Word of the Day – “Kostehäppchen”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: March 17, 2022

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German word of the Day and I have a confession to make right away… I am not prepared.
Usually I have all kinds of notes, flow charts, mind maps and things with me but not this time. I didn’t really know what to talk about today and I am going to need your help so call in if you want to be live on the show. The number is 0800- 848 – vocab-4-u, I repeat, 0800 – 848 – vocab-4-u and our first call comes from Montreal, Christin hi … 
“Hi Emanuel, great to be on the show… “
Isn’t it like night right over there?
“Hahaha.. oh it is about sunrise actually…” 
And how come you are so awake already?
“Well, I have to work quite early anyway and I do love the mornings… like the air and the lighting … and I love to listen to your show while having my coffee…”
Sounds great, German and coffee really can keep you awake… some pilots on a long distance flight actually take out their German textbook when they feel fatigue…. gets them right back to 100%…   so are you ready to help me out here?
“Sure, do you want me to like suggest a word?”
No I’d rather give chance a chance. You will go over the alphabet silently and I will say stop at some point. Then you tell me the letter and I will say the first thing that comes to my mind that starts with that letter…. alright?
“Yep, I am ready.”
Ok go…
“A… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … .”
Uhhhm … y…y… oh man, I can’t think of one word starting with y … we’ll have to do it again.
” … (laughs)…”
Ok, so… go!
 “A ………………….”
“No, no… kay… “
Oh k.. k k k… Kostehäppchen.

“Whaaaat… gostenhapp… whaaat?”
Haha … Kostehäppchen… I think in English it would read something like  Kaw-ste-hap-shen.
“Ohhh let me try… Kostehäppchen…. ”
Yeah.. that was perfect… do you know what it is?
“No… it’s a noun, right? You said it with a capital K, so it must be a noun.”
Absolutely… it is das Kostehäppchen... it’s cute little word actually… do you want to stay with us for a bit and help?
“Sure why not… ”
Cool, so do you have any idea what it could be?
“Well I do recognize the koste-part… I guess it comes from the verb kosten?”
Yes that’s right so far… and do you know what kosten means?
“Yeah… it’s like to cost … right?”
Exactly… to cost is the first meaning of kosten.
“Is the usage about the same or are there any trapdoors?”
Hmmm… well, I think in daily life kosten is a little more common than to cost...  like in English people would say

  • The coffee is 3 Euro.
  • How much is a beer?

“Yeah that’s true… maybe because costs is kind of weird to pronounce…”
Hah maybe … coststs…  anyways … using sein (to be) in that context doesn’t work in German at all.

  • Wieviel ist ein Bier?

That would be really confusing. People use either kosten or … big shock… machen.
“Ahaha… You guys use machen for everything… that’s so weird...”

  • Der Kaffee kostet (macht) 3 Euro.
  • Ein Bier und ein Kaffee …wieviel macht(kostet) das?

I’d say machen is preferable whenever we are talking about an addition of sorts… like if you wanted to use kosten in the second example that would raise a number of questions

  • Ein Bier und ein Kaffee… was kostet das vs. was kosten die? (should I use singular or plural…. I don’t know)

It is not entirely clear that you want the sum of both prices… so for clarity  I would feel tempted to add zusammen (together) but then the whole thing becomes overly long. Long story short… machen is used for sums while kosten is for single items where no math skill is needed… And another little side note: people tend to replace wieviel with  was. It is just shorter.

  • Was kostet der Kaffee?

If someone asks you that and you are eager for an awkward silence you may just say “Geld.”… most people won’t find that funny.
Anyways… there is also a noun die Kosten… it is a plural noun that doesn’t really have a singular and the meaning is the expenses or the costs.

  • Die Kosten für das Projekt sind immens gestiegen.
  • The costs for the project have increased considerably.

And while we’re at it let’s name some other Words using kosten : die Kostenexplosion… which is pretty self explanatory, kostbar, which means valuable and finally kostenlos which means for free… be careful though, kostenlos ain’t quite the same as kostenlos*… you know… with the small print and stuff ;)…
So Christin, are you still with us?
“Of course…”
Great… now I think you were familiar with this meaning of kosten but there is actually another one, here is an example:

  • Willst du mal meinen Rotwein kosten?

Do you have an idea what that could mean?
“Uh… is it like to pay maybe??? … like Do you want to pay my red wine?..”
No, but I am sure that MANY German learners would have thought the same. Kosten has a second meaning which despite being quite narrow is also not uncommon in daily conversation… to try but only in sense of to try food.
So the sentence with the wine is actually

  • Would you like to try my red wine?

“Woooow, I did not know that… I though to try food is probieren…”
Yes, probieren is ok, too, but kosten is shorter and just more like common man talk… probieren is like fancy Latinish.
“German is soooo strange… like… why does kosten mean to cost and to try food? I just can’t see any connection there… “
That is because there is none… the cost-kosten originates from the Latin costare while the taste-kosten comes from the old Indo-European root g̑eus… this (really really old) word used to mean to taste food. This root is still visible in Roman languages … for example the Italian gustare and it can also be seen in English… in the word disgusting… dis-gust-ing.
In Germanic the meaning of the root shifted to something like to try, to chose, to experience before a famous German scientist called Martin Luther, who invented like the first telescope or something, revived the old taste-meaning… and that’s what it is today… so taste-kosten and cost-kosten have a completely different background and it is a coincidence that they are spelled the same.
“Oh wow… could you do another example with the food-trying-kosten?”
Oh sure…

  • Koste mal die Suppe und sag mir, ob da noch Salz fehlt!
  • Try the soup and tell me, whether there is salt missing!

It is ok, if you keep using probieren… sometimes it is even the better choice though I can’t really put my finger on when exactly… but people definitely use kosten in this try food meaning regularly.
“Cool… that is really good to know… “
So… I guess we’re done for today…
“Wait you haven’t explained Kostehäppchen yet…”
Ohhhhhh damn of course… thank you so much, I had totally forgotten about that… so…
The second part is the word Häppchen. Häppchen is a ‘cutified’ form of Happen. If you want to make something small and cute to a degree you can always add -chenKatze – das Kätzchen (kitten), Hund – Hündchen (puppy), ein Gläschen Wein (one small glass of wine… the one that won’t hurt). Sometimes it doesn’t really make sense to add -chen… like… Toilettendeckelchen which would be a little toilet lit… but technically it works with every noun. So ein Häppchen is a small Happen.
“And what is Happen?”
Der Happen
is a small bite… now there is also the word der Bissen, which is in fact related to bite. I’d say a Bissen puts a little more emphasis on the teeth involved while a Happen is more the … well, I don’t know how to say it… just picture someone holding up a peace of chocolate in front of your mouth and you snap forward to eat it… that is my association with Happen.
So anyway… a Häppchen is a little tiny Happen so it is a small bite. But it is not about you doing it… it is used for the part of food. So a small piece of food that you can eat without biting it off somewhere is a Häppchen. Häppchen is also the German word for finger-food by the way… like little cheese cubes and carrot sticks and olives… these would be called Häppchen.
And now all that we need to do is to decide which kosten we are dealing with here, now Christin, what would you say.. is it the cost-one or the try-one?
“Hmmm… well, since Häppchen is food related I’d go for the try-one….”
Exactly… and now the big conclusion… a Kostehäppchen is a small bite or piece of something someone is cooking and  I think there is no translation in English.
 “Yeah… I think so, too…but I think I got what it is… it is like a teaser trailer for the dish maybe …”
Hahhahahhahaha… that is a really good idea… it totally nails it… we’ll just wrap it up here. Christin, it was a pleasure having you on the show and thank you sooooo much for helping me out today.
“No problem…. I did enjoy it…”
So guys… this was our random German Word of the Day das Kostehäppchen… which is a teaser trailer for a dish. If you have any questions or suggestions leave me a comment… I hope you liked it and see you next time… and then I will be prepared again, I promise :).

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