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German word of the day: Stoßlüften

This word (and concept) is especially found in public places and schools all around Germany.

German word of the day: Stoßlüften

Let’s start with the translation. Literally, Stoß means “shock, impact or thrust” and lüften means “ventilating.” Stoßlüften therefore translates to “shock ventilation.”

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The concept behind that is rather simple: For about five minutes, you turn off the radiator, open all the windows and let the cold air stream in. Then you close the windows again and turn all the heating back on again. That allows a flush of cold air to stream into the room and make it fresh again. 

The outside temperature doesn’t matter – if it gets too cold you can always put on a coat after all. 

Here’s an example: If you have ever been to a German school, chances are that you might have noticed a note stuck to one of the classroom walls. That note probably stated some rules for a better room climate.

And following up after the point “Turn off the radiator when you leave the room,” it probably said something like “Mehrmals täglich stoßlüften.” (Shock-ventilate the room multiple times a day.)

Many teachers follow that rule, which usually leads to a wave of discontent from the students' side. The teacher will then tell them to stop complaining and to dress warmer.

Stoßlüften isn’t just good for the people in the room – it also prevents tor room to get mouldy. Especially in schools, when many (often sweaty) teenagers sit in one room for a long time, the levels of air humidity become quite large. Some good ol' Stoßlüften helps the air to circulate again. 

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At a young age, children in Germany get used to the concept of stoßlüften. Photo: DPA

Examples:

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Zieht euch eure Jacken an, wir machen eine Stoßlüftung!

Put on your coats, we’re doing a shock ventilation!

Ich hasse Stoßlüften.

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I hate shock ventilation.

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This article was produced independently with support from Lingoda.

Member comments

  1. God, I hate this practice too! My (otherwise) wonderful German wife is always suddenly throwing open the windows in just the same way. But as for the mould theory, which she also expounds whenever I complain, then how come British rooms that never have this shock tactic inflicted upon them do not seem to grow mould on the walls. I somehow think there’s more to creating a gorgonzola cave with walls dripping with fungus than keeping the windows constantly shut!

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Witzfigur

You may like to think your jokes are "witzig" - but beware of getting labelled with this German word. It's not nearly as funny as it sounds.

German word of the day: Witzfigur

Witz, the German word for “joke”, is one of the first words a lot of foreigners come to learn when they start learning German. But it may be a little longer until you encounter what’s known as a Witzfigur.

Combine the word der Witz (joke) with the word die Figur (figure or character) and you get die Witzfigur (wits·fii·guur) – someone who may well be (unintentionally) funny, but is more likely to be the butt of somebody else’s joke. 

Think of it a little bit like the English expression “figure of fun”, or – more commonly used – a laughing stock. 

A Witzfigur may pop up in jokes, stories and songs as a clownish sidekick who offers some light relief.

In some cases, these Witzfiguren are there to act as the wise fool and reveal some deeper insight into what’s going on. In many cases, though, they’re just there to get a cream pie chucked in their face. 

It’s worth remembering that not every character in a joke is the butt of it – that is to say, not every Witzfigur is a Witzfigur.

In German, there’s a tradition of jokes involving Klein Fritzchen (little Fritz) – a fictional boy who pops up time and time again in various comedic scenarios, usually in order to say something insulting to someone. 

READ ALSO: German words you need to know: Der Zappelphilipp

Little Fritz is not so much a figure of fun as a literal Witzfigur: a character in a joke. And in fact, his role in the jokes often involve delivering the punchline that makes someone else the laughing stock. 

That said, if you hear someone described as a Witzfigur in real life, it usually doesn’t mean anything good.

In fact, it often means they’ve done something pretty peinlich (embarrassing) or deserving of public mockery. And yes, it can often be applied to politicians.

By way of example, the term was recently used by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) to describe Gerhard Schröder, the former chancellor of Germany who has recently been stripped of many of his perks for insisting on taking Kremlin-linked jobs.

When asked about Schröder, Lauterbach said: “He has succeeded in being a former chancellor (who is) now on the verge of being a laughing stock.”

So, by all means, make a “Witz” or two, and definitely don’t be afraid of doing anything “witzig” (witty or funny), but if you ever find yourself on the verge of become a Witzfigur, it could be time for a change of course.

Examples 

Er ist nur eine Witzfigur. Vergiss ihn. 

He’s just a joke. Forget about him. 

Ich habe angst davor, eine Witzfigur zu werden.

I’m afraid of becoming a laughing stock. 

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