Language is a funny thing. There’s thousands of languages, and several of them have the concept of compound words: taking two (or more) smaller words and combining them into one. After all, why invent a new word when you could just combine two into one and say the same thing? In English, this includes words like mailbox, football, sunflower, or milkshake. In my opinion, these are pretty tame. Lame, even. There’s potential to create some pretty silly compound words, we just choose not to. Why do I think this? Take a look at the German language.
Like English, German is a Germanic language. Unlike English, the German language is absolutely hilarious. It has its fair share of goofy-sounding words, but I think the funniest aspect of the language by far is its compound words. If there’s one thing to know about Germans, it’s that they hate inventing new words for things when they could either borrow it from another language (usually English) or, better yet, put together very literal compound words. Here’s a few of my favorites.
Literal translation: Fly thing/Fly machine
The Germans do this a lot. When they can’t think of a word for something, they think about what the thing does (in this case, flying) and add -zeug, meaning thing, to the end of it. Some other good examples of this include spielzeug (toy, literally meaning play thing) and schlagzeug (drum, literally meaning hit thing).
Literal translation: Hand shoe
The thing that gets me about this one is that this word should theoretically be “handsocke,” meaning “hand sock.” Why is it a hand shoe?
Definition: Birth control pills
Literal translation: Anti-baby pills
I personally think we should add this word to the English language. Fun fact, the alarm in my phone to remind me to take my meds is called “antibabypillen !!”
Literal translation: Cool cupboard
…I mean, yeah. Fair enough. That’s what it is.
Definition: A comeback you think of after the argument has already ended
Literal translation: Staircase joke
I literally just learned this word exists and I love it so much. I’ve been in this situation SO many times, and I’m glad the Germans acknowledge the need for this word. However, I cant wrap my head around the connection between this concept and staircases.
Literal translation: Friendship relationship
It’s really not that hard to just say “freundschaft.” But whatever floats your boat I guess.
Literal translation: Shield toad
Toad??????? TOAD??????????? TOAD???????????????
Literal translation: Stink animal
This one just feels like an attack. Leave skunks alone, they’re just defending themselves 🙁
Literal translation: Sick car/Sick house
A classic. We’ve probably all seen the German vs. Other Languages videos on YouTube and all agree this word is hilarious. In case you ever wanted to know what it really means, here you go.
Definition: Guinea pig
Literal translation: Little sea pig
This one isn’t really that funny considering that we basically call them the same thing in English. But something about calling a guinea pig a “little sea pig” cracks me up.
Literal translation: Naked snail
Definition: Weight gained from comfort eating
Literal translation: Sorrow bacon
It seemed fitting to include this one in light of Thanksgiving next week. I don’t get the connection between this idea and “sorrow bacon,” but it’s hilarious and I love it.