Olli’s Saturday School – of piglets and men

Having dipped into swearing and such last week, I figured I could continue the theme at least somewhat.

This week’s lesson was prompted by a German type of candy. To be specific, without actually telling you what brand exactly, it was a jelly bean type candy in the shape of little pig heads.

The bags they come in sport the slogan: Hier gibt’s leckere Ferkeleien!

Hier gibt’s leckere = There are tasty [something] here!

Word of importance: Ferkeleien
Ferkel is the German word for piglet.

And here the innuendo starts.

The noun Ferkelei is a word we can use for any things that are naughty or messy in a way. It means “Something a Ferkel does”.  A Ferkel is what we call a naughty or messy person, occasionally even as an endearment.

If we’re talking about messes like spilled food or paint or muddy clothes, we’ll be applying the word Ferkel mostly to kids, but it also works on close friends.
The less close to someone you are, the more likely it is that it will be perceived as a belittlement as well. But usually you don’t want to call e.g. a business partner a Ferkel or Schwein, the latter being the German word for Swine or pig.

A step up would be using the word Sau. It translates to sow and that’s what it means. Female pig. The insult Sau can be applied to boys and men as well as to women and girls.
A pig sty in that (and any other) sense is a Schweinestall in Germany.

The other thing Ferkelei is commonly applied to: sexual innuendo. The innuendo part being optional. A naughty picture, thought, phrase or activity is a Ferkelei.


If I leave a room containing two friends and want to say something silly, I might say: Keine Ferkeleien! – No hanky-panky!

If someone turns something I said into a dirty joke, or sees phalluses1 in everything that is higher than wide or, well, if they spill coffee all over the table, I’d call them Ferkel.

And, to end todays German Ferkeleien, I leave you with a final piece of information:

ferkeln is also a verb. It translates to litter when talking about pigs giving birth. You could also apply it to the other meanings you learned about today.

Someone who ferkels might either be spilling tomato sauce down his white shirt. Or being in the process of getting their hands or other things into their partner’s pants.

  1. phallii? []

Sconehenge – monumentally baking

Quite a while ago I complimented Jessa Lynch on her twitter handle @chichenpizza.

What can I say? I do like my puns.

The reply I got was It was either that or Sconehenge.

It’s been a while, but it set things in motion that I couldn’t have stopped if I wanted. Granted, it took a while, but finally, I managed to pull myself and the ingredients together and start baking.

roadtrip_2013 133

In case you’re interested:

225 grams of flour, a tablespoon of baking powder, a pinch of salt, some cayenne pepper, a spoon of mustard, 150ml of milk, 100 grams of grated cheese and 60 grams of butter to make a few snacks, double that for actual Sconehenge.



Olli’s Saturday School – Explicit Content

There is one thing that is the same wherever individuals learn a new language. German, English, French or Klingon. At one point they will wonder about this.

Back when I was in 8th grade, I went to my first student exchange.  As soon as some of the kids realized I spoke and understood more French than any of the others they first asked me if I’d understand them, were they to insult me.

Well. Having been raised bilingually and spent most of my holidays with cousins about my age in France, the answer was yes.

That was also the reason why everyone looked at me when we went to see that Matrix sequel that had the Merovingian in it. You know, the guy that curses in French?

So yeah. Sooner or later every student of a foreign language will ask someone or go looking for swearwords. As did Elise Valente, which is why I am writing this.

German, as probably any other language out there, has a wealth of swearwords, even if we’ve been adopted Fuck! as a general expression of disdain, anger, frustration, etc. It’s so common, could’ve been listed in that other blog post.

Some tendencies that other languages have, exist in German as well. Genitalia,  disability, sexual orientations and race-related issues can be sources for insults or swearwords. Yeah, I don’t like most of it either, but it’s there. And I’m not gonna go there. If you must know, feel free to ask me via contact form, twitter, etc. I might or might not answer.

For now, I’ll try to stick to those that mostly wont get you beat up if used in public.

Starting with general exclamations of anger, frustration or success. Something goes wrong? You stubbed your toe? Your favorite TV show got cancelled? Can’t find a list of cursewords in Klingon online?

Verdammt! – Damn! – baQa’
Scheisse! – Shit!/Crap!

Now that’s a word that you might be more careful with, depending on the company. No worry among friends, but it’s not something to say at a formal occasion.
A synonyme that should be treated equally carefully is Kacke.

More acceptable in less familiar company would be Mist which doesn’t have anything to do with the English word mist. Nope. This one means manure or dung.

Something going horribly and spectacularely wrong, or just surprising you a lot, can warrant the exclamation: Heilige Scheisse!
In an incompatible setting you might revert to Heiliger Bimbam!
You’ve just turned holy shut into holy ding-dong. Without any weird connotations.

Realizing mid-word, you can always save yourself in polite company. Schei…you shout. Looking around, you realize that this might be not the best thing to do. Go Scheibenkleister! instead. Scheibe is among others the word for a pane of glass, while Kleister is a kind of glue.
It’s the equivalent of going sh…….sugar!
The really funny part: There’s a euphemism for Scheibenkleister. Some people say Scheibenhonig instead, which translates to pane-honey and does not mean anything.

If you want to adress someone who has been mean to you, if you indeed want to call them an asshole1 the German word for that would be Arschloch. You could also just say Arsch (=arse).

Or, and that’s kinda cool: Arschgeige.
You’d be literally calling that person an arse-violin or arse-fiddle.

Related to that is a famous expression attributed to Götz von Berlichingen by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Du kannst mich mal am Arsch lecken.
You can lick my arse. 

So there, I taught you some literature.

And that’s a good place to stop as any. I don’t want to get any complaints from your parents about teaching you really inappropriate stuff.


Nom de dieu, de putain de bordel de merde de saloperie de connard d’enculé de ta mère. Name of God (goddamit), of whore of whorehouse, of shit, of mess (or bitchery) of asshole (or idiot), of motherfucker.

Translating those into English is already a little difficult because some things being cursewords in French don’t work well in English. And even less in German. Also I said I won’t tell you stuff that gets you beaten up here, if I can avoid it.

  1. or do you prefer arsehole? []

The Interview – a short story and a first for me

A few days ago I came home after a rough and long day at work, and got randomly inspired by a short twitter conversation.

A few minutes later I was throwing words at my computer, forming sentences, until I had a very rough and bad short story. A bit later I’d found two wordy friends for feedback, and boy was some of it crushing. I first took care of grammarly stuff, then ironed out some of the “actual” writing, which in parts was pretty bad.

I ended up with this:


The Interview

The neon lights hummed and flickered.
In the past hour no-one had passed the corridor outside the conference room deep within the building.
It would have felt creepy to Samia if she had room in her head for much else besides how desperately she needed that job.
She had been horrified at the prospect of screwing something up. At the start of the interview Jim, the balding, slightly beer-bellied man conducting it had offered her a cookie. Gripping the armrests so tight her knuckles turned white, she declined.

Samia had a reputation for spilling food into her cleavage. Her bra collected more finger food than a starving wedding crasher.
Even without chocolate chip cookies tumbling down between her boobs a job interview was more than challenging for a pudgy girl makingher way towards financial independence.

About twenty minutes in, Jim had asked about her strengths and weaknesses. Opening her mouth to answer, she heard a very faint muffled scream like from the opening scene of a teeny slasher movie.

‘Is there anything wrong?’ Jim asked. Samia stared at him, open-mouthed. She blushed and asked: ‘Sorry, but can you hear that?’

Jim cocked his head, puzzled, and listened. As the screaming grew louder it became clear the origin was in Samia’s purse. “Your cell phone?’ he said, a frown of disapproval showing up on his face.

‘I thought … I turned it off. That’s not even my … ringtone.’ Samia started rummaging in her her purse.

She pulled her screaming cell phone out from between tissues and make-up, the words UNKNOWN CALLER showing up on its display.

A nearly unnoticeable smile flashed across Jim’s face as he motioned the wide-eyed Samia to answer the call.

Thumbing the green button she moved the device up to her ear. The screaming ringtone stopped. ‘Hello?’ Samia said, her voice shaking.

Jim frowned as he watched all color drain out of Samia’s face within an instant. The phone slid out of her hand. As it hit the conference room’s carpet, the loudspeaker activated.  Whoever was on the other end of the call was screaming.

Before either of them could say a word, the screaming stopped. The lights around them died, leaving the phone as the room’s only source of light. After a few seconds the phone’s display briefly flickered, turned off and plunged them into utter darkness.


So that’s it. The first time I wrote a story from scratch unless you count that thing we had to write in 4th grade. ;-)

Olli’s Saturday School – false friends

After dealing with stolen vocabulary last week, we’re taking a look at the opposite this time.

Back when I was starting to learn English at school1 one of my favorite categories in our text book was false friends.

I am not sure if that is a term used in English and I can’t be bothered to look it up, so here’s a short explanation:

Words that sound or look the same in two languages but mean something different is what our text book called false friends. Makes sense? Good!

An example I only learned recently probably also falls into the stolen vocabulary category.

The English word verklempt probably stems from the German verklemmt.
The verb klemmen can be translated with the words clip, grip, stick or pinch and a few more. If someone is stuck in a tight spot, both literally and figuratively, we say Sie/Er steckt in der Klemme!

The adjective verklemmt translates to uptight, inhibited or in some cases: prude.while someone who is verklempt is overcome with emotions.

So you can see how that can cause confusion

A very common error with German student is confusing the verbs to become  and to get. The German verb bekommen usually translates to receive, get, etc.
Ich bekomme ein Baby. – I’m having a child. (giving birth or currently being pregnant)
Ich bekomme das Steak – I’ll have the steak. (ordering at a restaurant)
Unfortunately sometimes, the bekommen can actually be used when translating certain expressions using become.

becoming afraid of something in German would be  Angst bekommen. Literally acquiring fear.

End of story: We occasionally had a lot of fun saying stuff like I become a steak.

Here’s a few examples:

The word Gift is the German word for poison.
A gift as in present is Geschenk, from the verb schenken.
gifted = begabt
a gift (as in a talent) =
The last two stem from the verb geben (to give)

The German word also is not the same as the English one.
So this is the famous three-headed cat!
Also dies ist die berühmte dreiköpfige Katze!

Arm = arm (the body part)
arm = poor

Art = kind, sort, species
The English word art translates to Kunst. An artist is a Künstler, künstlich is the German word for artificial.

You can encounter a really nasty example when it comes to large numbers.
The German Billion is a one followed by twelve zeroes.
Apparently there is or used to be a difference between American and British English here, according to something I just found on the net.
Anyway, a one followed by nine zeroes is a Milliarde.
The German Trillion is a cubed million, a one followed by eighteen zeroes.
Now think about a conversation between German, American and British astrophysicists.

The German word brav is an adjective Germans use to describe well-behaved. Or to tell not-so-well-behaved ones to behave. Sei brav! could be translated to Be nice! or Be good!
Our word for brave is tapfer.

When we say Kraft, we’re not talking about craft. We’d use Handwerk2 for that. Kraft in German means strength.

There’s tons more of those, I’ll just leave a final one here for all the Harry Potter fans out there: Wand is the German word for wall. Harry Potter is wielding a Zauberstab.

  1. holy shit, about 20 years ago []
  2. think handy-work []

new camera and a trip to the zoo

Heya! Quite a few things have happened these days, and maybe I’ll blog about some of them.

My old camera1 went the way of all things and got claimed by wear and tear. It still took pictures, but some controls didn’t work the way they were supposed to anymore. Repair would’ve exceeded the current worth of it, so I thought about it for a few days and decided to go for the EOS 70D. It’s a little faster, more powerful and the control style is a little different due to the touch screen. The screen is one of those neat fold-out and angle to some sort of convenient degree if you need it. Easy on your back when taking pictures from weird angles. Also I’m looking forward to try out the wifi remote control features.

Anyway, I bought the camera and my trusty photographic needs provider even extended payment until he sold off my old camera an accessories on ebay, to deduct whatever he gets from my bill. Talk about awesome.

Anyway, let’s get to the results. I went to the zoo with friends last weekend and took oodles of pics featuring the residents. Amazed by the results I only cropped a few of those, played a little with contrast and brightness settings, maybe sharpened some, but that was pretty much it.

Now let’s see if the new wordpress update allows for flickr embedding!

Here’s a lynx!



An awesomly beautiful Smoke Jaguar that made me feel sorry for leaving my polarizer at home. Still beautiful.

Smoke Jaguar



Along with the Smoke Jaguar, the Firefoxes or Red Panda were probably my favorite. This one’s really chill!

Red Panda chill

Otterly adorable was this quirky little guy!Otter


That was only a small selection of the pictures I took there. The way the new camera behaves and takes pictures, I’m looking forward to share more of them in the foreseeable future.

If you want to see alpacas, zebras, meerkats, servals, sloths and some other pretty fellows, just click ONE OF THESE CAPITALIZED WORDS, THEY’RE A GIANT LINK TO THE PHOTOALBUM ON FLICKR!

  1. my trusty EOS 40D []

Olli’s Saturday School – stealing vocabulary

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary. – James Nicoll

I have to admit, I do kinda like stumbling over an originally German word when reading English novels. There are of course always going to be arguments about the purest form or purity of a language, how we shouldn’t change it, accept new vocabulary, etc.

But isn’t language at the core a thing that is partially defined by its ability to adapt, to change, to embrace new things? Isn’t it something that furthered human development in the past?

Even if not, simply looking at the history of any given language spoken today, be it English, German or French, to name just three, you will quickly see that it is rather futile to try and stop it from changing.

Granted, it is a bit sad to see old languages and dialects die out, even if it is only for traditions sake. That is why I don’t mind there being institutions and sometimes even ministries that are tasked with protecting and preserving language, although some of those do weird things, trying to introduce new words to combat intrusions from other languages when it is far too late.

Anyway, back to what should be the topic.

German has a history of grabbing words from other languages, especially English, and making it their own. It happens in the way kids speak or spoke, in tech, in business, in advertisement and pretty much everywhere.

Some of these things we don’t even notice anymore. Saying “cool” for stuff that we consider awesome or neat. The word babysitter has been used in German for as long as I can think back. Cockpit, date, download, gangster, hype, latin lover, muffin, newcomer, walkman, yuppie… All those are words that could be substituted by German words, compounds or terms. But if you did, you’d earn a few glances for being old-fashioned.

Some stuff used in business and advertisement is just painful and cringeworthy to read, watch or listen to. To the point where I think it deserves punishment. But that’s another story.

So here’s a list of words in the English language that you might have been using without even knowing they’re actually German.

A large number of those expressions fall into the food and drink category.
A load of words for types of beer and even some brand names are from German words for their places origin or the way they are made.

Think: Budweiser, Pilsener, Lager, Bockbier, Hefeweizen…

Stein as in beer stein stems from the German word Steingut, meaning earthenware.

Wiener, Frankfurter, Strudel, Streusel, Rollmops, Pretzel…all German words, originally. Even Hamburger doesn’t actually have anything to do with ham.  The word is said to be related to the city of Hamburg. A Hamburger is a citizen of Hamburg, the word can also be used as an adjective for anything coming from Hamburg.

But not all words the English language appropriated from German are edible, even though some are quite a mouthful.1

Abseil, another word for rappelling or roping down a ledge or building, is a German word. ab = off. Seil = rope.

Ersatz is the German word for substitute, verboten actually just means forbidden in German and when something is kaputt it’s broken.

Two of the most common Germanisms are obviously kindergarten and rucksack.
Kindergarten literally translated is a garden for kids.
Rucksack becomes obvious if you think about it for a few seconds. A Sack is a sack or bag of course. Ruck is just a garbled and shortened form of the word Rücken. That translate to back ()as in rear side of your torso)). Backpack. Bingo!

If you tell someone Gesundheit after they sneezed, did you know you’d just used the German word for health? It’s by the way the exact same thing we say. Kaffeeklatsch is another German word you’Ve probably heard before, same as Schadenfreude, Zeitgeist or Wanderlust.

Maybe you’ve even heard about Zugzwang. Not everyone knows about the word Übermensch, a concept in Friedrich Nietzsche’s work, but you sure have seen or even used the prefix uber to indicate something is better or just more extreme than it usually is.

Can you think of some more? Let me know, shoot me a comment or a tweet, I’d love to hear them!


  1. absolutely intendet []

Hamburg, Germany – tigers, bears and snakes

Hey guys and gals, lads and lasses, dudes and dudettes, awesome people who actually read this!

I had something else brewing for today’s post, but somehow my heart wasn’t really in it, so I chucked it in the drafts folder and hopefully come up with more some time soon. Like a new language blog for Saturday, but at least I already have a topic for that.

So I can at least relax a little, like this guy.

I probably should be all poised and alert, maybe even preparing for my trip, but I’m gonna do that tomorrow.

Packing, tidying up the place, playing around with my new camera’s controls to get the hang of them. There are many things I should or could be doing right now, but I’m all like this fella instead:

At least I already had dinner, so there’s that!

So while I waste away the evening with games and probably a book later, have a couple of pics I took this weekend in Hamburg!