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LEARNING GERMAN

German word of the day: Der Firlefanz

Today’s word of the day is one of many German words for something unnecessary.

German word of the day: Der Firlefanz
Photo: Depositphotos

Firlefanz doesn’t have a literal translation, but the closest it gets to one is probably “frills” or “frippery.” If you hear someone say the word Firlefanz, it is mostly used in a disapproving way.

If you're looking for a synonym, Schabernack, Unsinn, Tand, Ramsch are all words for something unnecessary – whether in the form of thoughts or objects.

The word dates back to the 14th century – back then, though, it had a more positive meaning: It was used to describe a funny and quite quick dance.

That is until the grammarian Johann Christoph Adelung gave it a new meaning in his “Grammatical and Critical Dictionary of the High-German Dialect” in 1796: He used it to describe a goofy farce or an unfunny, quick thought.

Ever since then, Firlefanz has been used to describe goofy behaviour, gibberish or unnecessary things.

Examples:

Bei deinem Firlefanz mache ich nicht mehr mit.

I will not participate in your frippery anymore.

Worüber auch immer er da redet, ist doch auch nur Firlefanz.

Whatever he talks about is nothing but gibberish.

Ich habe gestern beim Aufräumen sehr viel Firlefanz gefunden und weggeworfen.

When I was cleaning up yesterday, I found loads of unnecessary stuff and threw it away.

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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