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LEARNING GERMAN

German word of the day: Das Weichei

A 'weak egg' belongs among the most interesting of German insults.

German word of the day: Das Weichei
Photo: Depositphotos

What does it mean?

Weichei is a piece of German slang or Umgangssprache which simply means “wimp” or “weakling”, or literally a soft egg.

There are many synonyms of Weichei in the German language, including “Memme”, (meaning craven) “Angsthase” (literally meaning “afraid rabbit”, although often used like “scardy cat”), and “Feigling” (meaning coward).

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

What is its origin?

Weichei is another kompositum (a combination of two words to form one word); it consists of the nouns “Weich” (which means soft) and “Ei” (meaning egg).

One could easily say this relates to the meaning, as the mental image of a soft egg is basically never related to strength and heroism. The term is said to have originated during the 80s, a time during which men in Germany became more conscious of their self-image.

The concept of a “soft” man was born as a result: a man who was very pliable, gentle and had a more alternative social viewpoint.

The term “Weichei” could be easily used to describe this concept of a man, similar to a “Warmduscher” (meaning a guy who takes warm showers, something which was considered unmasculine).

SEE ALSO: German word of the day: Der Warmduscher

A particularly soft guy could even be called an “Oberweichei” (literally meaning head wimp, but usually meant more as “a huge wimp”).

How is it used?

Since then, its background has become irrelevant to how Germans use the word, and it is used in a broader variety of situations, as well as against both women and men alike. It isn’t known to be a particularly common word, yet it is somewhat popular with younger children.

You might hear it being yelled through a Kiezspielplatz (community-area playground) by some kindergarten-aged boys who want to prove that they are the manliest three-to-five-year-olds around.

Uses of Weichei:

Ich gehöre zu den Weicheiern, die sich vor Gewalt fürchten.

I belong to the wimps that are afraid of violence.

Wer es nicht wagt, von der Klippe zu springen, ist ein Weichei!

Whoever does not dare jump from the cliff, is a wimp!

Maximilian fürchtet sich vor dem Ball, darum ist er ein Oberweichei.

Maximilian is frightened of the ball, that’s why he is a huge wimp.

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German phrase of the day: Etwas aus dem Ärmel schütteln

Anyone who has ever had to come up with a great idea on the fly can probably relate to this German phrase.

German phrase of the day: Etwas aus dem Ärmel schütteln

Why do I need to know ‘etwas aus dem Ärmel schütteln’? 

Because this versatile phrase can come in handy in a range of situations, from having pulled off a great presentation at short notice to coming up with a spontaneous solution to a problem. 

What does it mean?

Etwas aus dem Ärmel schütteln is similar to the English phrase “to pull something out of a hat” or “to have something up your sleeve”. Literally, the German phrase means to shake something out of your sleeve, but in a figurative sense it describes coming up with a bright idea or pulling something off without planning or effort. 

Generally, shaking something out of your sleeve is what’s required when you’re faced with a tricky situation and you need to quickly think up a solution. It might be that you have to stand in for a colleague in an important meeting at short notice, or rustle up a meal from the scraps in your cupboard after forgetting that supermarkets are closed on Sunday. 

READ ALSO: German phrase of the day: Ich glaub’ mein Schwein pfeift

In a similar sleeve-related vein, the English phrase “off the cuff” shares the same sense of executing a difficult task spontaneously. 

So, why are sleeves so important for getting out of a sticky situation? Well, there are a few theories about that.

The first relates to a cheat in card games: if you’re dealt a bad hand, you can always improve your chances by pulling out a few better cards that may have found their way into your sleeve earlier on. 

Another theory dates back to the times when people would wear long robes or other garments with wide sleeves. This would allow people not only to warm their hands, but also to store small objects they may need up their sleeves, to be “shaken out” when the time was right. 

Use it like this: 

Was kann er jeztz aus dem Ärmel shütteln? 

What has he got up his sleeve now? 

Wenn Marina denkt, den Abschluss aus dem Ärmel schütteln zu können, dann hat sie sich aber gründlich vertan.

If Marina thinks she can just pull the degree out of her sleeve, then she is very much mistaken.

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