Word of the Day – “der Staub”

staub-meaningHello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we’ll have a look at

der Staub

and we don’t have to look very far to find it. Actually, I’m looking at it right now because it’s on my screen. But we can find it anywhere… on our books, on our shelves, under our beds, on our plants, even on our pizza. At least I had some on mine. I’m a slow eater, I guess. Or maybe it’s just time to vacuum again. Anyway, Staub is all around us and no, it’s not love.It’s dust. And Staub is a really good word for dust. I don’t know… this sudden ending on b just kind of mirrors the “suffocating-ness” that a lot of Staub can have. I don’t know how to explain it but at least to me Staub sounds the part and that’s why I never had trouble remembering it.
What? Because I’m a native speaker? Oh, I guess that helps, too.
Anyway, let’s look at some examples.

  • Auf meiner Fitness-DVD ist eine dicke Staubschicht.
  • There’s a thick layer of dust on my fitness-DVD.
  • Maria hat eine Hausstauballergie.
  • Maria is allergic to house dust.
  • “Was ist das?”
    “Das ist ein Traumfänger.”
    “Wohl eher ein Staubfänger.”
    “Haha, sehr komisch.”
  • “What is that?”
    “It’s a dream catcher.”
    “Probably more like a dust catcher.”
    “Haha, very funny.”
  • Marias Kuchen ist staubtrocken.
  • Maria’s cake is dry as dust.
  • Um die Feinstaubbelastung in Berlin zu reduzieren, gibt es die sogenannte Umweltplakette.
  • In order to limit the fine dust pollution in Berlin, the so called Umweltplakette has been introduced.
    (Only “clean” cars get it and without it you are not
    allowed to drive into the inner city… or you will be heavily fined).

And of course we have to mention the super common word for to vacuum or to hoover, which is as descriptive as it can get: staubsaugen to suck dust.

  • Ich muss wirklich mal wieder staubsaugen.
  • I really have to/should vacuum again.
  • Warum muss es eigentlich eine Million verschiedene Staubsaugerbeutel geben??
  • Why must there be one million different vacuum cleaner bags??

Seriously!! Why isn’t there a norm for freakin’ Staubsaugerbeutel? Germany has a DIN-norm for everything. Even for stool… What? There isn’t one for stool?!?! What the hell am I making an effort for every morni… anyway, I digest… uh… I mean digress.

We’ve seen a lot of compounds but there’s also a bunch of verbs based on Staub.
Einstauben
 
and verstauben are about the process of collecting dust and abstauben (and entstauben) about the removal.

  • Ich koche zur Zeit so selten – mein Herd ist total eingestaubt.
  • I’m cooking so seldom these days – my stove is all dusty.
  • Ich habe heute meine Bücher abgestaubt (entstaubt).
  •  I dusted my books today.

Abstauben also has a colloquial side meaning. It expresses the idea of making a great deal with little effort… usually in a quick manner. It’s especially common in sports.

  • Ich hab auf der Messe ordentlich Give-Aways abgestaubt.
  • I snatched a lot of giveaways at the trade fair.
  • Der Ball prallte vom Torwart direkt vor Thomas’ Füße. Der brauchte nur noch abstauben.
  • The ball bounced right in front of Thomas’ feet; he just needed to snatch, pluck it.

Cool, so that’s Staub and it’s definitely a good word to remember. For me, it’s the sound that helps… what? Native … oh whatever.  So if the sound alone doesn’t cut it, maybe the history helps. And there’s actually a few surprise connections waiting for us.

Staub comes from the verb stieben, and stieben is pretty much what dust does when you blow on it:

fly up and around suddenly and quickly in a crazy fashion.

It’s not completely clear where this verb comes from but one theory traces it back to the dusty Indo-European root *dheu, which brought us English words like dumb, damp, typhoon and … drumroll… dust, in German the German words Dunst (a light fog, a haze, a mist),  Dampf (steam), Duft (scent) or taub (deaf, numb).
Wow, what a crazy range. But all these words actually share one common idea – the idea of a cloud. Let’s see: clouds are often made of water and can make you wet. That gives us damp, Dunst, Duft and Dampf, A cloud can also darken your vision and senses, so there we got dumb, taub and deaf. And clouds can consist of little particles that fly around like crazy, which is the connection to typhoon. Of course the Indo-Europeans didn’t know a thing about particles. But think of a flock of birds. Or of the spark of a camp fire when you throw a new log into it.
As I said, it’s not 100% certain that stieben comes from this root, but it would make a lot of sense. Anyway, the core of stieben is to fly up and around like crazy and so Staub is “the one that flies up like crazy.”
And there are actually a few more words in that family.

Bestäuben is the German word for to pollinate – the bees inflict “dust” on the flower. A Zerstäuber is an atomizer or vaporizer, the thing that turns the perfume from a liquid into a cloud of little drips, a Schneegestöber is a combination of a lot of snow coming down with a lot of wind. And last but not least, there’s the verb stöbern which is about aimlessly foraging through stuff.

  • Maria liebt es in Buchläden zu stöbern.
  • Maria loves thrifting/rummaging through book stores.

Especially in old book stores stöbern definitely involves a lot of Staub.

And that’s it for today. This was our look at Staub. It means dust, it might actually be related to dust and in either case it comes from the idea of particles flying up in a crazy fashion.
Take a look at the vocab section to review all the words of today and get some extras. And as always, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you enjoyed it and see you next time.

** vocab **

der Staub – the dust
staubig – dusty

einstauben, verstauben – to collect dust (“verstauben” is also used for mind sets)
verstaubt – dusty (also in the abstract sense of “reactionary”)

entstauben – thoroughly remove the dust off of something
abstauben – to dust off, also: to snatch in the sense of to get

der Feinstaub – fine dust
staubsaugen – to vacuum clean, to hoover
der Staubsauger – the vacuum cleaner, the hoover
der Staubsaugerbeutel – the vacuum bag
der Blütenstaub – pollen, dust (botany)

stieben (gestoben) – fly up and around in a crazy fashion, to spray
das Schneegestöber – snow flurry, snowsquall
stöbern – thrift, dig (through archives and stores)

zerstäuben (zerstäubt)  – sputter, spray, nebulize
der Zerstäuber – atomizer, vaporizer, spray bottle (common for perfume)
bestäuben – to pollinate, to (be-)dust, to sprinkle, (primarily used for what bees do)

der Dampf – the steam, vapor
der Dunst – light fog, haze
der Duft – the scent
die Dunstabzugshaube – the cooker hood, kitchen hood
taub – deaf, numb (for joints)

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Div
Div
6 years ago

Willst du bitte die Konjuktiv II Verben erklären?

Ken Palmer
Ken Palmer
6 years ago

I would translate it as “the ball rebounded from the goalkeeper straight to Thomas’ feet. He just had to tap it in” “Nick “doesn’t really work here, its more usually used in sports like golf or snooker.Nick as a verb is used though as in ” he nicked the ball from the keeper”. Sponge doesn’t work at all

Ruth
Ruth
6 years ago
Reply to  Ken Palmer

It should be “direkt vor Thomas’ Füße”, shouldn’t it? Not “direkt for Thomas’ Füße”.
I agree that “tap it in” is the usual English expression. “Tap in” is also used as a noun – a goal scored so easily. “Poke it in” might be heard occasionally, especially if it was a “toe poke”.
There’s an interesting website – languagecaster.com – “Learning English through football”. Any chance of a “Deutsch lernen durch Fußball” corner here?

Lorna O'Donoghue
6 years ago

As in … to snap up an opportunity …

Lorna O'Donoghue
6 years ago

What is the best word to express that you get something without doing much of the work, just by chance. “abstauben” works in sports but also for example for shopping on a flee market or something. or in a sale…..

How about to snap it up …for the shopping context?

I came across your blog through a German Adjectives for Dummies search on google … one happy dummy here ;-)

dasarkies
6 years ago

I have to say that your blog is heaps cool. In fact the more that I learn about German the more I think about how cool the language actually is. English just seems to be too sophisticated to have a word like Staubsauger,

Jeremy
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Technically: “make do” ;)

Die Bedeutung dieser Phrase ist aber undurchsichtig (opaque?) genug, dass viele Muttersprachler schreiben auch “make due”.

Jeremy
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ja, du hast Recht. Vielleicht ist “Herkunft” oder “Ableitung” (derivation?) besser?

Ruth
Ruth
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

If “due” is pronounced the English way there’s no confusion.

Starbuck
Starbuck
8 months ago
Reply to  Ruth

Which English way? I’m from Norfolk and we pronounce it like “doo”, e.g. “my compooter’s old. It’s doo an update”

Jeremy
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Danke! Ich habe immer Probleme mit “so”, weil es so ähnlich wie das gleiche Wort auf Englisch ist, aber mit kleine Unterschiede. Ich wollte nicht sagen “the derivation is so opaque that a lot of native speakers…”, weil das bedeuten würde, dass die Herkunft/Ableitung ist allgemein sehr undurchsichtig.

Meine bestimmte Meinung war nur, dass es undurchsichtiger ist, als wie undurchsichtig es sein muss, so dass viele Muttersprachler es falsch schreiben würde. Wenn viele Muttersprachler nicht so sorgfältig sind, denn kann das aber noch nicht so undurchsichtig sein. Die (Un)Durchsichtigkeit ist relativ, so zu sagen. Aber, ich bin sicher, du hast mich schon gut verstanden.

(Viel zu viel Erklärung für so ein kleines Wort!)

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

… the dusty Indo-European root *dheu, which brought us English words like … typhoon

Was? Nein, das glaube ich nicht. “Literaturangabe benötigt.”

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

Thomas und sein Fußball: He just needed to tap/knock/nudge it in. Er ist Stürmer, nicht Verteidiger, ja?

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

Re. Feinstaub, “fine dust” does not sound idiomatic to me. I’d go for “particulate matter”, but that might confuse some people?

Die Feinstaubbelastung in Berlin zu reduzieren, gibt es die sogenannte Umweltplakette.
In order to reduce pollution from particulate matter in Berlin, the so-called Umweltplakette has been introduced.

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Im Vereinigten Königreich, “particulate matter” oder “particulates” oder “particulate pollution”.

https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=site:guardian.co.uk+particulates
https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=site:dailymail.co.uk+particulates

NYCRedak
NYCRedak
6 years ago

der Ball prallte vom Torwart direkt for Thomas’ Füße gefaustet. Der brauchte nur noch abstauben.
The ball bounced right in front of Thomas’ feet; he just needed to nick it.

Both nick and sponge seem a bit off to be here, although nick is better. Nick has the connotation of stealing something by grabbing it.Sponge means literally ‘clean with a sponge’ and metaphorically sponge off means ‘take money or goods from someone else without an intention to return’. So you sponge the dust off a table, or a friend might keep sponging beers off you at the bar.

I would suggest the word ‘snatch’ or ‘pluck’ here, as they imply a quick and easy motion.

he just needed to snatch it.
he just needed to pluck it up.

Ansonstens, sehr interessanter und lustiger Artikel! Bin immer spannend darauf einen neuen Pfost im Feed zu sehen.

NYCRedak
NYCRedak
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Now that I review what I said, I am a bit unhappy with myself for the game example. Pluck doesn’t work in this case because it implies hands. I think you will be happy to hear that we have a similar phrase for finishing something, or getting good deals, and that is…. Clean up!

“The other players made beautiful offensive passes and Thomas just had to clean up.” This implies he made a goal

“I went to the flea market last Sunday and I really cleaned up! I got 2000 fleas for 1$!”

“I went to the fair and cleaned up on giveaways”

NOT “I went to the fair and cleaned up giveaways.” Unless you really like to tidy up.

This can’t often be used as a direct translation though, because you can’t clean something in particular up… that just means you are cleaning it or putting it away. You need that extra preposition. Abstauben seems pretty tough, I think the particular context matters a lot. I can think of a lot of ways to say it that work in some contexts but not others… luck out, make off with, clean up, make out like a bandit (THIS IS NOT ABOUT KISSING)… I would probably combine one of these with the appropriate action, if I wanted to stress the luck factor.

“I really lucked out on that last golf hole green, I just had to tap it in.”

“I got lucky at the fire sale yesterday, I managed to snatch up the last Electric Fireplace 9000 Supreme!”

BTW A third metaphorical sense for clean up is also making a lot of money.

We really cleaned up at the convention yesterday, we sold all of our ‘English is ridikyulas’ t-shirts!”

Mauve cleaned up at the horse track today. She won every single bet.

Sorry if this ended up making more confusion.

George Painter
George Painter
6 years ago

In you vocab list, the spelling should be der Zerstäuber

irgendkatze
irgendkatze
6 years ago

Ein paar mehr Notizen:
“Particulate Matter” (oder “PM”) ist nutzt für “Feinstaub”, oft mit Stückchen Große (z.B. PM2.5). Particulate matter bedeutet, die kleine Stückchen, die von Autos u.a. gemacht werden und die Asthma und andere Atemprobleme verursachen. Fine dust ist wenig specifisch, weil dust normalerweise fine ist.
“Mind set” sollte ein Wort sein.
Ich denke, ich höre “range hood” oftener als “cooker hood” or “kitchen hood”.

Warum ist das Wort gleich für “deaf” und “numb”?? Es gibt individuelle Wörter für andere Sinnstörungen (z.B. blind)… Es war sehr virwirrend (oder irritierend? das Wort irritiert mich noch), als ich dacte, dass mein Arzt wissen wollte, ob mein Beine deaf war.

Gibt es eine Beziehung zwischen “Staub” und “Stau”? (Als Englischmutterspracher, beide klingen mir stuffy und stagnant.)

irgendkatze
irgendkatze
6 years ago

Der Ball prallte vom Torwart direkt for Thomas’ Füße gefaustet. Der brauchte nur noch abstauben.
The ball bounced right in front of Thomas’ feet; he just needed to nick it.
(the dictionary dict.cc suggested that “to sponge” would also work in this context. Is that true?? Natives speakers, assemble)

“Sponge” klingt comisch. Aber “clean up” geht. Und Strichpunkte sind fast nie im umgangssprachliche Englisch genutzt, Komma würde besser sein.

wiztroubjest
wiztroubjest
6 years ago
Reply to  irgendkatze

But that’s like, the perfect use of a semicolon. For a native english speaker, that kinda semicolonin’ would be good. But, for a non-native speaker, it’s fantastic.

wiztroubjest
wiztroubjest
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

more like ;)

Jeremy
6 years ago
Reply to  irgendkatze

“Sponge” hat mehr eine negative Bedeutung auf Englisch, und fordert auch, dass was der “Sponger” bekommt, wird von jemandem andere weggenommen. Ein gutes Beispiel:

Thomas ist 35 Jahre alt und wohnt noch bei seinen Eltern, ohne Miete zu bezahlen -> Thomas sponges off his parents.

In diesem Sinne, wie einer Schwamm, nimmt er Raum, Essen und vielleicht Geld von seinen Eltern auf. (Ist “aufnehmen” ein gutes Wort hier? Auf Englisch: “absorb”).

Alan
Alan
6 years ago

I thought you said Komisch meant weird and not funny?