text. For instance, if you are taking on a bill or a task, write: Auf meinen Nacken and everyone will know that you are performing the action, paying for something or taking the lead.

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