and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we’ll take a look at the meaning of
Bock originally comes from the animal kingdom and there are similar words throughout all Germanic languages. The English counterpart is buck. Now, I am not an expert in uh … I think it’s called ‘animal botany’… but I think the German Bock is refers mainly to a male goat… also know as he-goat. Wait… he-goat? Is that a joke? No? Oh there is he-cat too? Does that mean that I can say he-cow or he-snake? Or he-woman? Or even he-man with the power of not one but 2 swo…. aaaaanywaaaaays.
So, Bock by itself is a male goat but it can be used a few other animals too such as Rehbock (roebuck) or Steinbock, which is both, the animal and the zodiac sign).
- “Was bist du für’n Sternzeichen.”
“Ich bin Steinbock.”
- “What zodiac sign are you?”
“I’m a Capricorn.”
Now, what’s interesting about Bock is the fact that German is using the word for quite a number of other things…. just like it did with the word der Vogel. I don’t know about other languages but seems to me that German really likes using animal names. So… let’s start looking at all the different meanings.
In gymnastics class a Bock can be a nightmare for people. It was for me. Run towards it, jump on the spring board and then smash against it and sprain your ankle… oh the horror. What I am talking about is the vaulting horse (some pictures) and the leap over it is called Bocksprung (leapfrog). Now, I never understood what the point of Bocksprung is because I NEVER jump over stuff that way in daily life … but what I do know is the purpose of the next Bock.
You need it if you want to work with wood or metal and again, just like with the sports-Bock, English is using the word horse for it… der (Säge)bock is the sawing horse (some pictures).
Now… I know that these 2 Bocks are already incredibly fascinating and you can’t wait to get out and use them in conversation but there is an even more useful Bock.
Bock is a colloquial term for die Lust in sense of desire or appetite. Why does Bock mean that? Well, some claim that this one comes from Rothwelsh and it was a Romani word for hunger (bokh) so it has nothing to do with the animal. My etymological dictionary, however, suggests a different origin which can be summarized like this (the persons talking are the common conscious of all Germans of different centuries)
“A Bock is and shall always be a male goat.”
“Hey…uhm… I have a funny idea. I have observed that male goats
want to mate with female goats quite often so let’s call a man with a
beard who constantly wants to mate with females a Bock“
“That’s cool… hey how about we say the lust of such a man is a Bock… so he has Bock.”
“Oh that sounds groovy… let’s be crazy and just not care what the
man wants or that it’s a man to begin with… let’s just always say that
we have Bock if we want something.”
And that’s where we are today. Bock haben is a very very very frequently used way to say to want something.
- Ich hab’ Bock auf’n Bier.
- I want a beer.
- Hast du Bock auf Kino?
- Do you want to go see a movie?
- “Hey, ich geh’ zum Konzert von Milton Freedman. Willst du mit?”
“Nee, keinen Bock.“
- “Hey, I am going to the concert of Milton Friedman. Wanna come?”
“Nah, not interested.”
So… is Bock slang? The answer is a clear no. Bock maybe used to be limited to school yards while the parents would use Lust in all those examples but not anymore. Lust sounds so … behaved. Bock has made quite a career and it is now pretty common.
The young Left uses it a lot:
- Kein Bock auf Nazis. (festival flyer)
there are books with it in the title:
- Null Bock auf Schule/Karma/Lernen (at Amazon)
and it is used in a (stupid) advertisement for a big ass electro chain:
- Bock auf billige Schweinereien? (street ad pig… I mean pic)
Even a whole generation is named after the “I don’t care”-attitude they display – die Null-Bock-Generation. By the way… null Bock literally means zero desire or NOT interested and opposite extreme would be voll Bock … you can’t say viel Bock. Why not? Pshhhh, why should I care.
So… I’d say we could call this “I want to“-Bock commonly accepted by now. You shouldn’t use it when you’re talking with your professor or with the police in any formal situation but with friends it’s all right. Even my mom says it every now and then. And my mom is usually very very mom.
Now, all the examples so far were rather short… so here is a longer one.
- “Warum bist du denn so sauer?”
“Ich hab’ halt einfach mal voll keinen Bock drauf, dass ich wie letztes mal die ganze Präsentation alleine vorbereite und du dann schön mit einer 1 rausmarschierst ohne irgendwas gemacht zu haben.”
- “Why on earth are you so mad?”
“Well, I simply have absolutely no desire to do the whole presentation alone like last time and then you waltz out of class with an A without having done a thing.”
What’s that? Oh no no.. this is real… this is how people talk. We do use THAT many particles in one sentence. I’d even say that I use the combination “halt einfach mal voll keinen Bock fairly often… but I don’t want start talking about particles… you can just take the whole thing and say it to a German friend and maybe they be be baffled by how genuine you sound :).
Now, before we get to the last Bock and some other Bock-words, we should take a quick look at the grammar. You have probably noticed that I always used the preposition auf in the examples. Just like Lust or Appetit, Bock only works with auf or with a zu-construction … so … here are the 3 possible:
- Ich hab’ Bock auf [insert thing] – “Ich hab’ Bock auf Bier.”
- Ich hab’ Bock (drauf) [insert zu-sentence] – “Ich hab’ Bock zu schlafen”.
- Ich hab’ Bock drauf, dass [insert minor sentence]. – “Ich hab’ Bock drauf, dass endlich Sommer wird.”
All right now on to the nex…. oh, wait, I almost forgot to mention that this Bock can mean fun too. The phrasing is Bock machen and it is a colloquial Spaß machen.
- Das Computerspiel macht voll Bock.
- The game is a lot of fun.
- “Wie war’s die Achterbahnfahrt?”
“War cool, hat Bock gemacht.“
- “How was the roller-coaster ride?”
“Great, it was fun.”
I don’t know how it feels to you but for me Bock haben and Bock machen is kind of the same Bock… at least compared to the Bock that means mistake. It is not used much but you can see or hear it in the media so if you do and the other Bocks do not make sense – don’t be confused. This mistake-bock is also the base for the verb verbocken which is basically to screw up.
- Wer hat das verbockt?
- Who’s fault is that?
but this word isn’t used much either.
What’s that you’re asking? Oooooh, you want to know whyyyyyyy Bock means mistake. Well, it is basically hunters jargon. When they had there shooting competitions the looser would get a literal Bock as a consolation gift because…uh he-goats suck as a price I guess but hey… who cares… let’s get to the nice refreshing, inspiring, tasty, sparkling, amber colored, the ability to drive a car or operate heavy machinery impairing one… the
Bockbier is a kind of Bier. It is not THAT common and I have never seen it sold in a bar, neither on tap nor bottled, but you can get it at any grocery store.
No matter what brand, it will always have Bockbier on the label and, guess what, a male goat. The origin of the same are different though. It was first brewed in a town of Northern Germany called Einbeck. From there, it made its way to Munich and the Bavarian dialect changed Einbeck into “oambock” and eventually just “bock”.
Now, the difference between Bock and normal beer is the percentage by volume (PV) of alcohol. For Bockbier it is usually around 7 while normal beer has 5. So Bock is a rather strong beer and the taste is definitely something to get used to. But it has definitely grown on me… and I don’t mean belly-wise… badum tish…. so I suggest you give it a try.
A few months ago I bought a beer that had 14 percent by volume. That makes it stronger than wine… and it was basically like a liqueur. What was really interesting is the way it was made… they brew the beer as strong as possible. Then the yeast dies because the alcohol content is too high. So then they freeze the beer. Water freezes at higher temperatures than alcohol so they have a ice-beer-mix which they then pour through nylons – those socks women are wearing- thus separating the ice and the beer that now has a higher percentage…. yummie.
And 14 is just the start… there are reports of up to 70 percent per volume out there.
Now, Germany is not only known for its beer but also for its neighboring countries cuisine so naturally there is also a very fancy dish with Bock in it.
served on a elegantly shaped gray-white cardboard plate that is only
used this one time, accompanied by a delicate, golden colored sauce
that creatively combines mustard seeds and vinegar as well as a side
of oven-baked refined wheat-dust comes:
Seriously though… Bockwurst has this name because people in Bavaria liked to eat it with their Bockbier. It is a sausage that is cooked and subsequently sits in hot water for a whole day before you finally buy it because the gas station has nothing else to offer you. Sometimes I really feel like getting one but I know that after half of it I will feel a slight nausea. If any of you out there has eaten one… was it the same for you or am I just weird???
Anyway… I think we’re done for today actually. I mean technically we’re not. There is still the word bockig and there is also an interesting phenomenon about the fun-Bock and cases but I’ll stop anyway because … Ich hab’ kein’n Bock mehr :).
But I have one more picture for you that sums up a lot … here. When you know that Kölsch is a very light beer then this is witty on 3 levels.
Alright, if you have any questions or suggestions or if you want to share your Bockwurst story with us just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.