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

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Nerdy flowers to alcoholic birds: the 12 most colourful German insults
A "warm shower taker", at least in Germany, is not considered the bravest of them all. Photo: DPA

From calling someone the popular male name Horst to calling them a - cover the children's ears - hot shower taker, here's our list of the funniest German insults we've heard.



Who would think that calling a man someone who likes to take warm showers is an insult? Apparently people in Germany, where myth has it that taking a cold shower is considered masculine. Nowadays it’s applied to people who may be a bit on the cowardly side; you can also call them a Weichei (soft egg), or a wimp.


If you know about the do-it-yourself-mentality of Germans, who pride themselves as skilled handymen who'd never even think about hiring a professional to do something they could do themselves for free, this is a severe insult. The guy who translates to “thin plank driller” is not the most popular guy around. Something like a deadbeat, a Dünnbrettbohrer is a rather unintelligent and unambitious fellow, someone who might get the job done but would never bother to go the extra mile.


You don’t think too highly of someone’s intelligence, or lack there of, if you refer to them as this word, literally meaning someone who puts the breaks on evolution due to their very existence, which embodies so much stupidity that it slows the advancement of the species down.


Little is known about the definite origins of “Honk”, but the term refers to a total idiot. While this word has no underlying meaning and no German etymology, rumour has it that Honk stepped on the scene when the famous German comedian Otto Waalkes introduced a baby cartoon character who had a teddy bear named Honk. Other etymologists suggest that Honk really is an acronym for either “Hirn ohne nennenswerte Kapazität” (brain without noteworthy capacities) or “Hirnloser ohne nennenswerte Kenntnisse” (brainless without noteworthy knowledge).


If the old adage “You are what you eat” applied in Germany, a great bulk of Germans would be “asparagus Tarzans” from April through to June during the beloved Spargelzeit. Yet this word does not refer to a veggie-eating behemoth, but rather an especially skinny and gangly person.


This word sounds as annoying as what it implies: a complete brat, or “Bratze.” It’s a particular favourite of the Berlin comedian Kurt Krömer, who frequently uses the phrase "Na, du alte Kackbratze!" in order to say hi to someone. Such a person can also be called a Rotzlöffel, or a snot spoon.



Kurt Krömer, the Berlin comedian famous for his use of 'Kackbratze'. Photo: DPA.


This one is reserved for someone you find to be a complete idiot. Or a person could say “Ich habe mich zum Vollhorst gemacht” if they feel they have made a fool out of themselves.

In German, the very common male first name “Horst” somehow became synonymous with “fool”. The prefix “voll” means “total” so that a “Vollhorst” is the ultimate idiot. As of late, the equally common male first name “Otto” is following a similar career that “Horst” pioneered. Both these names work as surnames as well, so if you happen to be named “Horst Otto” or “Otto Horst” you will be a Spaßbremse (killjoy, or literally 'fun brake') in no time!


Literally a “pea counter”, this is reserved for someone who focuses on insignificant details rather than the big picture. This pedant is also known (and hated) as Paragraphenreiter, someone who sticks to the script no matter what. It’s about the principle!

An Erbsenzähler sweats the small stuff. Photo: DPA


Literally a hot air gun, this refers to a chatterbox (also dubbed a Labertasche, or babble bag) who talks all the time but just about hot air, or nothing.


If you call someone a “piss carnation”, you are not dubbing them an ugly flower but rather a nerd. Yet if you are picknicking in the German countryside and hear someone point out that they see a bunch of Pissnelke, you are not being followed by a scholarly group, but rather amongst dandelions, the flowers’ colloquial name (normally they are known as Löwenzahn).


This species talks only in a flattering way since he wants something from you. A sweet-talker, he literally is someone who is grating licorice in order to persuade you. More often than not, a Süßholzraspler also happens to be a Schürzenjäger, a womanizer (or more precisely translated, an apron hunter).


Literally a “guzzling woodpecker” this is the German equivalent of a Boozer. If you switch a few letters, “Schluckspecht” becomes “Speckschlucht”, or a “canyon of bacon”. Okay, the later isn’t an actual German insult, but it sounds like it should be one.



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