For members


German word of the day: Umgangssprache

This is a good word to be aware of when you're looking out for phrases to add to your everyday vocabulary in Germany.

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

Why do I need to know Umgangssprache?

We may be getting a little meta here, but we think it’s worth knowing this word so you can listen out for the words around it (or know when not to use this type of language).

What does it mean?

Umgangssprache, which sounds like this, means ‘colloquial language’ or ‘slang’. These are the kinds of words and phrases you might not find in a textbook, but they are heard in everyday life.

By using slang vocabulary, you’ll be able to bring your sentences to life and sound like a true local.

The term is said to have been introduced into the German language by the writer and linguist Joachim Heinrich Campe at the beginning of the 19th century.

Umgangssprache is shaped by the world around it, whether its regional factors or social circumstances of the time. 

Here are a few examples of colloquial phrases and words:

Geil means horny in German, but it is also used colloquially to describe anything you think is cool. In English, you might use the word ‘sick’ or ‘awesome’ in the same context.

Krass is another colloquial word that can mean lots of things. It is usually used to intensify the meaning of something very bad or something very good depending on the tone and context. So something disgusting is krass, and something amazing can also be krass

Das ist mir Wurst translates to ‘that’s sausage to me’, and means you don’t give a toss. 

Das ist doch Käse translates to ‘that’s cheese’ and expresses that you mean something is absolute nonsense. 

And a ruder one is: Das ist am Arsch der Welt. It means ‘that’s the arse of the world’ and refers to a place that is far away or very difficult to reach. In English you might say ‘back of beyond’. 

You would hear these kinds of phrases in relaxed conversations in cafes and bars, but they aren’t so common in formal situations. 

Use it like this:

Ist das Umgangssprache oder kann ich das bei meinem Chef benutzen?

Is that colloquial language or can I use it with my boss?

Mir gefällt die umgangssprachliche Floskel: auf dein Nacken!

I really like the colloquial phrase ‘this is on you!’

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For members


German word of the day: Blindgänger

Every once in a while, German emergency crews will have to evacuate entire neighbourhoods after finding one of these.

German word of the day: Blindgänger

What does it mean?

A Blindgänger, which sounds like this, is an unexploded shell, bomb, or grenade. It is a masculine noun and uses the article der.

How do you use it or where might you see it?

Every few months in Germany, someone will stumble across an old explosive –  typically from WWII – that has failed to detonate and simply stood idle where it fell around 70 years ago when Allied planes were bombing German cities, military installations, and industrial targets.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about WWII unexploded bomb disposals in Germany 

In the last month or so, Blindgänger have been either investigated or found in Dortmund, Göttingen, Leipzig, Hanover, Magdeburg, and Berlin. 

If the bomb is particularly big – such as the 250 kg ones sometimes found – some news crews may use the simpler Weltkreigsbombe – or ‘World War bomb,’ to give a better idea of its size.

This was the case on Thursday October 6th, when around 3,300 people had to be evacuated from Friedrichstadt in Dresden as emergency teams prepared to defuse a huge bomb dating back to the Second World War. 

The unexploded bomb had been found on Wednesday morning during construction work, prompting police to organise shuttle buses to evacuate nearby residents. 

Blindgänger is commonly used in news reports though, to describe any type of size of explosive that hasn’t gone off.

After a Blindgänger is sighted, emergency crews will typically evacuate and block off any neighbourhood caught within the explosive’s potential blast zone, while they defuse the bomb.

You might, for example, see a news report like this.

Die Polizei haben die Straße gesperrt und der Blindgänger entschärft

The police blocked off the street and defused the unexploded ordnance.