Let’s talk German

Please pee sitting down!

Germans are the weirdest and most wonderful wordsmiths on the planet. Shakespeare might have invented more words than any of his contemporaries, priors, and successors combined, but had he been German not one word in his books would have not been original.

Germans love to string things together, to verb nouns, to noun verbs, and to objectify adjectives. Germans have a word for everything and anything. Here are some insults you should add to your vocabulary right now:

  • Schattenparker – someone who parks his or her car in the shade. A weakling. Germans are traditionally complainers if summer doesn’t start around the middle of June and likewise will complain loudly if it does or exceeds 30° Celsius (86° F).
  • Warmduscher – someone who takes warm showers (not hot or cold, a tempered warm). Schattenparker tend to be Warmduscher. As an interesting side note, landlords and apartment management companies often program water heaters in apartment buildings to stop producing hot water after 11pm and before 5am because “no honorable person would take a shower that late” and to discourage “noise harassment” from running water.
  • Sitzpinkler – a (not) exclusively male insult, meaning “someone who sits to pee”. More specifically, someone who can be shamed into doing something no one else will ever be able to observe and/or criticise them for, simply because the government and radicalized special interest groups told them to.

Here’s something only a German would have a word for:

  • Fremdschämen – to feel embarrassed on behalf of someone else. Usually accompanied by a healthy dose of feeling awkward, vulnerable, and guilty for something you have generally nothing to do with. Germans fremdschäm themselves quite a bit, particularly for the tourist version of homo germanisand its propensity to reserve beach and poolside chairs via a thrown bath towel before sunrise. Also high on the list are socks and sandals, traditional felt heads, and the fact that they once let David Hasselhoff play in Germany and now everyone thinks they like him.

The actually longest official word in German is by the way Grundstücksverkehrsgenehmigungszuständigkeitsübertragungsverordnung,  meaning “regulations for the transfer of responsibilities for traffic on a plot of land”, followed by Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, which means “law concerning the delegation of duties to oversee the labeling of beef”. The longest made up one that still makes sense (but is not contained in the Duden, Germany’s “OED”) is the well known Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft.

Another word anyone should know is “Arschkarte“, the “Ass card”. During World War One German troops determined the person responsible for piss pot duties, digging trenches, cleaning mine fields, or flipping off a Frenchman by marking one random card in a deck with an X, shuffling, and dealing until someone “pulled the ass card”. It’s Germany’s version of the shortest straw and, of course, got its own descriptive name.

Last, but not least, “Watschengesicht“. A face inviting to be slapped. Often worn by a “Arschgeige,” an “Ass Violin”, a person who can’t stop being a douche.

Germans are masters of language and linguistic reconstruction. While Americans have to contend with TV chefs inventing words like “delish”, Germans add new entries to their collective vocabulary almost weekly. Living here means not only to speak a language that vaguely sounds like a Klingon declaring war, but to keep it fresh every time a new word comes out. It’s no wonder Goethe, Schiller, Hölderlin, and Nietzsche hailed from German speaking lands, either. And now it’s time to go Sitzpinkel. Maybe even Warmdusch. It’s been that kind of a day.