It may be a tricky language to master, but one of the great things about German is that you don’t actually need a particularly large vocabulary. That’s because, rather than inventing new words, Germans are big fans of creating compound words out of existing ones.
A simple example of this is the German for compound word Wortzusammensetzung (word-together-setting). Sometimes the meanings are obvious, at others they are a little harder to grasp…
1. Brustwarze – breast wart
The German language doesn’t mess around when it comes to body parts. Brustwarze literally translates as “breast wart”, and yes, it means nipple.
It may seem crude to name such a sensuous part of the body after a viral growth, but, hey, whatever makes sense to Germans.
And it’s not the only term for a body part that sounds a little grim. Zahnfleisch (tooth-meat) means gums.
2. Handschuhe – hand shoe
Moving on from our body to what we dress it in, Germans also like to keep the language absurdly simple. Why have a completely new word for things we put our hands in, when they are really just shoes for your hands? What do gloves and mittens even mean anyway?
Then there is the German word for a brassiere. Isn’t that just something for propping up your boobs? So it’s simpler to call it a Büstenhalter, (bust-holder) right? Even if that does make it sound a touch perverted.
3. Klobrille – toilet glasses
We’ve all been there. That first house meeting with our German flatmates when the topic of cleaning comes up. How many of you were left wracking your brains at what on earth these dirty Klobrille (toilet glasses) could be?
While you might at first guess that this is some strange device Germans use to help inspect every inch of the toilet bowl, it actually just means loo seat. Don’t worry, Germans aren’t that fussy about cleanliness!
4. Stinktier – Stink animal
This one is beautifully blunt and gives you the impression that, when it came to naming animals in Germany, kids get to do it rather than scientists.
What’s that animal that smells bad? A skunk you say? But isn’t stink animal so much more accurate?
That thing that’s like a snail but hasn’t got a shell… yeah the one English people call a slug. Let’s call that a naked snail (Nacktschnecke).
And the one that spends the whole day eating – the wolverine – let’s name that the eat-a-lot (Vielfraß).
5. Eselsbrücke – donkey’s bridge
The meaning of the word “donkey’s bridge” certainly isn’t obvious, but it’s a lot more approachable than our word for it – “a mnemonic device”. What a mouthful.
A mnemonic device is just a trick you invent to help you remember something. The German actually comes from the Latin term “pons asinorum” (bridge of donkeys) that refers to a point that people find hard to remember.
6. Donnerbalken – thunder beam
The word Donnerbalken is surely one that makes any of us too young to have done military service rue the day it was abolished. Originally the term was for a communal military latrine, but it is now often used in slang to refer to the toilet.
Literally thunder beam, it’s close to the English slang term “thunderbox”. It doesn’t need much explaining – “beam” refers to the seat-like bar, and the “thunder” you can probably figure out for yourselves.
7. Durchfall – through fall
Another scatological one, and one which leaves little to the imagination. It means diarrhoea, and translates as “through-fall”.
You might recoil in disgust, but then what does “diarrhoea” mean? It comes from the Greek, and it also means to “through-flow”. So, we Anglophones aren’t much better, but we just don’t know our own language very well.
8. Wildpinkler – wild pee-er
A Wildpinkler at Ulm Minster. Photo: DPA
Let’s flush down one more toilet-related word. In fact, this one describes someone who avoids the toilet. Literally a “wild-pee-er”, a Wildpinkler is someone who likes to relieve themselves outside.
It might sound harmless, but only last month, it was revealed that wild pee-ers were eroding the ancient walls of Ulm Minster church, a building which boasts the tallest spire in the world.
So, maybe you should find a Klobrille or at least a Donnerbalken next time nature calls.
9. Dudelsack – yodel sack
English has also gone for a literal one here. But bagpipes is an awfully diplomatic description for a bag that emits a seemingly random sequence of twiddly sounds while a stocky Scot goes red in the face.
Germans cut to the chase and named the instrument the Dudelsack, which means the bag that tootles or yodels.
10. Stumme Zeitungsverkäufer – silent newsagent
The “silent newsagent” is a rather beautiful way of describing those racks with newspapers you find outside train stations.
The English language doesn’t have an equivalent word, but it’s pretty similar to the English term “dumb waiter”. That is the little lift for food you sometimes see in restaurants if the kitchen is on a different floor to the dining room.
In German the dumb waiter is known as a Speiseaufzug (dish-lift), so maybe English should adopt the “dumb newsagent” and German the “Stumme Diener” (dumb waiter).
Article source: http://www.thelocal.de/20161123/ten-hilarious-literal-translations-of-german-words-language