There are many reasons why it's frustrating learning German, especially when it comes to grammar rules.
But one thing that is extremely refreshing – and fun – is how literal some German words are.
From Antibabypille (for the contraceptive pill) to Handschuhe (literally hand shoes, otherwise known as gloves), the German language really gets straight to the point.
And that’s what Jenni Fuchs, who’s from a village in North-Rhine Westphalia and now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, was reminded of recently when she sparked a discussion on social media about her favourite German words that describe things perfectly.
Fuchs, 40, who is bilingual and has lived in both Germany and Scotland, was surprised when a Tweet she posted about the German language caught the imagination of many.
Fuchs was taking part in a weekly takeover of the ‘I am Germany’ Twitter account at the time when she shared her thoughts on the descriptive nature of many German words with 14.4k followers.
“I’ve spoken German my whole life and I never thought about the words in much detail,” mum-of-two Fuchs, who works at Edinburgh International Book Festival, told The Local.
“But my husband, who’s learned German as a second language, pointed out to me that we have so many ‘tell it like it is’ descriptive words in the language.”
I love how descriptive German sometimes is. Umbrella = Regenschirm (‘rain shield’), Gloves = Handschuhe (‘hand shoes’), Porcupine = Stachelschwein (‘spikey pig’), and a dandelion seed head is a ‘Pustblume’ ie literally a flower you blow on. What are your favourite German words? pic.twitter.com/HJpTP3SXEJ
— I am Germany (@I_amGermany) June 13, 2019
Fuchs, who also runs a family-themed blog called Bear and Fox, also asked users to share their favourite German words.
“I had no idea it would take off,” Fuchs said. She received hundreds of likes and retweets, and more than 380 different words were suggested in the Twitter thread, with well over 400 tweets.
We spoke to Fuchs to put together a list of 10 of the best literally German descriptive words. And, for a future article we want to know: what are your favourite German words and why? Tell us by emailing [email protected].
Here's 10 of the best German words that get straight to the point
Fuch’s favourite descriptive German word (and possibly her overall favourite word) is Pusteblume, literally translating to “blow flower”, or in English: a dandelion seed head.
“It’s just one of my favourite descriptive words and all kids love doing it,” said Fuchs.
“In English it’s just a dandelion seed head which is quite boring in comparison to the German.”
Note that the German for dandelion is der Löwenzahn (lion is Löwe) but they have a separate word for the seed head stage of the plant.
Tooth flesh. Photo: DPA
Next up we have “tooth flesh” which sounds quite alarming, but actually means gums. And it does seem to describe the pink bits round your teeth pretty perfectly.
“This freaked my children out a little bit,” admitted Fuchs.
__ Schwarze Nacktschnecke. Muss wohl eine spezielle Art sein. Die gab es da zu Dutzenden. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Black slug. Must be a special kind. There were dozens of them ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ __ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ __ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #germany, #deutschland, #badenwürttemberg, #schwarzwald, #nordschwarzwald, #blackforest, #murgtal, #gernsbach, #naturfotografie, #animalphotography, #tierfotografie, #natur, #nature, #erlebnisnatur, #naturelovers, #gemlopixx, #lebenwoandereurlaubmachen, #wohnenwoandereurlaubmachen #schnecke #nacktschnecke #kriechtier #snail
What do you call a snail without its shell? The Germans would say its naked, and they're quite right about that, if you think about it. The Nacktschnecke, meaning “naked snail”, otherwise known as a slug, is a very cute word.
Where would we be without our “rain shield”, otherwise known as the umbrella? During torrential rain or bad weather it is almost like a battle with the sky when you go outside, so you need to be armed with protection.
Erstmal ein leckeres Frühstück und dann kann es auch schon los gehen. Habt alle einen schönen Tag. (Mai 2019) #stachelschwein #stachelschweine #frühstück #breakfast #miasantier #hellabrunn #münchentierpark #tierparkmünchen #hellabrunntierpark #tierparkhellabrunn #zoo #zoopics #tierpark #zoopictures #wildpark #zootiere #zoofotografie #zooanimals #zoophotography #animalsphotography #animals #animal #tierfotografie #diergaarde #photooftheday #canon #zoobilder #worldwide_animals_pets #artenschutz
Literally translating to a “spiky pig”, we love how descriptive this word for porcupine is. Of course, some English words like porcupine, come from different languages such as Latin which are also descriptive, but the German sounds more fun.
You could call it a vacuum cleaner. Or you could choose to say “dust sucker” like the Germans. We love how this word sums up this cleaning task so well.
Perhaps this was your favourite snack growing up, or maybe you’re still a fan of it today. Whatever the case, let us introduce you to the “wobbly pudding”. Although the English word jelly is also fun, we like how the German language captures the wibble wobble of the sugary treat.
“Can you change the glowing pear in the hall for me?” If you overhear this word in Germany, remember they’re not taking about food, but rather a lightbulb.
“I think this is brilliant because a lightbulb is in the shape of a pear and this was very popular with people on Twitter,” said Fuchs.
Granted it’s not the most common word in the German language, but the German word for the Scottish musical instrument, the bagpipes, is a favourite of Fuchs and her family. Why? Because it translates to “tooting sack” and that basically sums up the noise the instrument makes.
“I know bag pipes is descriptive but what I like about the German one is that it’s also onomatopoeic because that’s exactly what it does,” said Fuchs.
If you’re ever asked to put down the “toilet spectacles” while visiting a German friend’s house, don’t worry – they haven’t made a mistake. This word is used for the toilet seat.
“This is a great one too,” said Fuchs.