German Hacks

German Hacks Episode 5 – Colloquial German is Geil

German HacksHi and welcome to a new episode of German Hacks. I’m your host Kirsten Winkler.

Today, I’d like to give you an introduction to German colloquial language or as we call it in German die Umgangssprache.

Umgang translates as contact or intercourse, so Umgangssprache is basically how we deal and speak with people in our daily lives.

This is why Umgangssprache is also called Alltagssprache – everyday language. This so called everyday language can have very different forms, such as people speaking in their regional dialect.

But what most people define as saloppe Umgangssprache, in English slang, is eine nachlässige, saloppe oder derbe Ausdrucksweise in contrast to Standardsprache (high or standard German in our case) or gepflegter Ausdrucksweise. nachlässig is an adjective and means careless or negligent – nachlässig; salopp also an adjective is casual, sloppy – salopp and lastly the adjective derb here means gross or rough. So profanity, colorful expressions or slanguage vs. style and diction.

In Germany, such as elsewhere, factors like age, social and sociological reasons and regional specialties define our German everyday language. This is why Umgangssprache is sometimes also referred to als der Volksmund – Volksmund, literally people’s mouth = how people really speak.

For Germany, Luther’s translation of the bible set the tone for a first standard German language as he wanted that really anyone would understand his bible.

Today, we can see more and more words that have their origin in German Umgangssprache being used on TV or in newspapers and magazines as well. Umgangssprache is shaping Standardeutsch.

I still remember the episode when I brought home the word “geil” for the first time. I was about 9 or 10 years old and it somehow appeared in school. From then on everything was “geil” for us. Literally geil means randy, but for us it was just similar to cool, so not really with a sexual or even vulgar connotation. To the contrary, it was a qualifier and made something better, greater more cool. However, you might imagine when I used it at home for the first time the reactions weren’t nearly as enthusiastic as my family understood it in its original vulgar sense. Today, virtually everybody keeps straight-faced. geil has made its way into everyday language, I wouldn’t say it’s the best word but it’s definitely not a shocker anymore.

Probably, the most famous or infamous example of “geil” in everyday language is an ad of a big electronics retailer: Geiz ist geil! – Geiz ist geil! ‘being stingy is cool or even sexy’ comes closest.

Normally, being stingy has more of a negative connotation but in Germany a bargain-hunter-mentality is seen as something smart, to be proud of. That’s why this blunt slogan really worked so well. It basically defines the 2000s in Germany, everybody could identify with it and still knows it today. When you congratulate a German on a bargain (yes, Germans show-off with bargains, others are jealous that they didn’t get such a deal or are simply impressed – but that’s a whole story in itself and says quite a bit about our mentality) Anyhow, when you congratulate a German on a bargain, he might proudly answer: Tja, Geiz ist geil!

Next time, I’ll give you some examples on how different social and ethnic groups in Germany use Umgangssprache and how they differ from one another.

See you next time for a new episode of German Hacks, tschüss, bye bye!

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Title Music by: Dan-O at | Undiscovered Oceans