Word of the Day – “die Nase”- Special

nase-germanHello everyone,

and welcome to our German word of the Day or actually…today it’s more of a style special … well… not really a style special… it’s a … uhm… it’s just a special and specials are awesome. Now, we all have noses. And noses are awesome, too, because we can smell with them…okay, except if we need to pee right after that colleague had had his morning constitutional; then it’s not that awesome but anyway, specials are awesome, noses are – mostly – awesome, together they’re super awesome and that’s why today we’ll do a


or in German


We’ll look at the different parts and shapes, we’ll gather all activities that are related to our nose and we’ll take a look at the wealth of nose-idioms that German has to offer. Smells good?

Nose – the schematics

Let’s start with a look at the nose itself. In German it is called die Nase.
Of course both words are related and when we trace them back over centuries and centuries and more centuries we’ll finally arrive at the very super incredibly freaking ancient Indo-European root *nas- which meant… the exact same thing. Nose. Nose erprises there… haha.

At the tip of the nose, there’s the uhm … tip of the nose, which in German is called Nasenspitze. A Spitze is a more or less pointy top and it is used for a variety of things… Messerspitze , Bergspitze and even Landspitze. Spitze is also a fabric and it is used as an adjective much like the English top notch.

All right. Left and right of the Nasenspitze are the Nasenflügel – the nose wing.Wing probably comes from the same root as wind while der Flügel actually comes from the activity you do with it.. fliegel (to fly).But although they’re not related they translate really well…

Both Nasenspitzeand Nasenflügel are the end of what is called Nasenrücken – the (b)ridge of the nose. This is basically a bone and bone is related to the German word das Bein. A few centuries back Bein still meant simply bone, but then came der Knochenand took over, and Bein changed and means leg today… but not always. Here and there we can see left-overs of the original Bein… for example in German word for ivoryElfenbein,which literally means… oh my god… fairy bone?! Jesus, this is awful…. those poor fairies. But anyway, another example for the old bone-Beinis the word der Nasenbeinbruch

Wow, German is actually shorter for once :).
Now, a nose wouldn’t make much sense if it had no opening, no Nasenlöcher.

By the way… das Loch is not related to the Scottish Loch as in Loch Ness, but rather to the word locker… which kind of is a whole in the wall.
All right.
Now, every nose looks different and there are a million shapes but beside a normal boring nose, there are 3 special types of nose … the Knoll(en)nase, the Hakennase and the Stupsnase.
Eine Knolle is mostly used for vegetables… potatoes are a Knolle, celery is a Knolle and oddly even garlic comes by the Knolle. So a Knolle is basically a kind of ball and a Knollnasehas this big round tip. Find some exampleshere.
Ein Haken is a hook and a Hakennase has this characteristic downward curve along the bridge (click here for examples) . Some people also call it Adlernase(eagle-nose) but Hakennase is the more common name, and in English it’s also called hook nose I think. It’s kind of form over function here, though because a hook nose is exactly not the nose you can hang, say, your coat on to. It’ll just fall down.
That’s different for the Stupsnase, which is the one that is more or less pointing upward (see here for examples) . Stups comes from the verb stupsenwhich I would translate as to cutely and softly poke. Cats do that their head for example. Or your loved one does it when you’re passing out at ballet. So I think Stupsnase is called Stupsnase because this kind of nose is especially fit for stupsen. And both, the nose and the word are cute, or at least I think so, and so it makes sense.
So that was the nose from the outside. Time to shrink ourselves and take a look inside. There, we’ll find mainly 3 things: Nasenhaare which is self translating, die Schleimhaut (mucous membrane),which literally means slime skin and of course plenty of boogers which in German are called Popel. I really like the word der Popel. It just sounds the part. And there are even words based on Popel… for example popelig, which is a colloquial term somewhere between small, irrelevant, weak and pathetic.

And conveniently there also the verb that describes the often ostracized act of getting ‘dem boogers out with your fingers… popeln.

And thus we’re already in the middle of the next part and I wonder where the headlin…oh there it is

Nose – related verbs

Yeah thanks… try to be a little earlier next time. Stupid headline.
Anyways, there is an alternative to popeln… no, I don’t mean blowing the nose. That won’t get the dry ones out. I mean a verbal alternative. In der Nase bohren is often used to express that someone has nothing to do.

Now, if there are not just a few Popel in there but 2 liters of snot, we have the following two options… breathe in or breathe out

But enough with that. Let’s get to the actual purpose of the nose besides breathing and that is our sense of smell.
The verbto smell has no known relatives outside English and the German translation is riechen. This is related to to reekbut just like to smell it works both way… so it can mean to send out a smell as well as to receive and decode it.

Riechen is the ONLY word for to take in a smellbut there are more for the sending out. Here they are in the order of pleasantness :) .. together with their past forms

Stinken is always negative.

By the way… there is actually a forth verb for sending out a certain smell and that is müffeln. It is not a good smell but it is not as strong as stinken. If you don’t hang up your laundry for to days it will start to müffeln.It’s not used that much but it might be useful as a friendly approach to telling your partner that a shower is due.

But let’s move on.
Riechen is pretty neutral and you can combine it with good and bad smell.

If it is used alone however, riechen has a negative note… kind of like to reek, although it is not as strong.

Duftenfinally belongs to the word family of der Dunst(mist), der Dampf (steam) or English dust.So it’s about small particles in the air… like … say… perfume, right when you spray it. This old meaning is still present in the very colloquial verduften which is to piss off. I don’t know why duften turned out to be all positive but it did.

Now, there are two main way to express how something smells….using nachand wie.

  • Es riecht/duftet/stinkt wie/nachZwiebeln
  • It smells like/of onions.

Both are common but the wie is more of a direct comparison while nach is more about having notes or features of a smell.

This can mean that there are hints of chocolate in there, while wiewould mean that it smells just like chocolate. It is not super strict though so in a lot of cases people use them synonymously.
All right.
Now, each of those verbs of course has a noun. For stinken it is der Gestank.

I feel like Gestank is generally stronger than smell or even stench.
For riechenthe noun is der Geruch.

For duften finally it is… no … not Geduftbut simply der Duft.

Now you’re like “What a dumb name for a perfume. Cougars don’t particularly smell good”. But hey… they put all kinds of stuff into perfumes. Because it is about the Duftstoffe(scents/pheromones), not the pleasantness. A good mixture can get us quite “fired up” BECAUSE of the musk ox urin or whale poop inside. And in the wrong mixture even the smoothest vanilla or pine needle extract won’t compel us to go for first base.
And that brings us right to… the idioms.

Nose – idioms

On a semi-conscious level our sense of smell has a HUGE influence on our choice
of partners. So the following idiom is not too far fetched.

This doesn’t mean that they literally cannot smell each other. It means that they
really don’t get along.

  • My girlfriend and my brother can’t stand each other.

And there are many more. A really common one for instance is

  • die Nase voll haben von

which expresses that you’re fed up with something.

Actually… being sick often implies having the nose full, so maybe that’s where this comes from.
The next one is pretty easy to visualize.

Leading someone around by the nosecertainly means that you have a lot of control. And you embarrass the person. And those certainly match the translation

  • The thief gives the police a go-around.
    (He tricks them and lays out false traces and such)

The next one sounds even more painful…

Outch. But pain aside, dancing around on someones nose is somewhat disrespectful, and probably very annoying. Which is kind of close to the actual meaning… the dictionary suggested to act up on but I’d rather give a description.

  • My kids don’t listen to me, they do what they want
    and they don’t even try to hide it.

I don’t know how you’d say that in English.
The next one is also very visual…

  • Du musst mir das nicht jeden Tag unter die Nase reiben,
    dass meine Freundin gesagt hat, dass du aussiehst wie ein Model.

This literally means that we rub something under the nose of someone… so he or she can smell it all day and is constantly reminded of it.

  • You don’t have to rub it inthat my girlfriend said
    that you look like a model.

Then there are a few that are based on the fact that the nose is in a somewhat prominent, forward position.

All right.
All these idioms are in active use and there are quite a few more, but I have to go to the bank later to cash that GM-check I just got.
So I only want to give you one more. A really really deep insight on the human bod.. I mean nature. Something that transcends all the other mundane sayings. Sit back, relax, let the music take you away and then read…

… a few words of wisdom that have been passed on from generation to generation:

Wie die Nase eines Mannes,
so ist auch sein Johannes.

Yeah… you probably saw something like that coming :).
A fitting conclusion for our German Word of Day “Nasen”- Sbäschl.
I hope you had some fun and that one or the other word is of some use for you and if not then you’re at least able to solve this famous riddle here:

Es hat zwei Flügel
und kann doch nicht fliegen,
Es hat einen Rücken
und kann doch nicht liegen.
Es trägt eine Brille
und kann doch nicht sehen.
Es hat ein Bein
und kann doch nicht stehn.
Zwar kann es laufen,
aber nicht gehen.
Was ist das?

As always, if you have any questions or suggestions or if you know of some cool or funny nose-idioms in your own language, leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and so you next time.

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