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LEARNING GERMAN

German word of the day: Kabelsalat

'Kabelsalat' is proof that German really does have a word for nearly everything.

German word of the day: Kabelsalat
Photo: DPA

Literally meaning cable salad, the English equivalent would be cable spaghetti or cable clutter, describing the result of several cables close to each other tangling up.

Der Kabelsalat is the only salad on earth which prepares itself. It is not made on purpose, it just occurs.

Since Germans like to be organized, Kabelsalat behind a desk is sometimes viewed as a sign of bad office keeping.

More forgivingly, it is perceived as a stroke of fate, something that can happen to anyone. Which it does: All lengths of cables, except for very short ones, are similarly likely to develop Kabelsalat.

Of course, the time it takes to untangle them increases with length and number of cables. Usually, Kabelsalat starts at the end of the cables and then gradually moves to the middle. Many devices have been engineered to prevent Kabelsalat: for example Kabelbinder (cable ties or zip ties) and Kabelbäume (cable looms or harnesses).

A related German word, Bandsalat, has pretty much died out with its cause: it described the tangling of audio or video tapes.

So perhaps, with the increase of wireless devices, Kabelsalat will also become a historical term in the future.

We take mercy on whoever is tasked with untangling this Kabelsalat. Photo: DPA

Examples:

Hinter meinem Schreibtisch ist totaler Kabelsalat.

There is a total mess of cables behind my desk. 

Du musst die Kabel fixieren, sonst gibt es Kabelsalat!

You have to fix the cables, otherwise there will be a mess!

Ich muss mal wieder den Kabelsalat in der Schublade aufräumen.

I have to clean up the mess of cables in the drawers again. 

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

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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.
 
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