Posts Tagged ‘German language’

Wortspiele – idioms and puns

Being bilingual and feeling comfortable in two or more languages can make you aware of some words in each language that just have no or awkward translations. For example ‘to appreciate’: the positive idea expressed by a single elegant word in English gets bogged down by a cumbersome and heavy-handed expression in the German language: “dankbar anerkennen”, “zu schätzen wissen” or “sich einer Sache bewußt sein”.

Origami German StyleEselsohren – donkeys ears

eselsohrenNow, if you happen to be in Germany and someone asks you not to make Eselsohren in a magazine or book, don’t bother explaining you haven’t got a donkey with you! It would surpass the scope of this article to examine the origin of that expression, especially since the English use ‘dog-eared’! But be aware that the speaker likes to keep his/her reading material in immaculate condition!

In a recently published book “Eselsohren” the author Lea Kutz has taken this particular idiom and its dividing nature for book fetishists and abusers, and applied it in a new context: as you turn the pages you are supposed to bend them and turn them into something else: Ein Esel mit Ohren, a donkey with ears!


You’re getting ready for your trip to Germany and even got a phrase book from the library and just can’t get your head around it? Even though all our tour guides are fluent in English and German and will be your walking, talking dictionaries during your tour with us, you might have one or two words you’d like to have explained before getting there. Let us know and we’ll get into the murky depths of the dictionaries and linguistic journals for you.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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