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.

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.

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

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

*** der Schwachmat ***

Schwach means weakand –mat… well… I always thought of it as coming from Automat so a Schwachmatis 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.

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… Horstis 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.

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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