Word of the Day – “Body talk special”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: March 27, 2024



Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day and it is time for another verb special. What is a verb special you ask? Well… in a verb special we get to know a whole bunch of new verbs that all have something in common.
“They’re German?”
Yes, that. But they’re also kind of from the same “domain” or can be sorted under the same headline. And the headline today is

Body Talk 

Yeah… body talk…  uhhhh…. sounds kind of hot…

But it’s not so hot actually (unless you have a kink) because today will be all about the noises a human body produces – yawning , sneezing, farting and burping.
And we’ll not only get to know them in German but we’ll also take a look at how rude the respective action is considered in Germany.
So when everybody is ready, let’s goooooooooo… oh… some aren’t ready yet, I guess we’ll wait a little.
I think I have to do some small talk so…. you’ll never believe this but today I saw the most flabbergasting … oh and I see we’re set now so let’s goooooooo ….. again.

“gähnen” – to yawn

Gähnen is to yawn and… I freaking love it. An epic yawn is just such a moment of peace for me. It is just sooooo relaxing and sometimes it even makes my headache go away.
Did you know that yawning is one of the most contagious actions … at least for humans and monkeys? It might be enough to even look at the picture of a yawning lion to start yawing, too. What’s also fascinating is that relatively little is known about gähnen from a scientific point of view. Many animals do it but there are different theories as to why. Some say it helps to lower the temperature of the head and body while others say it supports supplying the brain with oxygen. Either way … one thing has been scientifically proven though:
if you yawn a lot while studying German, that means you’re making incredible progress… so here is an example to help you with that:

  • Der Politiker, der auf seinem Flug nach Brüssel die neusten Zahlen zur Finanzkrise studiert hat, sitzt in der Lobby und sieht, wie einer seiner Kollegen aus Italien, seinerseits ebenfalls angesehener Finanzexperte, herzhaft gähnt.
  • The politician, who had studied the latest figures regarding the financial crisis during his flight to Brussels, sits around in the lobby and sees his Italian colleague,  a well know financial expert for his part too, yawning loudly.

Oh my… so much yaw… uh.. soooo much progress :). And you’re in for even more as we look at the grammar of gähnen. Gähnen is totally regular so the ge-form is gegähnt and the real past is gähnte… and for a long one it is gäääääähnte.
So… how impolite is yawing? Well, you shouldn’t do it when you are talking to someone. The other person will think that what he or she is saying is boring you and they will certainly ask you whether you are tired. So try to avoid yawning while people talk to you. Is it rude to yawn in a car or in public transportation. Not so much. Maybe you should cover your mouth with your hand or yawn into your shoulder but there is no real need to suppress it. It might even be a good ice breaker in the subway… you yawn, he or she has to yawn, you smile, he or she has to smile and so on…. so gähn ahead!!!

  • Ich gähne gerne.
  • I like yawning.

“schnarchen” – to snore

Schnarchen is girlfriends nightmare. While she is trying to sleep, he is cutting down a whole forest with a chainsaw… at least in sounds. Yep you got it. Schnarchen is to snore. Schlafen and schnarchen… quite similar words I have to say… so close. Schlafen leads to schnarchen for some which in turn leads to nicht schlafen for others. Both words combined it would be schlarchen … or schnafen. Anyway… here is an example with the spoken past.

  • Maria konnte nicht schlafen, weil Thomas die ganze Nacht geschnarcht hat.
  • Maria couldn’t sleep because Thomas had been snoring the whole night.

Now schnarchen isn’t really something you can do anything about so it is certainly not considered rude or anything. A quiet little snore can be even deemed sooooo cute. Oh speaking of little snore: the snoring is das Schnarchen in German and to make it little we just add the “little-fier”  -chen to it and get
Schnarchenchen … ok not really.
Before we move one, there is one thing you should know. Do NOT tell girls that they snore. They really think they don’t. “No way, I do NOT!” is what they’ll say. So telling a girl she snores is almost as severe as telling her that she has put on weight.

“pupsen” – to fart

We eat. Then we digest thereby producing a food dependent amount of gas.  A carrot soup will be easy on the winds – a little breeze at best. Onions on the other hand – a full blown hurricane. Anyway, the gas has to leave our body and  whenever that happens we fart or in German we pupsen.
Pupsen is the most polite verb for to fart that German has to offer. Other possibilities are the stronger furzen and einen fahren lassen. The literal translation of that is “let one drive/travel” . And although it is way longer than pupsen and furzen, people use einen fahren lassen a lot in daily life… perhaps because pupsen sounds a bit childish and furzen is a bit vulgar.

  • Irgendjemand hat im Fahrstuhl einen fahren lassen.
  • Someone passed gas in the elevator.

But einen fahren lassen only works if you really mean one fart. It doesn’t work when you want to talk about the general act of farting.

  • Von Bohnen muss ich immer pupsen.
  • From beans I always have to fart. (lit.)
  • Beans always give me gas.

or less explicit:

  • Von Bohnen kriege ich immer Blähungen.
  • From beans I get flatulence. ( lit.)

Now, although it is a quite natural thing, pupsen is certainly nothing to just do in public unless you can’t avoid it or your self confidence is reaching the sun. However, actually I think most of the people would be forgiving if despite all effort to tame the winds you actually happen to fart in the subway or during an exam… I mean… some may laugh, some may retreat into their collar because they think it stinks, but no one will think you are a rude, uneducated, ignorant person… it just doesn’t have quite the same flirting potential that gähnen has.
Grammar-wise pupsen and furzen are completely regular so it is gepupst und gefurzt and the real past stems are pupste und furzte. The real past sounds quite theatrical in this context so you can create an interesting contrast here when you proclaim :)

  • Mir scheint, jemand pupste in diesem Fahrstuhl.
  • Someone, so it appears, farted in this very elevator.

“rülpsen” – to burp

Speaking of gases leaving the human body, here is another one. Rülpsen is to burp and although the English burp is a nice Lautmalerei (sounds like what it means), I find rülpsen to be an even better one… try to say it! Doens’t it feel like actually burping?

  • Von Bier muss ich immer rülpsen.
  • Beer always makes me burp.

While English has a number of words including the fancy ass Latin eruct, German basically only has rülpsen. There is another verb, aufstossen, but to me this is actually a retained burp so a burp with your mouth closed.
Now how about rülpsen and manners. Well, generally rülpsen is not considered nice in German especially as keeping it to yourself doesn’t cost you much. Just don’t open your mouth. I feel like there are cultures that consider a burp after dinner a compliment to the chef but, unfortunately, Germany is not one of those countries. So in restaurants or at the dinner table of your partners parents it is a no go. I mean … some people, even “adult” people are ok with it and consider it totally part of the meal, but let them start and then join the choir.
However… burping has … how can I say it… “bro-tential”. Many a man has earned his peers respect by roaring and belling like a 12-ender in mating season. And if you have like a really long name and you are able to burp it… chapeau. You will be president one day.
Grammar of rülpsen in short:

  • Maria hat gerülpst/rülpste.
  • Maria burped.

“niesen” – to sneeze

It happens when you have a cold, it happens when you have an allergy, some say it happens when you look into the sun, and it sure happens if you inhale a load of pepper. Niesen is to sneeze.

  • Ich glaube, ich muss niesen aber es geht nicht.
  • I think I have to sneeze but it doesn’t work.

Niesen by itself is not considered rude and some people say, that it is actually dangerous to keep it inside. A sneeze has quite some pressure behind it after all.  However, since niesen is a strong sign for a cold you should do some effort to cover your nose when you are in public places. Don’t just blow it out there. That would be considered ignorant.
Now, if someone sneezes , the proper German “response” is Gesundheit (health). Here is an example which also shows you how a sneeze is imitated in speech in German.

  • “Hatschi!” (pron. hutshee)
    Gesundheit!” (Gezond-hite)

Oh by the way… some people may tell you to saying Schönheit” (beauty) instead of “Gesundheit” is a possibility too… well… let’s just say it is not. It is supposed to be funny for some reason but in fact it is not funny. And by wishing the person beauty you are implying that he or she is in fact lacking it so it is not only not funny but it is also an insult.. or at least it can be.
So just stick with “Gesundheit”.

“die Nase hochziehen”

After a sneeze people often suck the snot back into the caverns of their nose thereby making a not so pleasant noise. This is called die Nase hochziehen which literally translates to pull up the nose.
In English this would be to snuffle or to sniffle but German doesn’t have a verb for it… wow… German really doesn’t have a verb for something for once :).
So in Germany mothers tell their kids this.

  • Zieh nicht ständig die Nase hoch!
  • Don’t sniffle all the time / stop sniffling!

How rude is die Nase hochziehen? Well, there are 2 kinds. The first kind is the keep-it-in kind, where you just breathe in through the nose with some power to keep the snot there. This is not very impolite but if you have a tissue you should use it. It happened to me numerous times that people in the subway actually gave me one because of my constant sniffling. So… it is not totally rude and weird but if you have a tissue, you should use it.
By the way… I have heard that in China it is a normal thing to do. Everybody does it and because they never blow their nose, they rarely get sinusitis. But that might be a legend.
Anyway… there is a second way of die Nase hochziehen. It is the one where you actually suck the snot into the mouth to either swallow it or spit it out. This way usually comes with a rather unpleasant snore-like sound and this is something that will certainly be considered rude, impolite and gross.

“hicksen”, “einen Schluckauf haben” – a hiccup

What is hicksen? Wikipedia has this to say:
“[…] is a myoclonus of the diaphragm that repeats several times per minute. In medicine it is known as synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF), or singultus, from the Latin singult, ‘the act of catching one’s breath while sobbing’“.
but the phenomenon might be better known under the name hiccup. Ok… actually the German translation for hiccup is der Schluckauf … also called Scheißschluckauf at times.

  • Ich habe einen Schluckauf.
  • I have the hiccups.
    (careful… it is singular in German)
  • Mein Scheißschluckauf geht nicht weg.
  • My damn hiccup won’t go away.

Hicksen is what you do, when you have a hiccupand the English verb is simply and pragmatically … to hiccup.
Hicksen is purely onomatopoetic, so the word sounds like the action itself sounds and to be honest, I don’t think it is really used that much. But I did check in Duden, and it is an “official” German word with a ge-form (gehickst) and a real past stem hickste… not that you would ever need those.
A hiccup can be quite annoying.

  • Als Thomas Maria küssen wollte, fing er an zu hicksen.
  • Right when Thomas wanted to kiss Maria he started to hiccup.

Poor Thomas… he got so close.
Now, is having a Schluckauf impolite? Of course not. You can’t do anything about it after all. So even at the fanciest dinner people will not think that you are lacking manners. But be ready for a whole variety of good advice what to do against it. Here is a list of things that supposedly help:

  • Drink a glass of water while holding your nose closed.
  • Swallow 7 times while holding your nose closed.
  • Swallow while doing a headstand.
  • Try to suddenly scare yourself or have someone shock you.
  • Drink something really sour.
  • Read Leo Tolstoy’s “War and peace” completely

So far I found none of these advices particularly helpful. I haven’t tried the last one though. That might actually be quite effective and if you still have a hiccup after finishing the book, you should go see a doctor.
But seriously… I found none of these things particularly helpful so if you know any other way to stop a Schluckauf please share it in a comment.

Alright… let me check the time real quick … wow… already… that’s crazy. I really didn’t feel it but this post did get quite long … yet again. So I think we’re going to stop here. … this was our body talk special. If you have any questions or suggestion, please leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

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