How to memorize 18 German words without getting a headache

German continues to be a source of inspiration in many ways. The fact that it is still a cryptic language for many is not a novelty.

Learning German is for many an impossible task due to, amongst other things, the many consonants placed close to each other and the rigid pronunciation of words. The structure of the sentences, the syntax, still puts the most talented Germans in crisis. The Germans themselves often admit that they do not know the meaning of a term and therefore use the famous Richard Porson‘s saying that „life is too short to learn German.“

German words

To make the whole thing even more grotesque is the (in)famous German morphology with its endless composite words, one of which has even entered the Guinness Book of Records as the longest word in the world: Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften (companies that provide legal assistance). And if long words were not enough, then there are those that in a few syllables contain a myriad of different meanings, impossible to synthesize in English in one word. Here is a list of the most bizarre and astrus ones selected by the site Fluentu!


18. Ohrwurm= earworm [for instance when you hear a song on the radio and can’t get it out of your mind throughout the whole day]


17. Fernweh= longing for a distant and unknown place


16. Kummerspeck= literally, grief bacon, in context it is having an emotional belly [or the need to eat to console your belly following a disappointment]


15. Innerer Schweinehund= inner pig/dog [it is that very powerful animal that lives within us that we must overcome when we have to do unpleasant things, like paying taxes and going for a jog at 6am before work]


14. Fremdschämen= feeling shame for someone else


13. Torschlusspanik= panic of the closed door [it is commonly employed to address a woman whose biological clock is ticking]


12. Treppenwitz= staircase joke [it occurs when the right joke comes to your mind when it’s too late, as if you have a pleasant meeting on the stairs and you have no time to say the right thing]


11. Lebensmüde= life tiredness


10. Weltschmerz= pain of the world


9. Weichei= soft egg [N.B. never say that to a waiter in Germany, for the actual meaning of the term is to address someone that is cowardly and has “soft balls”]


8. Backpfeifengesicht= face you would like to slap


7. Erklärungsnot= need to explain [have you been punished and didn’t even have the time to realize it? Then claim your Erklärungsnot!]


6. Sitzfleisch= seat meat [a character trait, to have big shoulders. For the German collective imagination it is like having a sac of meat on your seat due to an excessive state of boredom]


5. Purzelbaum= tumble tree [Somersault! Roll on the floor as if you were a piece of tree trunk]


4. Dreikäsehoch= three, cheese, above [a term for children employed towards that kid in the class that is taller compared to others, as tall as three pieces of cheese on top of another]


3. Zungenbrecher= tongue twisters [read about hilarious German tongue twisteres here]


2. Schattenparker= shadow parker [are you trying to be smart and park your car in the shade to protect it from the heat? This term is not actually meant as a compliment, but more as an insult]


1. Kuddelmuddel= unstructured mess


If you read until here and now your head is fully of screws and you are thinking that the German language is like a witty mosaic, an unstructured mess, then this is the word that you need right now.


Do not be discouraged, German is a very charming language and with some commitment everyone can succeed in mastering it. And studying German is also a good way to overcome the sense of Lebensmuedigkeit and stop using google translate which, let’s say it, never gets it right. And additionally to be taken for a Schattenparker that doesn’t commit does not please anyone. In the end, there are surely other Weltschmerz that are worse than learning German. After a thousand Kummerspecken overcome thanks also to the strength that you have gained by experiencing the Torschlusspanik, you can go out with your German friends and also take their order when you go to the restaurant. And this time without any of them feeling Fremdschämen for you.

You can finally be totally proud of having overwhelmed your Innerer Schweinehund. It is the same feeling of when, as a child, you felt so powerful after succeeding in a new intent. When you felt that you stood out like a Dreikäsehoch. You have gone a long way and now you have your Sitzfleisch. After a thousand nights spent on a thousand absurd Zungenbrecher until they become actual Ohrwurm. You will not be considered a Weichei anymore, and surely this time you will be able to talk to your new neighbors without fear of falling into any Treppenwitz. Except if it’s your girlfriend, in that case you’d risk a proper Backpfeifengesicht. Be careful not to combine any Kuddelmuddel or to use your Erklärungsnot!

If after all this you still want to stay and do not experience any sea sickness or Fernweh, there is nothing left to say or do than return to your inner child and gain thousands of well earned Purzelbaum!

Cover photo: © Alexandre Normand CC BY SA 2.0

Want to learn German in a vibrant environment? Look no further and check out the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes by clicking here!

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