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LEARNING GERMAN

German word of the day: Piesacken

Today’s word of the day is not a very positive one, so we apologize: We don’t intend to 'piesacken' you with this.

German word of the day: Piesacken
Photo: Depositphotos

Piesacken is a word that hasn’t lost any of its meaning in the last centuries of its use.

According to the Duden, it is a colloquial way of saying “to torment someone willingly over a longer period of time.”

SEE ALSO: Nerdy flowers to alcoholic birds: the 12 most colourful German insults

In this case, to torment someone doesn’t mean in a physical, but in a mental way.

A good example for this are bullies. They usually take small measures first, just to make you feel really uncomfortable.

So if they, for example, repeat everything you say in a mocking voice, it’s fair to start calling them your Piesacker when talking about them.

The word piesacken probably comes from the Low German word ossenpesek, which is called an Ochsenziemer nowadays and which means “pizzle” or “bull whip.” Ossen in this case means “bull”, pesek is the Low German word for “whip.”

Hence, an Ossenpesek is a whip made from the twisted sin of a bull’s penis, which was used to punish humans and animals alike.

It is believed that the verb piesacken was derived from this notion. And if you think about its meaning, it fits.

Examples:

Ich möchte nicht zur Schule, weil dort meine Piesacker auf mich warten.

I don’t want to go to school because my bullies are waiting for me there.

Ich weiß, du hast nur Witze gemacht, aber habe mich schon ziemlich gepiesackt gefühlt.

I know you were just kidding, but I actually felt pretty tormented.

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 phrase of the day: Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen

Anyone struggling with learning German (or any big skill) could use this popular piece of reassurance.

German phrase of the day: Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen

Why do I need to know this?

If you’re getting down on yourself for not doing something you are still learning just right – be it playing the piano or speaking German – you can gently comfort yourself with this phrase. Or you can confidently cite it to reassure your perfectionist friend or family member that they are indeed making great strides towards their goal.

What does it mean?

Literally translated as “There is still no master which has fallen from the sky,” the expression gets the idea across that no one is born – or comes pummeling down from the heavens – as an expert at something.

Rather they become a Meister (or at least halfway decent) through continuous hard work and discipline. 

READ ALSO: 12 colourful German expressions that will add swagger to your language skills

The saying is similar to the also widely used “Übung macht den Meister” (Practice makes the master) or the English version: Practice makes perfect. 

Not surprisingly, Germans – who pride themselves on industriously reaching their goals – have several other equivalent sayings. They include “Ohne Fleiß kein Preis” (There’s no prize without hard work) and “Von nichts kommt nichts” (Nothing comes out of nothing).

Where does it come from?

The popular phrase can be traced back to the Latin “Nemo magister natus”, or no one is born a master. Another version is “Nemo nascitur artifex” or no one is born an artist. This explains why so many languages have similar expressions.

What are some examples of how it’s used?

Sei nicht so streng mit dir selbst. Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen.

Don’t be so hard on yourself. No one is born perfect. 

Mein Trainer sagte, es sei noch kein perfekter Schwimmer vom Himmel gefallen.

My coach said that no one is born a perfect swimmer.

READ ALSO: Six German expressions to entice your Wanderlust

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