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LEARNING GERMAN

German word of the day: Die Quasselstrippe

Today’s word of the day is one that really tests your patience.

German word of the day: Die Quasselstrippe
Sometimes a 'Quasselstrippe' dominates the conversation. Photo: depositphotos/innovatedcaptures

Everyone probably has that one friend that likes talking. And I don’t mean just talking, but talking. A lot. Chances are high that this friend has the nickname Quasselstrippe.

Quasselstrippe literally translates to “jabber string,” but the actual English equivalent is “chatterbox” or “babbermouth.”

The noun Quasselstrippe is a combination of the words quasseln and Strippe. Quasseln comes from the Low German word quassen, which means “to jabber”. Therefore it not used positively, but usually if a person is actually talking a lot about nothing.

Strippe is a word, which describes a piece of string or the cable of a telephone. It also has its origins in the Low German, where the word strupfe described a leather sling.

Calling a person a Quasselstrippe comes from the use of that word for the telephone. Back in the days, when phones were still attached to their station via cable, these phones were called Quasselstrippe – A device on a string which talked to you.

Over the years, the original notion died away up to the point where Quasselstrippe started to be used either derogatory or to tease someone in a loving manner.

Photo: Depositphotos

Examples:

Ich kann mich nicht mit ihr unterhalten – sie ist so eine Quasselstrippe.

I cant talk to her – she’s such a chatterbox.

Hey du Quasselstrippe, amch mal einen Punkt.

Hey you babbermouth, come off it.

Es ist schwer, zu Wort zu kommen, weil er so eine Quasselstrippe ist.

It’s hard to get a say, because he talks so much.

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

  1. I think ‘blabbermouth’ means something slightly different: someone who is careless what they say, revealing secrets about a third party

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Witzfigur

You may like to think your jokes are "witzig" - but beware of getting labelled with this German word. It's not nearly as funny as it sounds.

German word of the day: Witzfigur

Witz, the German word for “joke”, is one of the first words a lot of foreigners come to learn when they start learning German. But it may be a little longer until you encounter what’s known as a Witzfigur.

Combine the word der Witz (joke) with the word die Figur (figure or character) and you get die Witzfigur (wits·fii·guur) – someone who may well be (unintentionally) funny, but is more likely to be the butt of somebody else’s joke. 

Think of it a little bit like the English expression “figure of fun”, or – more commonly used – a laughing stock. 

A Witzfigur may pop up in jokes, stories and songs as a clownish sidekick who offers some light relief.

In some cases, these Witzfiguren are there to act as the wise fool and reveal some deeper insight into what’s going on. In many cases, though, they’re just there to get a cream pie chucked in their face. 

It’s worth remembering that not every character in a joke is the butt of it – that is to say, not every Witzfigur is a Witzfigur.

In German, there’s a tradition of jokes involving Klein Fritzchen (little Fritz) – a fictional boy who pops up time and time again in various comedic scenarios, usually in order to say something insulting to someone. 

READ ALSO: German words you need to know: Der Zappelphilipp

Little Fritz is not so much a figure of fun as a literal Witzfigur: a character in a joke. And in fact, his role in the jokes often involve delivering the punchline that makes someone else the laughing stock. 

That said, if you hear someone described as a Witzfigur in real life, it usually doesn’t mean anything good.

In fact, it often means they’ve done something pretty peinlich (embarrassing) or deserving of public mockery. And yes, it can often be applied to politicians.

By way of example, the term was recently used by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) to describe Gerhard Schröder, the former chancellor of Germany who has recently been stripped of many of his perks for insisting on taking Kremlin-linked jobs.

When asked about Schröder, Lauterbach said: “He has succeeded in being a former chancellor (who is) now on the verge of being a laughing stock.”

So, by all means, make a “Witz” or two, and definitely don’t be afraid of doing anything “witzig” (witty or funny), but if you ever find yourself on the verge of become a Witzfigur, it could be time for a change of course.

Examples 

Er ist nur eine Witzfigur. Vergiss ihn. 

He’s just a joke. Forget about him. 

Ich habe angst davor, eine Witzfigur zu werden.

I’m afraid of becoming a laughing stock. 

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