German Advent Calendar 14 – Look at you

Written By: Emanuel Updated: December 15, 2021


Look at you


Hallo ihr lieben,

welcome back to the epic Advent Calendar 2021. Today, we’ll open door number 14 and behind it is… oh my God, it’s our very self. That is so incredibly profou…  oh wait, never mind. It’s just a mirror.
Or better, the German word for it

der Spiegel

Because, you know… every good series has some of these random slow filler episodes ;)

So, Spiegel obviously not related to mirror, but it does have English relatives. Like… a LOT.
For example spectacle and spectator and spectrum. Or … ahem… prefix words like inspect and prospect and respect and suspect and aspect.
Or how about scope and microscope and telescope and horoscope. 
Oh and let’s not forget about spy, speculate, skeptic and species. 
Pretty impressive, right.

The origin of all these words is the visibly ancient Indo-European root *spek- and the core idea of this root was simply… observing.
And I think it’s no problem to see how all these words connect to that. The only one that doesn’t really seem to fit is species, but if you think of a species as a set of specs. Like… white, omnivore, bad temper, arrogant, inclination to alcohol abuse, horse-shaped, big horn on the forehead. That’s a unicorn.

And Spiegel… well that one fits in perfectly, as it is simply the device we use to observe ourselves.

Anyway, time to look at some examples. Here’s a couple for Spiegel itself…

  • Maria guckt sich im Spiegel an.
  • Maria looks at herself in the mirror.
  • Thomas guckt in den Rückspiegel.
  • Thomas looks into the rear view mirror.
  • “Dein Kühlschrank ist ein Chaos.”
    “Nein, mein Kühlschrank ist ein Spiegelbild der Gesellschaft.”
  • “Your fridge is chaos.”
    “No! My fridge is a mirror image/a reflection of society.”

And here are a few related words…

  • Man kann den Geist in der Spiegelung der Scheibe sehen.
  • You can see the ghost in the reflection of the window.
  • Die Schrift ist gespiegelt.
  • The font is mirrored.
  • Der Boden ist so sauber, da kann man sich drin spiegeln.
  • The floor is so clean that you can see your own reflection in it.

Oh, and let’s not forget about the very famous Spiegelei.
Do you have an idea what that could be?
I’ll give you a hint… it’s MUCH better than scrambled egg (and that’s a fact).

  • Willst du Rührei oder Spiegelei?
  • Do you want scrambled eggs or sunny side up? (Lit.: “mirror egg”)

And this example is actually a nice one to illustrate a slight difference between Spiegel and mirror. Or at least I feel like it’s there.
At least to me, Spiegel has the focus a bit more on the shiny surface. It even sounds a bit like a shiny, polished object. Mirror on the other hand is more about the reflection, the mirrored image. It even sounds a little bit like error. Left is right, right is left… and you can’t

read mirrored fonts.

But okay… maybe that’s just me. And the real origin of mirror is actually pretty cool.
Because it is a direct relative to to admire. And they belong to the same family as… to smile.
So a mirror is essentially, where you admire yourself, a Spiegel is where you observe yourself.
Ugh… German… so pragmatic as usual. No wonder we’re so serious and poorly dressed.

Anyway, that’s it for today.
If you have any questions or suggestions, just leave a comment.
Have a great day, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

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