German words you need to know: Der Wackeldackel

Christina Lazell
Christina Lazell - [email protected] • 7 Sep, 2021 Updated Tue 7 Sep 2021 13:13 CEST
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It may seem like a simple car-accessory, but the Wackeldackel is close to many Germans' hearts. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

Looking for car accessories? Here’s an example of another German word you didn’t know you needed - and one that's sure to help you fit in with your dog-loving friends.

You must have seen a car dashboard bobblehead before - one of those little figurines which sits on a car dashboard whose head bobs about with the movement of the car? Perhaps you’ve even owned one! 

But if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you may have seen the talking, bobble-headed dog used in the Churchill Insurance adverts in the United Kingdom. If not, allow me to refresh your memory: 

The German version is known as a Wackeldackel. The word is made from the verb wackeln (meaning ‘to wiggle’ or ‘to wobble’) and the noun Dackel (referring to the breed of dog ‘dachshund’). The reason this word refers to a dachshund specifically is because of the popularity of the little sausage dogs in Germany in the 1960s and 70s. 

The Wackeldackel was first created in the 1970s as an accessory for German cars, celebrating their love for the little pooches, but the word only first entered the Rechtschreibduden (Duden Spelling Dictionary) in 2004. Everytime the car takes a sharp turn or goes over a Bremsschwelle (‘speed bump’), the head of the dog, which is attached by a spring, is sent bobbing up and down. 

READ ALSO: German Word of the Day: Schwarzfahren

At a similar time to the Churchill nodding dog in British advertising in the late 1990s, Germany had their own nodding dog mascot in the form of an Aral advert - a German petrol and petrol station company (see the advert below). The success of this advert was seen in the purchase of around 500,000 Wackeldackel figures in less than a year.

Interestingly, you can also use the noun these days as a metaphor to describe a kind of ‘yes-man’ - someone who goes along with everything their superior tells them, in a permanent state of head-nodding - a bit of a pushover, perhaps. Be careful though, as in this way the term is often used as a bit of an insult. 

So, consider purchasing a Wackeldackel if you fancy a fun little accessory for your car, paying homage to German culture. And if a sausage dog isn’t to your taste, they now make them in various other dog breeds - and, if the King is more your thing, even a Wackel-Elvis.

Examples:

Ich liebe deinen neuen Wackeldackel!

I love your new bobblehead!

Sei nicht so ein Wackeldackel - sag mal nein!

Don’t be such a pushover - say no sometimes!

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Christina Lazell 2021/09/07 13:13

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