German word of the day: Die Zukunftsmusik

Today’s German word of the day is for those who dare to dream.

German word of the day: Die Zukunftsmusik
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

The word Zukunftsmusik (‘future music’) may conjure up images of exciting new instruments and electronic techno beats. But this unique German term actually no longer has anything to do with music.

READ ALSO: Music to our ears: The top 10 melodic German phrases

It is used today to refer to plans, illusions or projects that are unlikely to be realised any time soon, if at all. 

Whether it be an outlandish new invention, brave new business concept or dreams of becoming famous, ideas dubbed as Zukunftsmusik may be nice to contemplate but will probably never come to fruition.

In English, one would refer to such things as “pipe dream” or “pie in the sky”, or simply as false hopes or illusions.

Despite its modern meaning, the German term does have musical origins. In the 19th century, the enemies of German composer Richard Wagner invented the word to mock the ideas about music he set out in an essay.

The term eventually made its way into everyday use, however, and is no longer used to make fun of a person.

Next time you catch yourself fantasising about a self-cleaning kitchen or a universal four-day weekend, use this word to stop yourself from getting your hopes up!  

Die Idee einer vollständig nachhaltigen Gesellschaft ist nach wie vor Zukunftsmusik.

The idea of a fully sustainable society is still a long way off. 

Das ist alles noch Zukunftsmusik.

That’s all still up in the air. 


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German phrase of the day: Auf dein Nacken

Get to know this colloquial phrase and use it with your German friends.

German phrase of the day: Auf dein Nacken

Why do I need to know auf dein Nacken?

This is the kind of phrase you’ll never find in a German textbook, but you might hear it in the wild so it’s good to learn it for informal situations. 

What does it mean?

The phrase auf dein Nacken! literally translates to on your neck and means something like ‘this is on you’ or ‘Your treat’ or ‘you pay’. You can also use it on yourself with mein/meinen Nacken which then means: ‘this is on me’, ‘my treat’ or ‘I got this’. 

You can use this expression in the context of paying for something, for example when the bill comes in a restaurant or if it’s your round at the pub you might hear this from friends. 

However, the phrase can also mean something like: ‘I’ll do it’ or ‘I’ll handle it’ so it doesn’t just have to apply to money situations. In this context, it’s more about when someone takes the lead on something. 

A group of friends clink beers in Leer, Lower Saxony.

The German expression “auf dein Nacken” is used among friends. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lars Klemmer

For the eagle-eyed among you, you’ll notice that the grammar of this phrase isn’t technically correct. It should be: auf deinEN Nacken. 

The imperfect grammar represents the origins of the phrase, which comes from young people speaking and chatting on social media or text.

However, sometimes when people use it to apply to themselves, they use the correct grammar: Auf meinen Nacken. But it can be shortened too. Basically, don’t worry too much about grammar rules on this one and just go with the flow!

The phrase has become more mainstream after it was a runner up in the German Youth Word of the Year 2018.  

READ ALSO: What are the meanings behind Germany’s youth words of the year?

Keep in mind that this expression is for use with your good friends, not with your German boss (unless you’re on very friendly terms).

Use it like this: 

– Hey, hast du Bock auf Binge-Watching Netflix mit Sushi?

Auf dein Nacken oder wie?

– Hey, are you up for binge-watching Netflix with sushi?”

– Your treat or what?

If you want to use the expression yourself, you can easily integrate it into an informal conversation over text. For instance, if you are taking on a bill or a task, write: Auf meinen Nacken and everyone will know that you are performing the action, paying for something or taking the lead.