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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Stimmt

If you want to show you are engaged in conversation in German, this is a great term to have up your sleeve while you are still getting to grips with the language.

German word of the day: Stimmt
Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Stimmt is often used to affirm a statement. It means ‘agreed’ or ‘that’s right’ so it is very useful in conversational German to show that you are attentive and following along with a discussion. 

As a verb, stimmen has a seemingly unending list of meanings, and you might be surprised to see it crop up almost everywhere, from political campaigns to music lessons.

READ ALSO: 10 ways of speaking German you’ll only ever pick up on the street

When used to show agreement, stimmen means to be true, but it can also mean to vote in an election, to tune (an instrument), and to add up. 

You will most likely hear this word used on its own as a response, or in short phrases like das stimmt (that’s right) and stimmt das? (is that right?). It also features in the very useful phrase stimmt so, which you can say to waiting staff in cafés and restaurants to let them know they can keep the change when paying the bill. 

There are jokes that genau (simply meaning ‘exactly’) is one of the most overused words in Germany, particularly by those who are not overly confident with their ability to form more complicated ideas in German, but stimmt certainly gives it a run for its money.

It is a good way to keep a conversation going, even if you are not completely sure what’s being said. 

Though stimmt is quite colloquial and would not be found too often in written German, it would not be uncommon to hear it in formal conversation. The word really is so versatile that it can be used in almost every setting, from the most casual interaction with friends to a high-stakes business meeting. 

Examples 

Wir sollten auf jeden Fall so früh wie möglich losfahren, wenn wir nicht im Stau stehen wollen. – Stimmt.

In any case, we should leave as early as we can to avoid traffic. – Agreed!

Wenn das wirklich stimmt, dann ist Holland in Not! (idiomatic)

If that’s really true, then we’re in trouble!

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Witzfigur

You may like to think your jokes are "witzig" - but beware of getting labelled with this German word. It's not nearly as funny as it sounds.

German word of the day: Witzfigur

Witz, the German word for “joke”, is one of the first words a lot of foreigners come to learn when they start learning German. But it may be a little longer until you encounter what’s known as a Witzfigur.

Combine the word der Witz (joke) with the word die Figur (figure or character) and you get die Witzfigur (wits·fii·guur) – someone who may well be (unintentionally) funny, but is more likely to be the butt of somebody else’s joke. 

Think of it a little bit like the English expression “figure of fun”, or – more commonly used – a laughing stock. 

A Witzfigur may pop up in jokes, stories and songs as a clownish sidekick who offers some light relief.

In some cases, these Witzfiguren are there to act as the wise fool and reveal some deeper insight into what’s going on. In many cases, though, they’re just there to get a cream pie chucked in their face. 

It’s worth remembering that not every character in a joke is the butt of it – that is to say, not every Witzfigur is a Witzfigur.

In German, there’s a tradition of jokes involving Klein Fritzchen (little Fritz) – a fictional boy who pops up time and time again in various comedic scenarios, usually in order to say something insulting to someone. 

READ ALSO: German words you need to know: Der Zappelphilipp

Little Fritz is not so much a figure of fun as a literal Witzfigur: a character in a joke. And in fact, his role in the jokes often involve delivering the punchline that makes someone else the laughing stock. 

That said, if you hear someone described as a Witzfigur in real life, it usually doesn’t mean anything good.

In fact, it often means they’ve done something pretty peinlich (embarrassing) or deserving of public mockery. And yes, it can often be applied to politicians.

By way of example, the term was recently used by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) to describe Gerhard Schröder, the former chancellor of Germany who has recently been stripped of many of his perks for insisting on taking Kremlin-linked jobs.

When asked about Schröder, Lauterbach said: “He has succeeded in being a former chancellor (who is) now on the verge of being a laughing stock.”

So, by all means, make a “Witz” or two, and definitely don’t be afraid of doing anything “witzig” (witty or funny), but if you ever find yourself on the verge of become a Witzfigur, it could be time for a change of course.

Examples 

Er ist nur eine Witzfigur. Vergiss ihn. 

He’s just a joke. Forget about him. 

Ich habe angst davor, eine Witzfigur zu werden.

I’m afraid of becoming a laughing stock. 

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