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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Abgefahren

If you enjoy things that are a bit out of the ordinary, this German word is perfect for you.

Word of the Day
Photo: Photo credit: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Why do I need to know abgefahren?

Because ironic German slang words can be pretty fun to use – and because it tells us quite a bit about what the German youths were up to back in the 1970s. 

What does it mean?

Literally, abgefahren is the past participle of abfahren – which means to depart or to leave. For instance, “Der Zug ist abgefahren” means “the train has departed”, which can either be used to say that you’ve missed your train or to indicate a missed opportunity (think of the English phrase: “That ship has sailed.”)  

But to uncover the really fun side of abgefahren, you need to know its meaning in German slang. When used in a casual conversation, abgefahren is a big happy exclamation that can mean crazy, awesome, cool, weird or even trippy. 

A word to the wise: this isn’t the most modern slang word around, so you may get some amused looks if you start using it all the time. But funnily enough, we have heard a few younger Germans drop this into conversation recently – possibly as a semi-ironic or retro statement like the words “wicked”, “phat” or “radical” in English.

Where did it come from?

As you might have guessed, abgefahren is very much a relic of the 1970s – and particularly the hippy subculture. 

When experimenting with psychedelic drugs or other mind-altering narcotics, people would depart (abfahren) to go on a fantastical journey – otherwise known as a “trip”. In the midst of their trip, they’re fully abgefahren – probably to somewhere in outer space. 

Like a lot of slang, the meaning of abgefahren became a lot more broad once it entered into common usage. A bit like the English phrase, “far out” – an exclamation beloved of hippies in the ’60s and ’70s – you can basically use it for anything cool or interesting. 

Use it like this: 

Das war echt total abgefahren.

That was totally awesome. 

Es wäre verdammt abgefahren mit ihm abzuhängen.

It would be pretty awesome to hang out with him.

 

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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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