Hair finery, glory, gorgeousness, grandeur, luxuriance, luxuriousness, magnificence, pomp, resplendence, splendor.

(HAH PRAH chh t.)

Frühstück als kunstvolles Festmahl

A breakfast festival feast full of art.

How an Englishman living in Berlin described German breakfasts, according to Frankfurter Rundschau’s excerpt from the German translation of his English book about German culture.

“At weekend breakfasts, every square centimeter of the table is covered by an enormous assortment of cheeses, cold cuts, fruit, jams, honey, spreads and other things.” Fresh rolls from the corner bakery! Well-made croissants. Ripe tomatoes, herbs from the balcony, good yogurt, a warm soft-boiled egg to carefully dismantle in an egg cup, sometimes smoked salmon and inexpensive caviar. Excellent coffee.

(FROO shtook   olls   KOONST foal ess   FEST mall.)

Lang kurz kurz lang

Long short short long, the ship’s horn signal sounded by Bundespräsident Gauck to launch the annual Kieler Woche sailing festival, the world’s largest regatta with >4000 vessels.

It means “Leinen los!”

(Long Kurtz Kurtz Long.)


Bridge day, a day between a holiday and the weekend on which many people choose not to work.

Translators are still searching for an English equivalent for this for readers in countries whose holidays tend to be on Mondays.

(BRICK en tochh.)


A big techno concert in Germany in the 1990’s that probably lasted for days. German radio stations would broadcast it with no ads for hours, just a brief traffic report with station I.D. at the top and bottom of the hour.

From what I heard at the time, Carl Cox seemed the funkiest. He used triplets in addition to quarter notes.

Die Spargelzeit

Asparagus time!

Asparagus season is a culinary celebration in Germany, between bärlauch and cherries. The long thick glowing white stalks of German asparagus have to be hand-cultivated under impressive mounds of dirt to keep the sun from turning them green. Once harvested, they are sold almost like truffles, except cheaper and there’s enough for everyone.

White asparagus is good alone with sauce hollandaise (made from scratch, it’s easy if only you can get the right ingredients), with fish, with fresh small spring potatoes. Save the peelings and trimmings to boil in water for asparagus soup (remove boiled peelings and trimmings then puree the broth with cream, some chicken bouillon, salt, pepper, garnish with fresh herbs at the last minute). Serve with chilled dry white German wine in those short round bottles.

Key words for white asparagus include “tender.” It gets woody if it’s too old or if it’s cooked too long, which is a bit counterintuitive. Asparagus marketed as “crisp” might already be woody.

(Dee    SHPOG ell tsight.)

“Ich lasse es nicht zu, dass Sie unseren Blödsinn hier als Unfug bezeichnen!”

“I will not stand here and allow you to call our malarkey foolery,” ladies and gentlemen of the court!

From the Cologne carneval comedy troupe Stunksitzung’s 2013 mock trial of several office ladies for snipping off a colleague’s tie on Weiberfastnacht, after first making him will-less by singing traditional carneval songs multiple times and pouring old man’s schnapps into him. At work.

Unfug means monkeyshines, horseplay, mischief, flim-flam, foolery, skylarking and rags, so the root word Fug, which is no longer used, must be the opposite of that.

The internet says Fug derives from old Germanic words for things that fit well together and indicates meetness, appropriateness, ability, skill, virtuosity, craft, artistry [Kunstfertigkeit, Schicklichkeit]. It’s still used today in the phrase Fug und Recht, lawful authorization.

(Ichh   lossah   ess   nichh t   tsoo,   doss   zee   oonz ren   BLID zinn   here   olls   OON foog   bets EYE chh nen.)


“Street sweeper.” The Gassen are the charming little narrow alleys, las calles, in medieval towns. Terry Pratchett joked that some of them faithfully reproduce the paths cows used to take to the river.

A Gassenfeger is a television show that’s so interesting people magically melt away from the town’s parks and picturesque little byways when it’s about to be broadcast, drifting instead into neighborhood pubs and living rooms.

(GOSS en fae gah.)

Schauspieler und Schausteller

“Show players and show putters/placers.” Actors and traveling carnival people, two professions whose names sound similar in German.

Spiegel.de reported about a lady from a traveling fair family whose dad pulled her out of school at age 14 to help with the family business. When her son died in 1991 she looked around for something different to do. She finished an academic high school diploma in two years and did a master’s degree in art history on the changing styles of models and decorations on German carousels since 1883. She was the first person to study the subject. There was so much material, she said, that she went ahead and finished her Ph.D. on the topic at age 62.

“Until the Second World War,” Spiegel.de wrote, “nearly all decorations on fairground rides and businesses were citations of baroque themes: illustrated panels, frames that look like ornamental plasterwork, pastel tones. ‘After 1945, the modern era took hold, with paintings that had no subject, and neon lighting,’ Frau Dr. Ramus said.

“Since then,” the Spiegel article continues, “carousel decoration and construction has followed the trends in architecture and art: Bright colors and dream motifs based on Salvador Dalí in the 1960’s, flower power images and bands like the Beatles or Abba in the 1970’s, followed by pop art, comics adaptations and street art. ‘The great thing is that in fairgrounds today you can see all these epochs standing next to one another, and even identify individual painters and designers,’ said Dr. Ramus. ‘You can time travel through a hundred years of decoration and architectural history.'”

(Shao SHPEEL ah   oont   shao SHTELL ah.)

Bibliothekarische Bücherkette

“Library book chain,” across the city of Riga to celebrate the opening of Latvia’s new national library after twenty years of construction. Twenty-five years ago, Latvians formed a Menschenkette, a human chain, to protest the Soviet dictatorship.

Riga, Latvia, and Umea, Sweden, will be the European Capitals of Culture for 2014. Umea will be focussing on the regional Saami heritage, while Riga will be celebrating music and theater.

Update on 18 Jan 2014: Fireworks and dancing in the frozen streets kicked off the three-day opening celebration in Riga. Since the start of WWI a century ago, said ZDF heute journal, the twentieth century was a torture for Latvia of one dictatorship after the other, including occupation by the Nazis. Which is why Riga scheduled a cheeky performance of what is said to be Adolf Hitler’s favorite Wagner opera this week, Aufstieg und Fall eines Tyrannen, in very bright costumes and with a live horse.

(Beeb lee oh tay CAR-R-R ish ah   BEE chheah ket tah.)

Friedliche Feier-Freude

Peaceful joy and enthusiasm for parties and celebrations.


Workers’ council, a committee elected by employees that is involved in management of German workplaces.

Spiegel.de reported on 11 Nov 2013 that Microsoft was not renewing the leases for its offices in Hamburg, Böblingen and Bad Homburg, where ~500 of the company’s ~2700 Germany-based employees work. These workers were to be dispersed into telecommuting as “Homeoffice-Mitarbeiter.”

Labor advocates accused the company was doing this to outflank efforts by the Betriebsrat workers’ councils at those locations to negotiate resolutions to Microsoft’s overtime situation, with workers regularly putting in 50 to 60 hours per week in a country that usually has a work week <40 hours, said overtime “being neither off-celebrated [with time] nor offset [with money].” Celebration is a synonym for time spent not working, in German.

Labor advocates also alleged that Microsoft’s plans to rent conference rooms for future meetings with clients was an attempt to ensure there were never more than four of its employees gathered together in one place at a time because, they said, German law requires Betriebsrat representation for workplaces with five employees or more.

(Beh TREEBZ rah t.)


Whoopee, shindig, rumbling rattling carneval fair. “Wann geht er los, der Rummel?” sings the audience in the opening to Jim Henson’s Muppet Show. “When does the rummel start?” Bundestag coalition negotiations may continue until January 2014.

(ROOM əl.)

“Macht Krach!”

“Make noise!” Get involved in events. A quite decent message from Pope Franciscus at the World Youth Day in Brazil on 26 Jul 2013.

(Mahchht   krahchh.)


Annual parade of large sailing vessels with steel hulls at the Kieler Woche festival in Kiel, northern Germany, traditionally led by the Gorch Fock.

(VINNED yommah pah RAH deh.)


Latin word for four horses yoked to a chariot, such as the stone statues above Brandenburg Gate that got to watch festivities for the Berlin-Besuch, President Obama’s visit to Berlin this week.

(KVOD ree ga.)

Tag der deutschen Einheit

“German unity day.” Celebrated on June 17 for years in West Germany to remember the popular uprising against the East German government 60 years ago this week.

The German unity holiday was changed to October 3 when East and West Germany signed the agreement to reunify on Oct. 3, 1990.

Bundespräsident Joachim Gauck, a regime-critical East German pastor who after the Wall fell led the so-called Gauck-Behörde, the agency created to figure out what to do with the Stasi files left behind by the secret police, said,

“Today it remains essential, everywhere around the world, to stand by / provide backup for those people who, though discriminated against and marginalized, courageously take a stand for freedom, democracy and justice.”

“Es gilt auch heute, überall auf der Welt, jenen beizustehen, die sich obwohl diskriminiert und ausgegrenzt mutig für Freiheit, Demokratie und Recht einsetzen.”

(TOG   dare   DEUTSCH en   EYE n h eye t.)


“History of everyday life,” history of ordinary people and ordinary things they did and made. Alltag in the present is considered rather gray and oppressive in a special way in Germany, at an intensity only made possible by festivals, so another English explanation of Alltagsgeschichte might be history of the LDG, loathsome daily grind, rather than of DWM, dead white males.

Most people who ever lived have been forgotten. The ordinary events in their ordinary lives might have been considered the most unworthy of documentation because ubiquity gives an air of permanence, because the literate few didn’t know how normal people lived or because chroniclers wanted to erase or deny aspects of it. Accidents are thus the source of much of the little we know in Alltagsgeschichte and related branches of historical study. Such as the preservation of medieval clothing cast aside in mountain salt mines, the preservation of Stone Age bodies in Alpine glacier ice, the Viking custom of sacrificing things valuable to them in anaerobic peat bogs. It took an unusual event to bring details of common people’s lives into written forms that were preserved: in witch trial documents clerks wrote down where women were and what they were doing when bedeviled, old coroner’s reports contain information about peasant work, Samuel Pepys’s diary is a unique source of day-to-day detail, and Ken Starr’s report accidentally tells us more about White House routine than any political memoire. Anything that causes secret services to violate people’s rights to privacy will record details of everyday life otherwise lost to posterity. On a lighter note, today’s Bundestagsfloskeln websites, where people can submit examples of classic German parliamentary speech phrases, real or “pastiche,” are accidentally excellent teaching aids to people unfamiliar with parliamentary democracy or the intense German “discussion” tradition.

One wonders what technology, customs and rules might lead to a future Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy-type encyclopedia in which important events are narrated in 3D video with realistically embarrassing detail.

(OLL togs geh SHICHH teh.)

“Bin eine alte Kommode, die viele Schubladen hat”

“I’m an old cabinet that has a lot of drawers,” said actor Hildegard Krekel, known for playing the Sally Struthers daughter character in Germany’s excellent version of the Johnny Speight “All in the Family” family of television series, called “One heart and one soul” (Ein Herz und eine Seele). She was also the dubbing voice for Bette Davis and Helen Mirren, according to her obituary; Hildegard Krekel died of cancer on 26 May 2013.

Episode 4 of “Ein Herz und eine Seele,” under the Hitler-like Archie Bunker patriarch known as Disgusting Alfred, is about a funeral and was the reason a friend once explained to me that, in certain regions of Germany, the funerals are more fun than the weddings.

(Bin   eye n   oltah   come MODE ah   dare   FEEL ah   SHOE blod en   hot.)

Jemand, der zum Lachen in den Keller geht

“Someone who goes in the cellar to laugh.” Someone with no sense of humor.

(YAY mond,   dare   tsoom   LOCHH en   in   dane   KELLER   gate.)


Bucket. Large buckets used to transport harvested grapes in Germany’s wine regions were turned upside-down and used as lecterns for humorous speeches during Karneval celebrations, which is why today’s poets and jesters are called Büttenredner or “bücket orators.”


“Mainz bleibt Mainz, wie es singt und lacht.”

“Mainz remains Mainz, in the manner in which it sings and laughs.” A formal annual municipal mardi gras television show that lasts for hours. News-related poems, jokes, songs and speeches are presented to the good-humored costumed crowd, whose tables are kept cheerful by a steady stream of beer and wine. Eventually, clown nose-wearing viewers fall into a reverie before their tv screens, occasionally remembering to blow “tra la!” on toy horns.

(My nts   bl eye bt   my nts,   vee   ess   zing t   oont   lochh t.)


“Beer chain.” A bucket-brigade delivery system to convey refreshing bottles of beer into this crowded apartment room where students performed a delightful Bach party in Leipzig.

(BEER kett eh.)

Jauchzet, frohlocket! Auf, preiset die Tage.

Cheereth, rejoiceth! Get up, praiseth the days.

(Yow! chh tsett,   froh LOCK ett!   Ow! f,   PRY zett   dee   TOGG eh.)

Zwischen den Jahren

“Between the years.” The days between the end of the old year (Dec. 24) and the beginning of the New Year on Jan. 6, according to earlier calendars and older religions.

(TSVISH en   dane   YARR en.)

Festtage und Alltag

Feast days and the everyday (often called “the gray everyday”). Feast days make the everyday possible.

(FEST toggeh   oont   ALL tog.)

Es weihnachtet sehr.

It’s christmassing pretty hard.

(Ess   VYE nochhh tett   ZERRR.)

Antrum vastissimum incogniti recessus

“Immense cave, unexplored depths.” Laconic note on a map of Westphalia from 1645 marking the site now known as the Balver Höhle. This karst cave was occupied during the stone age. Now it has been dynamited bigger and is used for multiday concerts and festivals with audiences of thousands of people. Rivers of beer. Schützenfests still take place there every year, and apparently they’ve added a celtic music festival. There used to be a big annual jazz festival there, with Dutchmen wearing lavender and light blue playing great slide guitar and mumbling fake English, interspersed with heartfelt “SHICK AH GO!”s.

Man muss die Feste feiern, wie sie fallen

You have to celebrate the holidays on the days they occur.

(Mon moose dee FEST eh fire n, vee zee foll en.)


“Preglowing,” “preheating,” “pre-ignition.” Predrinking, pregaming. The party before the party.

(FORE glue en.)


“Mood cannon.” Someone who tends to be the life and soul of the party, reliably so. Often a female pub owner. Ina Müller‘s talk show is based on such a character.

(SHTIM oongs kah KNOWN ah.)

Keine Feier ohne Meier

“No celebrations without Meier.” Title of a 1932 movie about a guy who ran a combination marriage bureau and divorce service.

(Kine eh FIRE oh neh MY er.)


To amuse, disport, regale, gloat, delectate.

(Er GUH t zen.)


Mealtime!” A greeting among factory workers.

(MOLL ts eye t.)


“Party evening!” A greeting among factory workers at the end of the shift. Let the celebrations begin.

(FIE er AH bend.)

Blau machen

“Making blue,” i.e. drinking. Also playing hooky. In the Middle Ages, making blue dye required lots of urine, hence the term.

(Bl OW! mack en.)


If you yell this during today’s carnaval parade in Cologne, costumed people will throw gifts at you that include chocolates, long-stemmed roses, shrink-wrapped blood sausage, and soap samples.



The Thursday before Ash Wed. when women cut off men’s ties at work and on the street. People start drinking at noon. Normal life will resume in Lent.

(OLT vibe er FOST nockt.)

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