German word of the day: Kuddelmuddel

Today’s word of the day is one that sounds like a child made it up – but is more likely what state you would find your bedroom in of you didn’t fold your clothes for ages.

German word of the day: Kuddelmuddel
Photo: depositphotos

Kuddelmuddel in German means basically what the word sounds like: chaos. There is no direct English equivalent, but chaos, mess or medley is probably a good way to start.

The origin of the word Kuddelmuddel isn’t quite clear. Some believe it comes from the mid-19th-century-Berlin, where it appeared in literature as well as in the spoken language.

One of its literary uses is by the famous German author Thomas Mann in his 1940 story Die vertauschten Köpfe (“The transposed heads”) Connected to this title, the meaning of the word Kuddelmuddel as chaos seems reasonable.

Apart from that, Kuddelmuddel is an onomatopoeic word, with its sound resembling what chaos would sound like if it would make a noise. Due to its internal rhyme, it’s also quite a fun word to say.

Linguistically, Kuddelmuddel consists of two parts: The first one is Kuddel, which comes from the low German word koddeln and means doing laundry carelessly and making it more dirty in the process of washing. The second part is muddel, comes from a dialect of low German and means Modder (“mud”, “slush”)

It doesn’t have to mean a negative, though. Kuddelmuddel can also mean something is just a mix of different things, like languages or food.

Interestingly, Kuddelmuddel is both a masculine and a neuter noun, so you can use der or das when referring to it to describe the next time you have a situation where everything is jumbled up, or in a mess.

Here is a video where some Germans define Kuddelmuddel:

Was ist denn das schon wieder für ein Kuddelmuddel, du solltest doch aufräumen!

What is this mess, you were supposed to clean your room!

Wer hat denn dieses Kuddelmuddel hier verursacht?

Who is responsible for this mess?

Die Suppe schmeckt gut! Was ist da drin? – Ach, nur so ein Kuddelmuddel aus Katoffeln, Fleisch und Brühe.

The soup tastes great! What is in it? – Ah, just a mix of potatoes, meat and stock.

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German phrase of the day: keine Ahnung

Asked a question and haven't a clue how to respond? Then use this phrase.

German phrase of the day: keine Ahnung

Why do I need to know keine Ahnung?

This widely-used phrase is the German equivalent of the English “no idea” so it’s a great expression to know in these very confusing times. The full expression is: Ich habe keine Ahnung! (I have no idea).

Where does it come from?

The feminine noun Ahnung comes from the verb ahnen, which means “to foresee” or “to guess” which can have a slightly sinister connotation and is often used to express an indistinct, dark sense of foreboding.

Put together with the pronoun keine, however, the noun Ahnung takes on a much more flippant meaning and is commonly used as a response to a question to convey complete cluelessness.

The term keine Ahnung is also part of a popular German saying which comes from the middle ages: von Tuten und Blasen keine Ahnung haben which literally translates as “to have no idea about tooting and blowing”.

The phrase has its origins in the fact that the work that was least respected in medieval cities was that of the night watchmen, who carried a horn as a warning. 

From the point of view of the townspeople, their only competence was to stay up at night, walk around and blow the horn in case of danger. If someone was not able to do even this, then they were good for nothing. 

How to use it:

Weißt du, wann er zurückkommt?
Keine Ahnung!

Do you know when he’s coming back?
No idea!

Ich habe keine Ahnung was das bedeutet.

I have no idea what that means.