SHARE
COPY LINK

LEARNING GERMAN

German word of the day: Unkaputtbar

Today’s word of the day - unbreakable - has ironically broken the rules of German grammar in order to exist.

German word of the day: Unkaputtbar
Photo: Depositphotos

Unkaputtbar is a so-called Verballhornung, which is also a very fun word.  It essentially means malapropism, or to take an old notion and give it a new meaning by changing it up in a grammatically incorrect way.

But back to unkaputtbar. It basically means “unbreakable” or “indestuctible” and is a very new addition to the German language.

Its origin story is quite an unusual one: In the early 1990s, Coca Cola created it for an ad. Back then; they started to sell their beverage in new plastic bottles. These plastic bottles don’t break when they fall, in contrast to glass bottles. Hence, the new plastic bottles were unkaputtbar.

But why is this word a Verballhornung? To answer that, we have to separate the word. It exists of three parts: un-kaputt-bar. Un is the prefix and means “not,” kaputt is an adjective and means “broken,” and bar is a suffix, which means “to be able to.”

Now the rule in the German language is that an adjective shouldn’t be combined with the suffix –bar, as it is connected to a verb instead. Examples for this are lieferbar (available), machbar (possible), löschbar (erasable).

As for this rule, the correct way of saying unkaputtbar would be unkaputtmachbar. Kaputt machen means “to break something,” and therefore transforms the adjective kaputt into a verb.

The use of the grammatically wrong word unkaputtbar was intentional, though. The explanation for this is easy: The readers and viewers of an ad notice the falsification – hence it is remembered. And what else would a company want than an easily memorable ad?

Its everyday use trickled further into German pop culture. In a 2010 rap song “Unkaputtbar”, two men boast “Du bist unkaputtbar, ich bin unkaputtbar” amid bottles which are kaputt

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

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Here's how to take this thoughtful word into consideration.

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Why do I need to know Rücksicht?

Because it’s a commonly used word and knowing what it means – and practising it – will make you a better person.

What does Rücksicht mean?

Rücksicht is a feminine noun which means “consideration” or “regard”. It’s made up of the shortened form of the word zurück meaning “back” and Sicht – which means view. So literally, it means, back view, or looking back.

This literal meaning tells you something about how the word is used in German – if you look back to see what’s happened to your friend, you are taking them into consideration.

If you want to really make sure you don’t forget what Rücksicht means – you can watch the following video of Germany’s 1983 Eurovision song contest entry. The catchy ballad – called “Rücksicht” – came in place 5 of the competition that year. 

How to use Rücksicht

When using Rücksicht, bear in mind that it is usually paired with specific verbs and prepositions.

The most commonly used set phrase is Rücksicht auf etwas/jemand nehmen, which is used to mean “to be considerate of” or “to take care of” someone or something. For example:

Radfahrer müssen auf Fußgänger Rücksicht nehmen.

Cyclists must be considerate of pedestrians.

Er nimmt Rücksicht auf die Bedürfnisse seiner schwangeren Frau.

He takes care of his pregnant wife’s needs.

Rücksicht is usually followed by the preposition auf, but it can be preceded by a number of prepositions to compose different phrases. 

Mit Rücksicht auf for example, means “in view of” and ohne Rücksicht auf means “without consideration for”, while aus Rücksicht auf means “out of consideration for.” 

Here are some examples:

Führungen dürfen aus Rücksicht auf die Teilnehmer nicht aufgenommen werden.
Out of consideration of the participants, tours may not be recorded.
 
Er will tun, was er möchte, ohne Rücksicht auf die Anderen.
He wants to do what he wants, without considering other people.
 
SHOW COMMENTS