Some of my favourite German words

The following are examples of some of my favourite German words. They prove how playfully you can use the language and how much fun you can have with it. You may not necessarily find these examples in your dictionary (or even taught in other courses) but they all make perfectly good sense and are used more or less frequently by native German speakers.

Jein

Could it be that I am indecisive?

Maybe, maybe not.

But I definitely love “Jein”, a mix of of “Ja” and “Nein” that means just that: “Yes and No”. It is often used when being confroted with a question that requires a Yes/No response but isn’t all that clear cut.

“Bist du ein Rod Stewart Fan?”
“Jein. Ich mag seine frühen Alben, aber hasse seine neuen Sachen.”

“Jein” does not mean “perhaps” (=vielleicht) but can best be translated with “yes, but….” or “no, but….”

In other words the closest thing the English language has for it is this:

Speaking ironically you can also answer a query “mit einem klaren und entschiedenen Jein!” (And they say Germans don’t have a sense of humour.)

Can’t say I know of any other language that created a word of its own for this kind of situation.

It’s a simple but handy word that is easy to remember, comes in useful but is rarely ever used by students of the German language.

I still remember the first time one of my students used it in a conversation with me. So proud……..

verschlimmbessern

Another artificial word similar to “jein”, this time combining the two words “verbessern” (to improve) and “schlimm” (bad). It is used to describe when someone intends to improve something (a service, a product) but by doing so actually makes it worse.

“Yahoo hat seinen Service mal wieder verschlimmbessert.”

jemanden schöntrinken

The previous words were playful but popular examples of original German words. This one on the other hand is a bit more obscure and not often used. In actual fact the first time I came across it was in discussion with an English German-language university tutor who made me aware of it.

I fell in love with it from then on in.

It means “to drink someone beautiful” and describes the phenomenon of seeing the beauty of one’s drinking partners enhanced with every drink one takes or “to put on your beer goggles”. Not that I ever needed to use that word but, yes, one can see how it can come in handy every once in a while.

Much more popular is another German construct that is used quite regularly: “etwas schönreden” i.e. to make an awful situation sound much better, in other words: to use a euphemism.

“Der Präsident hat die Situation mal wieder schöngeredet.”

What are some of your favourite German words or phrases?

7 thoughts on “Some of my favourite German words

  1. In Italy it is used, in the same way of “Jain”, the word “Ni”, which is a mix of “No” and “Sì” (Yes & No). Same stuff! 🙂

  2. Not commonly known / used but one of the words I’m trying to get into German: die Umkürzung.

    If you’ve ever taken a shortcut that turns out longer than the original route, you know what I mean (Abkürzung + Umweg).

  3. In my area of profession we often use the word: ‘aufhübschen’.
    ‘Hübsch’ means something like ‘neat’ or ‘good looking’ (Common usage would be ‘Das Bild ist sehr hübsch.’ or ‘Das kleine Mädchen ist sehr hübsch gekleidet.’). ‘Auf’ in this case means to ‘increase’.

    ‘Aufhübschen’ can be used in a context like this: ‘Der Inhalt ist fertig, jetzt müssen wir die Folien nur noch aufhübschen’. Means: ‘We’re done with the content, now we just need to improve the design/styling/looks of the slides’ (I hope my translation is accurate).

    The word ‘aufhübschen’ is total nonsense and indicates that it’s more about the outer appearance than the real content. Often used to indicate that there’s not much content, so it needs to be covered up with a thick layer of graphics, charts and whatever modern presentation software offers.

    Cheers,

    Lucky

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