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LEARNING GERMAN

German word of the day: Fernprost!

Though usually used with friends in bars or restaurants, the Fernprost has come into its own in the era of the Zoom call.

German word of the day: Fernprost!
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

An exclamation combining ‘fern’ (far) and ‘Prost’ (the German word for cheers), Fernprost is used when it is not quite possible to clink your beers together at the table. The term Prost itself, or in full ‘Prosit’ comes from the Latin verb ‘prodesse’, meaning to agree with. 

Used in the subjunctive, the expression literally means ‘may it agree with you!’.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The ultimate A-Z guide of German coronavirus terms

Germans are often quite insistent that everyone’s glasses touch during a round of cheers and so have invented a new word for situations where someone is just out of reach. Though you may have heard this shouted by groups of locals in bars and restaurants, stretching their arms across a table to try to reach a friend’s drink, the term has taken on a whole new meaning during the pandemic. 

Now that most toasts are happening at a distance of 1.5 metres, or in front of our laptop screens, the Fernprost has become something of a necessity and the term is more likely to evoke images of a bottle held up to a webcam than an outstretched hand in a bar. 

A cheerful ‘Prost!’ at the beginning of a dinner or meet-up is so embedded in the German drinking culture that the socially-distanced Fernprost has become a routine part of virtual events during the upheaval of lockdown. 

A faraway cheers may seem bittersweet for many Germans, for whom an evening spent drinking beer with friends was such a core part of the social culture. Many will be longing to once again hear the sound of glasses clinking together in a crowded bar or Biergarten. 

Examples:

Es ist immer noch möglich, sich mit Teamkollegen zum Feierabendbierchen zu treffen, zwar mit Fernprost. 

It is still possible to meet up with colleagues for an after work beer, just with a long-distance cheers. 

Ich kann dich nicht erreichen, du bist zu weit weg. Fernprost! 

You are too far away, I can’t reach you. Cheers from afar!

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German phrase of the day: keine Ahnung

Asked a question and haven't a clue how to respond? Then use this phrase.

German phrase of the day: keine Ahnung

Why do I need to know keine Ahnung?

This widely-used phrase is the German equivalent of the English “no idea” so it’s a great expression to know in these very confusing times. The full expression is: Ich habe keine Ahnung! (I have no idea).

Where does it come from?

The feminine noun Ahnung comes from the verb ahnen, which means “to foresee” or “to guess” which can have a slightly sinister connotation and is often used to express an indistinct, dark sense of foreboding.

Put together with the pronoun keine, however, the noun Ahnung takes on a much more flippant meaning and is commonly used as a response to a question to convey complete cluelessness.

The term keine Ahnung is also part of a popular German saying which comes from the middle ages: von Tuten und Blasen keine Ahnung haben which literally translates as “to have no idea about tooting and blowing”.

The phrase has its origins in the fact that the work that was least respected in medieval cities was that of the night watchmen, who carried a horn as a warning. 

From the point of view of the townspeople, their only competence was to stay up at night, walk around and blow the horn in case of danger. If someone was not able to do even this, then they were good for nothing. 

How to use it:

Weißt du, wann er zurückkommt?
Keine Ahnung!

Do you know when he’s coming back?
No idea!

Ich habe keine Ahnung was das bedeutet.

I have no idea what that means.

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