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LEARNING GERMAN

German word of the day: Das Stehaufmännchen

Despite being named after a spooky looking toy, today’s word is all about resilience and positivity.

German word of the day: Das Stehaufmännchen
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

“Das Stehaufmännchen” is the name of an old, often quite scary looking toy. In English they are called roly-poly or tumbler toys. 

These usually take the shape of a character or animal attached to a round base. The idea is that no matter how many times it gets knocked over or flung about, it will always hop back into a standing position. 

In German, the name of this toy has come to symbolise resilience. It’s used as an endearing nickname for the kind of real-life characters who always manage to get back on their feet, no matter what life throws at them. 

READ ALSO: 11 German words and phrases we’ve learned during the coronavirus outbreak

Whether it’s little things like stumbling over words in a presentation or embarrassing themselves at a party, or it’s big life-changes like losing a job or having a crisis, these are the people who will not let themselves be discouraged, and always pick themselves up and carry on going. 

The word is a compound noun put together from “aufstehen” (to stand up) and “Männchen” which translates as “little man”, but in this case can refer to any person. 

A literal version of a ‘Stehaufmännchen’. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A Stehaufmännchen is said to follow the philosophy of: 

“Hinfallen, Aufstehen, Krone richten, Weitergehen.” 

(Fall down, stand up, straighten crown, carry on.) 

Examples: 

Sie lässt sich von dem Vorfall nicht entmutigen, sie ist ein richtiges Stehaufmännchen.
She won’t let herself be discouraged by the incident, she’s really resilient. 

Er weinte, weil er sein Stehaufmännchen verloren hatte.
He was crying because he lost his tumbler toy. 

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Belastung

Sometimes things can be too hard to carry - but keep this German word to hand and you may be able to lighten the load.

German word of the day: Belastung

Why do I need to know Belastung?

Because this versatile little word can be found everywhere, from articles about contaminated waterways to discussions about teen mental health.

What does it mean?

Die Belastung (be.last.ung) can mean numerous things depending on its context, but generally it’s used to refer to a “load” or a “burden” of some kind. This can, of course, mean a physical load such as goods on a cargo train, but more often it’s a metaphorical one.

That’s why you may hear politicians in Germany talking about a “finanzielle Belastung” (financial burden) on citizens through inflation, or have a friend write to you about how their hectic new job is “eine Belastung” (a strain). 

Occasionally, Belastung can be a liability or debt, and other times it could be a heavy workload. 

If you hear it in an ecological context, it’s sadly most likely to be referring to pollution or exposure to a toxic substance.

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Beharren

Where does it come from?

The word Belastung appears to come from the noun ‘Last’ in Old High German, which was used to describe something that weighed a person down – in other words, a load. In Middle High German, ‘Last’ could also be used as a measurement to mean an abundance or large quantity of something – again, similar to the English ‘load’.

‘Last’ has the same meaning to this day and can be found tucked away in several German words with similar connotations. For example, as well as burdening someone with a Belastung, you can also free them of their heavy load with an Entlastung. Incidentally, the latter is the word usually used to describe financial relief measures taken by the government. 

Use it like this: 

Ich will an der Universität studieren, aber momentan sind die finanzielle Belastungen zu groß.

I want to study at university, but at the moment the financial burdens are too great.

Mein rücksichtsloser Freund ist eine Belastung.

My reckless friend is liability. 

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