Parole parole

Photo 27-10-15 21 58 54

Every language has its own unique words. So-called realia is an interesting phenomenon which opens new doors and builds better understanding of another culture.

Here are some compelling words I learned in Germany during the last three month:

die Strohwitwe/der Strohwitwer

das Stroh= straw and die Witwe=widow/der Witwer=widower

You will use this word when, let’s say, your spouse is on a trip and you stay home alone. You have all the freedom in the world. Ich bin heute/für drei Wochen Strohwitwe.

sturmfreie Bude/sturmfreie Bude haben

This phrase you can hear children saying when their parents are not at home. ‘To have the place to oneself’ is the English translation. The rather indifferent phrase in English has much more dramatic equivalent in German (in my opinion).

pendeln/der Pendler/die Pendlerin

These words have perfect equivalents in English: ‘to commute’ and ‘commuter’. Unlike in English and German they do not exist in some other languages where there is no such a tradition to regularly travel between work and home.

Verb pendeln is easy to remember if you think of der Pendel=pendulum. Just like a pendulum people ‘move from side to side’ in order to get to work and back.

der Denksport

denken (to think)+Sport= mind sport

Schach ist beliebter Denksport. I am fond of the idea to emphasize that sport is not only about physical abilities (in both German and English).

der Sonnabend

Another name for Samstag that many Germans I met in Southern Germany never heard of. It is funny to realize how much we do not know sometimes about our own language.

die Kita

is a short version of die Kindertagesstätte=daycare center.

der Kiga

is a short version of der KIndergarten. This is more of a slang word that I have not found online. Our German teacher at a language school used it in one of the exercises we did.

die Schnupperstunde

schnuppern=to sniff+die Stunde=hour

‘sniffing hour’ is the same as die Probestunde= trial lesson/session.

der Gedankenaustausch

der Gedanke=thought+austauschen=to exchange

This one word has no one word equivalent in English. You can translate it as ‘exchange of ideas/views/information’ depending on the context. At times, German language can be quite succinct.

die Kernzeit

der Kern=pip/kernel/core+die Zeit=time

The same term ‘core time’ exists in English too. Whoever created this word made a curious comparison between the fruits/nuts and such an abstract thing as time.


I used to think that a pretzel is Bretzel in German. Recently, I found out that this bread has so many name variations. There is also a Puddingbrezel which confused a friend of mine. He assumed that a Puddingbrezel is a normal Brezel with some pudding. He found this combination unmöglich.


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