Word of the Day – “die Lücke”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our G__man Word of the Day, this time with a look at

die Lü  cke

 

And I think you already know now what it is –
a Lü   cke is a ga   p :).
Here it is in a sentence.

  • Der Bär ist durch eine kleine Lücke im Fluss geflogen.
  • The bear flew through a little gap in the river.

Yes!
This example just happened. So what. Don’t look at me like that.
I have normal examples, too, though so let’s take a look.
Just mind the gap between  intro and article :)

That’s actually good example for Lücke in daily life.

  • Bitte beachten Sie die Lücke zwischen Zug und Bahnsteigkante.
  • Mind the gap between platform and train.

Bahnsteigkante… for real? Come on, German. Like…   “Uhm…  excuse me,  by platform you mean the edge of the platform, right? I mean, I know English likes to be a bit vague. It’s fine. I just want to make sure I’m minding the right gap.”
Sigh… German really could really have a little courage to leave things unaddressed.
Or as you’d say in German: Mut zur Lücke. People say that for example when they prepare for an exam and there’s one topic that they deliberately don’t study for hoping that it won’t be part of the exam.

  • “Ich glaub’ Adjektivendungen lass ich weg.”
    “Wieso das denn?”
    “Mut zur Lücke.”
  • “I think I’ll skip adjective endings.”
    “Why is that?”
    “Lit.: Courage for the gap.”
    (is there a good way to express that in English? Danke :)

     

The really cool thing about Lücke are the super useful compounds though. I’m sure you’ll see some of those in daily life.

  • “Heute machen wir einen Lückentext.”
    “Juchuuuu.”
  • “Today, we’ll do a cloze/fill in the blank text
    “Hooraaay.”
  • Thomas sucht eine Parklücke.
  • Thomas is searching for a parking space.
    (specifically, a free parking space on the side of the road)
  • Maria hat eine süße Zahnlücke.
  • Maria has a cute tooth gap.
  • Marc ist für Maria nur Lückenbüßer/Lückenfüller.
  • Marc was just a short term replacement/fill-in for Maria.
  • Meine Erinnerung an gestern Abend ist sehr lückenhaft.
  • My memory of last night is very patchy, incomplete.

Cool.
So this is Lücke, the German word for gap.
Tadaaa    aah.
And there’s not much more to say about it.
Now you might be like “Wait, it’s a nice word  but … is that all?! Usually you have some cool surprises and connections.”
Well, I d   o.
Quite a few.
And one is so cool, it might make your jaw drop and leave you with your mouth open.

trivia-time :)

Or should we say mouth gaping? Because that’s the first relative of the word gap. Now, that relation is not a big reveal. But there’s more. For example the word for one particular kind of having your mouth wide open. Need a hint? You do it when you’re tired.
Exactly. Yawning. Yawning  and also the German translation gähnen are relatives of gap.  In fact, the German gähnen is sometimes used as a direct translation for gaping.

  • Die alte, fragile Brücke spannt sich über den gähnenden Abgrund.
  • The old fragile bridge spans over the gaping abyss.

The origin is the more or less ancient Indo-European root *ghai and the core idea was basically gaping hole. So it hasn’t changed much. Gasping is another member of the family. Or the German verb gaffen, which basically staring at something with eyes (and mouth) wide open.

  • “Thomas, kannst du bitte aufhören, meine Schwester anzugaffen?!”
  • “Thomas, can you please stop staring/gaping at my sister?!”
  • Gaffen an einer Unfallstelle ist jetzt gesetzlich verboten, und kann zu hohen Geldstrafen führen, da Gaffer die Rettungsarbeiten behindern.
  • “gawking”, rubbernecking at the site of an accident is illegal and can lead to hefty fines, because “rubberneckers/gawkers” obstruct the rescue operations.
    (what’s the proper translation here? It’s a negative way of staring)

But the real surprise are two words that come from good old Latin and Greek: hiatus and chaos. Yup, those two are related to each other. And related to gap. Hiatus is not THAT crazy actually, it’s basically a gap in time.
Chaos on the other hand… chaos seems pretty random. But it isn’t…. … …
… …
Get it, get it? I just did a thing there… ahhh…  math jokes. Harder to get than
But seriously, the original meaning of chaos in Ancient Greek was somewhat similar to chasma gaping void.  Greek philosophers used it to refer to emptiness that was there before all things but also for “world matter” in it’s ordered state; so that’s how the notion of disorder came about. And oh, speaking of matter… what’s the most chaotic state for matter? A gas. The word gas is actually an invention by one single person, a Flemish chemist, but he basically made it as a variation of the word… coahs.
Yawn, gas, chaos…. pretty cool right?

But now we need to of course also look at the family of Lücke. And the closest , most obvious relative of Lücke is Luke.
And we can all do the math… if Lücke is related to Luke, then that that means Lücke is also related to freaking Yoda.
#nerd-triggered
Seriously though, a Luke is a small window or door-like opening.

  • Thomas ist fast in der Dachluke steckengeblieben.
  • Thomas almost got stuck in the roof hatch/skylight.

Luke is not very common, but the next relative of Lücke is… das Loch. Which is the German word for hole.

  • Ich habe mehrere Löcher  im T-Shirt.
  • I have a several holes in my t-shirt.
  • Deine Wohnung ist voll das Dreckloch. Räum mal auf!
  • Your flat is such a shit hole. Tidy up, man!
  • Viele Studenten fallen nach ihrer Master-Arbeit erst mal in ein Loch.
  • Many students fall into a hole after finishing their master’s thesis.

Gee, they really need to fix that side walk in front of the library.
Badum tish.
Anyways, Loch is definitely a word you need and be it only to accurately describe other people… like… say… ex-boyfriends… or a waiter at a Berlin café.

  • Der Kellner war voll das Arschloch.
  • The waiter was a real asshole.

And there are a few words based on Loch, so let’s take a look at those, too.

  • Hör auf, mich zu löchern. Ich will dir nicht jedes Detail erzählen.
  • Stop pelting me with questions. I don’t want to tell you every detail.
    “lit.: make holes in me”
  • Bei der Firmenparty hat Thomas versucht, sich mit einem Locher  ein Nasenpiercing zu machen.
  • At the company party, Thomas tried to make a nose piercing with the hole puncher.
  • Ich habe ein löchriges Shirt.
  • I have a holy shit.

I wish I did. I feel so constipat… okay, this is getting really weird.
Time to wrap this up. Just one more weird thing real quick.. the relation that Lücke and Loch have in English. Because the English relative is… drum roll please…. the lock.
Yup. I though the same when I found out about that.
And I’ll leave it up to you to close that Lücke. Let me know your theories in the comments :).
So this was it, our look at Lücke and a whole bunch of trivia you can bore your friends with. Like…  the word gas being invented by a Flemish chemist, modeled after the word chaos.  The beer pong table will be empty when you tell stories like that.
Seriously though, I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions, just leave me a comment. Otherwise, I’ll see you next week :).

** vocab **

die Lücke(n) – the gap(s)
die Parklücke – empty parking spot on the side of the street
die Zahnlücke – the tooth gap
die Erinnerungslücke – the gap in memory
lückenhaft – fragmented, full of holes (not in a factual sense)
der Lückentext – the cloze, fill in the gap text

das Loch – the hole
löchrig – holey, full of holes
löchern – make full of holes, figurative: bombard with questions
der Locher – the hole puncher

gaffen – gaze (negative connotation)
gähnen – yawn, also: gape

 

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Zachary Ettlich
Zachary Ettlich
4 years ago

There are two english words that compare with Gaffen.

There’s just ‘gape,’ which means to stare at something (with your mouth open) at something in wonder.
There’s also ‘gawk,’ which describes pretty much the same thing, but implies stupidity or confusion.

tim
tim
3 years ago

‘Gape’ doesn’t mean stare at all, it means to be open, usually dramatically. You’re not alone, others (Janis Ian among them) have made this mistake, probably because to ‘gaze’ is to stare at something. Your mouth can gape with your eyes closed and you can gaze at something with your mouth closed.

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
4 years ago

So regarding “Mut zur Lücke”: you mention it’s more like a battle cry ironically used to talk about a gap in knowledge/preparation? There’s an expression from Shakespeare that came to mind: “Once more unto the breach!” from Henry V. (“Breach” would be a gap in enemy lines or a wall.) It definitely wouldn’t work in the context of “I’m just going to hope not studying this material doesn’t come back to bite me.”

Warren
Warren
4 years ago

Trust my luck. (oder Lücke?)

melisw
4 years ago

You could actually just say that Thomas was gaping at Maria’s sister. That means to stare at with an open mouth.

Francesca Greenoak
Francesca Greenoak
4 years ago
Reply to  melisw

We say gawping which you can direct at Maria’s sister or an accident. Gawping at the latter happens in England and does cause further accidents sometimes.

Francesca Greenoak
Francesca Greenoak
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thanks for you quick reply. Neither gape nor gawk really works but gawk is closer, though rarely used. Gawping is in common usage but not employed in any official context. There is not I think currently a noun associated with it. (Haven’t look it up in OED as I’ve been away.) Another possible phrase would be I’m chancing it’ or ‘taking a chance’ – implying volition and risk. All best .

tim
tim
3 years ago
Reply to  melisw

This is a mistake commonly made because of the similarity to ‘gaze’, which means to stare.

Dave b
Dave b
4 years ago

“Mut zur Lücke” – I can’t come up with any modern AE idiom that’s close to that. I ran across a line in German that translated to something like “You should have courage that the gap in your knowledge will not hinder you terribly though out your life.” As if we might say to someone, ” ‘nobody knows everything’, so be confident.” . .. With that in mind, “courage for the gap” makes sense to me.

It has nothing in regard to courage, but, at least in America, we might say I will “just let well enough do”. Along the line of what Bill wrote, “I’m so weary of studying, so que será, será.”

Francesca Greenoak
Francesca Greenoak
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

You could say – take a leap into the dark.
This sounds both chancey and bold.

Hugh Warren
Hugh Warren
4 years ago

“The old fragile bridge spans over the gaping abyss.” In english we’d normally leave out ‘over’, and just ‘span the gaping abyss’

Ruth
Ruth
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Since no-one else has answered that question – to me it’s wrong. Understandable (both in the sense that the meaning is clear and that it’s easy to see how the mistake arises), but wrong. Span says all that’s needed. Stretches over (or across), arches over (or across), reaches over (…), but just spans.

Francesca Greenoak
Francesca Greenoak
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

It seemseems as if German likes to make absolutely sure we’ve got the point. If I were wanting to express this, I’d say The fragile old bridge spanned the abyss. (Assuming abysses gape is okay.) We don’t have rules for word order like Germans do but English English native speakers wouldn’t say old, fragile.

Ubungmachtdenmeister
Ubungmachtdenmeister
4 years ago

Oh and die Lösung, the solution, because it fills a hole of knowledge? Maybe I’m not sleeping enough but it could be connected with some super special mind yoga?

Ubungmachtdenmeister
Ubungmachtdenmeister
4 years ago

What about löschen ergo to delete something. Does that not count as part of the family, by removing or deleting it leaves a gap. Surely it’s connected

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I would think it’d mean “ein kleines Los.” :D

billkamm
billkamm
4 years ago

The best translation I can give you for “Mut zur Lücke” is “to wing something” or to “hope for the best” or maybe even combining them. I’ll give you an some examples in context:

“I’m not going to study adjective endings. I’m just going to wing it.”
“I’m not going to study adjective endings. I’m just going to hope for the best.”
“I’m not going to study adjective endings. I’m just going to wing it and hope for the best.”

Some other possible translations:
“Let the cards fall where they may.”
“Leave it up to chance.”

aoind
aoind
4 years ago

Es sieht so aus, als ob Deutsch wohl eine Redewendung für jeden Umstand hat. Leider ist “Mut zur Lücke” nicht übersetzbar, aber man könnte was wie “Hoping it doesn’t come up” sagen. “Gaze” besagt, dass jemand ganz abgelenkt bei etwas ist, aber “gawk” ist gut um einen neugierigen zu beschreiben. Wir sagen auch in Großbritannien “gawp”. Ein beliebtes Wort in so einem Umstand wird auch “rubberneck/ rubbernecking/ rubbernecker” sein.

aoind
aoind
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Danke für die hilfreichen Korrekturen Emanuel und auch für die freundlichen Komplimente. Du hast recht. Normalerweise “Rubbernecking” würde den Kopf benötigen zu drehen, aber trotzdem wird es häufig unrichtig verwendet.

aoind
aoind
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ich glaube nicht so, mindestens habe ich davon noch nie gehört. Vielleicht gibt es keine Not, seitdem die Britische so schüchtern sind!

aoind
aoind
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Danke nochmals!