Advent Calendar 23 – “50 Shades of Dumb”


Hello everyone,

day 23 of our Advent Calendar. Almost Christmas –  family getting together, presents, time for contemplation and relaxation and being grateful and blah blah blah…  yeah,  it is all cuddly and all. But we all know what’s up. Once the presents are unwrapped, the dish is eaten and the kids are in bed (hopefully) and the liquor is out things gets real.
Intense family fights!!!
So today, we’ll look at some

German insults.

Because those – with all their rough German sound – will definitely give you an edge :).
Not really mean ones though. We’ll look at

colloquial, non-vulgar, non-discriminatory insults that revolve around the idea of being dumb 
So essentially we’ll learn some cool alternatives for the word Idiot you can use to impress (and insult) your friends with, so … viel Spaß :).

***  der Trottel ***

This is  maybe the weakest of them all. It’s based on the verb trotten. It’s related to treten and its English brother tread and it is a specific way of walking – steady but low energy, low tension. Think of  a bored donkey. Trottel works if someone mentally under-performs but it also works if someone does something clumsy. And it’s a bit cute, too, so sometimes people use it almost like a term of endearment.

  • “Ich bin so ein Trottel manchmal.”
    “Ja, bist du.”
  • “I’m such a dummy sometimes.”
    “Yes, you are.”

  • Ich liebe meinen Freund, aber er ist sooo trottelig… voll peinlich.
  • I love my boyfriend, but he is sooo goofy… so embarrassing.
    (not sure if that works here, I don’t mean funny-goofy)

Trottel is one of the very few insults that can actually be “cutified” with the ending  -chen (Trottelchen). And when you want to make it stronger and more serious, you can add voll to it (Volltrottel).

*** der Depp ***

I don’t where this comes from and it’s not one that I use or hear very often. It’s more common in “colloquial writing”, so writing that goes for a very casual tone while still be… writing.
What makes it worth noting is that beside the general idea of idiot, it’s also used in context of work. You’d say you’re the Depp when you end up with the shitty part of work, either because you’re too nice, or not skilled enough in office politics.

  • Ich hab’ das Gefühl, ich bin auf Arbeit der Depp vom Dienst.
  • I have the feeling I am the duty fool.
  • In diesem Satz ist ein’s der sogenannten Deppenapostrophe.
  • In this sentence, there’s one of the so called dummy apostrophe’s.
    (this is a widely used term for wrong apostrophes but I actually don’t like it. Just because someone can’t spell, doesn’t mean they’re an idiot)

If you want to read some authentic German, here’s a forum thread about being the duty fool.

Depp can also evolve to Volldepp, but if you want to go strong, the next one is much better.

*** der Vollpfosten ***

A Pfosten by itself is a pillar and it would not be understood as an insult. So why Vollpfosten. I have no clue. It has nice, pissed sound; that’s for sure.
Vollpfosten is working man’s  insult when they’re genuinely pissed but they don’t want to sound vulgar.  All kinds of traffic situations come to mind first, so Vollpfosten is usually used for people you don’t know.

  • Irgendein Vollpfosten hat mich zugeparkt.
  • Some dumbass/jackass blocked my car with his.
  • Mann, du Vollpfosten fahr doch mal. Grüner wird’s nich.
  • Dude, go already, you dumbass. It ain’t gonna get greener.

Vollpfosten only exists with voll, the next one only without.

*** der Schwachmat ***

 Schwach means weak and –mat… well… I always thought of it as coming from Automat so a Schwachmat is a dumb machine or something but I could be completely wrong. It has a nice sound, that’s what matters.
Schwachmat is about as strong as Vollpfosten  but I think it’s  a bit more about general behavior or mind set while Vollpfosten is usually used in reference to a specific deed.

  • Irr ich mich oder nimmt die Schwachmatendichte auf Facebook zu?
  • Am I wrong or is the dimwit density on Facebook increasing?
  • “Wie lange warst du auf der Party?”
    “Ach nich so lange. Da waren zu viele Schwachmaten.”
  • “How long did you stay at the party?”
    “Oh, not that long. There were too many idiots there.”

Just like Vollpfosten you’d also use Schwachmat for people you don’t know.
For people you do know, for friends and colleagues, you’d use the following.

 *** der Honk and der Horst ***

These two are pretty much perfect to use with your friends when they do something stupid. Honk doesn’t mean anything and I do not know where it came from and Horst.. well… Horst is actually a male first name. It’s a bit out of fashion but there are many people with that name. Like… the prime minister of Bavaria for Horst Seehofer for instance who can be a real Horst at times). No idea how these two words ended up as an insult but it did, and I think among the younger generations (<35, in Berlin <45) they’re pretty well known and widespread. And they’re often used as a direct way to addressing someone.

  • “Wo ist das Problem mit Chillie con Carne?”
    “Ich bin Vegetarier du Horst/Honk. Das weißt du doch.”
  • “What’s wrong with Chillie con Carne?”
    “I’m a vegetarian you dummy/dumbass. You do know that!”

  • Man du Horst, sei doch mal kurz ruhig.
  • Dude, be quiet for a second you moron.
    (I feel like “moron” sounds a bit stronger than Horst)

  • “Hast du gehört, was Thomas gemacht hat?”
    “Ja man, was für ein Honk.”
  • “Have you heard what Thomas did?”
    “Yeah man, what an idiot.”

Technically, these two can also “voll”-ify these two but I don’t think that’s very common.

And that’s it. These were some of the most common, most idiomatic choices for the idea of idiot and they’ll  all make you all sound super uber German. Like.. your friends will be really impressed when you call them “Du Honk” or “Du Horst” next time they’re being silly or if you bitch about the Vollpfosten in the metro.
What about you? Have you heard any of these before? Have you used them? And what are your favorite German insults?
Let me know in the comments below and be part of the competition for today’s give away. Which I’m not sure what it’s gonna be. Still. Yup, I’m a Honk indeed :).
Schönen Tag euch, und bis morgen.

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5 years ago

Is “dämlich” actually commonly used for “dumb”? I was watching a German dub of a cartoon I like, and kept hearing it. Sounds pretty sexist, oder?

5 years ago

Auf Englisch, zumindest in Neuseeland, nennen wir die Deppenapostrophe “the greengrocer’s apostrophe”, denn Zeichen in Obst/Gemueselaeden haben oft falsche Grammatik (aehnlich wie dieser Satz, vielleicht?)

Ich meine aber, dass dieser Begriff nicht so gemein ist, als “Deppenapostrophe”

5 years ago

Cuss words and insults are usually the first people search for, when learning a language, but I think I accidently skipped this part.
Great post, I’ll try use some of these with my friends, just so they know I’m not messing around when I say I’m learning german.

5 years ago

I love this blog….you have to find someone to do an Italian one…..unless this us one of your talents. 30 year ago, “du Esel” was what we were taught. Literally from the textbook. Probably a bit mild and uncool now.

5 years ago

Horst in this sense is used for both sexes? Using “given name” and “family name” might help to eliminate the difficulty of remembering which is a “surname.” They seem to be the preferred terms these days, at least in Australia.

Frohe Weihnacht und vielen Dank für den ganzen Adventkalender.

Eloise Smith
5 years ago

Vielen dank – Es wird bald zeit sein, um die Versammlungsfamilie mit lustigen Beleidigungen zu unterhalten! Besonders mit meinen kindischen Vettern. Und ich würde INEPT oder KLUTZY anstatt GOOFY verwenden. GOOFY ist definitiv komisch comment image/revision/latest?cb=20160508181231)

Katrin Knauer
Katrin Knauer
5 years ago

Regional thing once again – I’ve never ever heard of “Honk” being used in this sense (or any other – the only “honk” I’ve ever used / heard use is the English word for “hupen” – to honk one’s horn). Maybe it’s common in Berlin, but it certainly isn’t in Southern Germany! “Horst” isn’t very common, either, but I’ve heard it. “Vollpfosten” is and so is “Schwachmat” (one of my personal favourites :-) ) and then, of course, you have the wonderful “Depp” or “Volldepp” (du Depp, du Depp, du Depp, du depperter Depp, du!!)

5 years ago

Schön, einige von denen hatte ich nie gehört, nämlich Vollpfosten, Schwachmat, Honk und Horst.

Lol, “if you bitch the Vollpfosten”. I think you mean either “if you bitch *about* the Vollpfosten” (complain about the person to your friends) or less likely, “if you bitch *at* the Vollpfosten” (if you actually complain directly to the person).

5 years ago

Sorry to high jack this post a little but seeing as you were talking about insults and mild cussing I have a question. On this episode of simpsons YouTube one of the scenes involves the Germans expressing surprise at the state of the power plant. Watching from 1:50 to 2:00 reveals 2 expressions. The first one I think is “ach du liebe”, but I’m not sure if I heard it right or what it means. Well obviously it’s like “oh my goodness” or similar. The second I’m sure of “Gott im Himmel” which is more like “goodness me” or “oh my god”. Can you help me identify the first expression when they find the raccoons. Thanks.

5 years ago

I think der Trottel would be best translated in currently used English (Northern English at least) as “plodder”. Quite a similar meaning too. Interesting page, thank you!

5 years ago

I am quite sure that “Honk” is an acronym of “Hilfsarbeiter ohne nennenswerte Kenntnisse” = “assistent worker without noteworthy skills”. It is of course not always used with that in mind.

5 years ago

Schwachmat reminds me of Schachmatt.

Jason Harrison
Jason Harrison
5 years ago

I actually think I’ve heard Vollhonk a fair bit. Usually aimed in my direction…

Hugh Warren
Hugh Warren
5 years ago

I think you mean that “Horst” is a male christian- or first- name, not surname. Always nice to have these sort of things at one’s disposal!

5 years ago

Oh. Ich hab schon bemerkt, dass du deine Seite ganz überarbeitet hast. Sieht gut aus. Mach weiter so

5 years ago

Dude1 – Hast du gehört, was Emanuel getan hat?
Dude2 – Ja, er hat noch ein Tippfehler im Artikel gestellt.
Dude1 – So ein Horst.

Fröhliche Weihnachten kumpel.

Du bist voll der Hammer.

Alles gute zum neuen Jahr.

5 years ago

Der arme Johnny ist immer der Depp vom Film :(