I recently moved to the German-speaking part of Switzerland, and as a result, I’ve been trying to pick up German, which is a tricky endeavor. Firstly, the grammar is – uhm – challenging. Another struggle with learning German is that there are several words that have no actual English equivalent or proper translation. Even though that sounds like a pain, it’s actually refreshing to be able to explain an emotion or situation on a deeper level. Let me show you what I mean:
“When your parents are away, and you have the whole house to yourself.”
Now, in English, we would probably just say “party time” or “home alone, ” but sturmfrei takes it to the next level: it’s basically equivalent to the saying, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.”
The first time I heard this, I thought my friend had an actual worm in his ear that he probably caught during one of his latest backpacking trips. Oh, how I was wrong: an Ohrwurm is what happens when you get a song stuck in your head, and you (have to) keep singing it over and over again.
“Glove snowball thrower.”
Most people tend to throw snowballs with gloves on. People who throw snowballs without gloves are pretty hardcore and should therefore be feared, right? That’s exactly the opposite of a Handschuhschneeballwerfer who is, pardon my French, a wimp.
“A face that begs to be slapped.”
I think this is pretty self explanatory, and anyone who’s on your bad list can be labeled as such.
“Someone who is obsessed with details and a bit of a control freak.”
This is the nitpicker who is always trying to make everything perfect down to the tiniest of peas: Erbsen means “peas” and Zähler means “tally.” So, an Erbsenzähler is a person who literally counts their peas. The expression can also refer to someone’s who’s stingy and doesn’t want to spend any money on anything.
“Three cheese high.”
Most of my meals need to have this requirement, but this expression is only somewhat related to food: a Dreikäsehoch is what you call a small child who is only as tall as three wheels of cheese stacked on top of each other. All in all, I think using stacks of cheese as a form of measurement should come back.
“To make something worse by trying to improve it.”
We’ve all done this before: The more you try to fix something, the worse it actually gets. Maybe you get a bad haircut, decide to cut off more hair, and end up looking like a lawn mower went over your head. Yep, you know what I mean, right?
“A strong desire to travel.”
Wanderlust describes the desire to leave the comfort of our home, fill the pages of our passports, and make our Instagram account be something out of a travel magazine. All, while meeting new people, seeing new cities, and experiencing new cultures. #bliss
“The feeling of pleasure derived by seeing another’s misfortune.”
I tend to get this when I see someone I don’t particularly like spill food or miss a train. It’s cruel, but it’s hard not to laugh at!
“A man who may act tough in front of his friends but can’t stand up for himself against his wife.”
The direct translation is a “slipper hero.” I guess, the Germans also know that the man might be the head of the household, but the woman sure is the neck that can make the head turn any whichever way she likes.