Word of the Day – Wundertütenspecial #2

wundertute-2Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. And this time it’s time for another so called Wundertüten-Special. A real Wundertüte is bag full of wonders…. well, actually more a bag full of stupid little stuff like gum and stickers. But kids love it and I think you might like the word-Wundertüte too. What is it exactly? It’s bag full of cool surprise words. You know.. these colloquial terms that you won’t get in the official study material. Their meanings are often quite specific but often they are really the only way to express a certain idea so people use them every day. Maybe every other day.  Okay, at least once a week. Well, definitely more than they use Birne which is part of many a beginners text books… unless… if they’re really big fans of pears they actually mig… okay, I’ll stop that now. The words in the last Wundertüten-special were definitely pretty cool so I’d say let’s open this one and find out. Sounds good? Awesome.

trödeln

Trödeln comes from a quite interesting family. It is a variation of the German trudeln which has the very very narrow meaning of falling to the ground spinning. Like… dry leaves are “trudeling”. Or a bird that had a heart attack inmid flight. Now, this super hyper uber specific verb has a quite surprising relative in English … trend. Trend comes from a Germanic root that was about bending or turning in a certain direction. Like here:

  • The path of the river trends south
  • Evolution trends to the more complex.

And that’s totally the same as the other more common trend. Suppose ..there’s like this start up and they’re having their coffee break and then one guy suddenly goes like “Yeah… I don’t know about soy. I kinda dig almond milk though. That’s legit.” causing a series outbreak of FOMO across the office. And so they all turn, or should I say, trend toward almond milk, sucking California dry. Yeah, sorry hipsters but that’s what you do with that stupi… what? Oh you stopped learning German a year ago and you don’t read blogs to begin with? Well never mind then… back to trödeln.
So, the origin of it is a verb that describes how leaves fall… slowly spinning, turning left, turning right, sometimes even rising back up a bit. And trödeln itself … well, if you’ve ever seen a teacher or a child care worker desperately trying to get the kids to hurry up to cross the street or get on the bus, then you know what trödeln is. No, it’s not what the teacher does, it’s what the kids do… NOT hurrying up. Walking slowly, zigzagging around, stopping, walking back to their friends, starting a game of hopscotch in the middle of the road. That is what trödeln is.. to NOT hurry up on purpose (to dally, to dawdle).
It’s used a lot in context with kids and going somewhere but you can also trödeln at work (you shouldn’t) and you can even find the word in newspaper headlines about politics or economy.

  • Trödel nicht so!
  • Could you hurry up a bit?!
  • Streit über Rentenreform – Opposition wirft der Regierung vor zu trödeln.
  • Dispute over pension reform – Opposition accuses government of loafing.
  • 10 Tipps wenn Kinder trödeln.  (this is actually a title of a post on Mamiweb… you can check out the article here)
  • 10 tips for you if your kids dawdle.

Now, let’s say you’re a distressed mom or dad and you’re looking for tips how to deal with your kid’s dallying you might find something like this:

  • 10 Tipps zum richtig Trödeln.

And you might be like  “What the hell?! As if these little brats need any help for that.” But this headline has nothing to do with not hurrying up. Trödeln actually has two meanings and the second one is…   to buy and sell things on a flea market. Yep, I am not kidding. Flea market is called Flohmarkt, but also Trödelmarkt.

  • Thomas und Maria waren am Sonntag auf dem Trödelmarkt.
  • Thomas and Maria were on the rag-fair/flea market on Sunday.
  • Bin am WE in Dresden. Hat irgendwer Tipps, wo man da gut trödeln kann? (typical forum lingo)
  • I’ll be in Dresden this weekend. Any suggestions where I can thrift shop?
  • Der Trödel-King.  (title of a docu-soap … similar to “Cash in the attic”, in case you know that)
  • The yard sale king.

So, here we are, having two completely different meanings for trödeln and the interesting question is whether they have anything to do with each other. Well… turns out, it is totally in the dark where the “flea market”-trödeln comes from, so science has no answer for us. Which is AWESOME because we can just make stuff up. I mean…  who needs research if he has some beers  imagination.
So how about this one:  have you ever tried to pass over a flea market at normal walking speed? It’s impossible. Because people on flea markets usually walk… really slowly. They’re not in a hurry,  they’re trödeling. They are also turning to the stand on the left, turning to the stand on the right, going back two stands to the one with the lamp. They’re moving through the market like a dry leaf in the wind. Or if that isn’t connection enough how about this: Do you remember that trödeln is related to trend. Well, what can you get on a flea market?? Exactly, super hyper trendy stuff. Tadah. Another Schwarzbier please.
Seriously though, these connections are probably not historically accurate but I think they can help remember both the meanings in one go… and that’s a good deal. And that brings us right to our next word which stands for something pretty much all people like…

das Schnäppchen

Some of the things you can buy on a Trödelmarkt are ridiculously overpriced. A dusty desk lamp for 90 Euro? Come on, pleeeeaaase.
But you can also make some real bargains there. And the German word for that is… das Schnäppchen.
Schnäppchen is part of a group of words that are all ultimately based on imitations of nasal sounds. And this group is surprisingly large. In English we have words like  sneeze, snout, snot, sniff, snuffle and probably a few more and in German we have schnauben (blow one’s nose), schnaufen (breathe heavily) or schniefen (to sniff) , der Schnupfen (sniffles, rhinitis) or  die Schnauze (snout, animal mouth). And there is der Schnabel and Schnabel is basically the mouth of a bird. Or is it a nose? How about nouth? Nobel Price please.
Seriously though… a Schnabel is  a bill, a beak or a pecker (what’s the difference there anyway) and, since Germans do seem to have a strange affection for bird metaphors, it is also used for our mouth…

  • Halt den Schnabel!
  • Shut up!

By the way…  there is this wonderful German word schnabulieren, which means to eat.

  • “Wollen wir uns mit ‘nem Bier in den Park hauen?”
    “Auf jeden. Aber ich muss vorher was schnabulieren.”
  • “Wanne place our butts in the park with a beer?”
    “Definitely. But I gotta eat something first.”

Schnabulieren... I love it because it’s kind of a common man’s parody of all those fancy Latin and French scholar terms. It’s not all that common and some Germans might not even know it but it’s a great word.
Anyway, back to Schnabel. So a Schnabel is a beak and what the bird does to with it to catch an insect is closing it quickly. It snaps it closed. Do you see a connection already :)? The word to snap is also part of the whole sn-family and it is inspired by how a bird closes its beak. A super quick close, possibly with a little clacking sound. Now, over time to snap and it’s German brother  schnappen have changed and evolved into slightly different directions. But at least schnappen very much stayed true to the ideas of quickly closing and catching. Here are a few examples of how it is used today. 

  • Das Krokodil schnappt nach der Gazelle.
  • The crocodile snatches at the gazelle.
  • Die Falle schnappt zu.
  • The trap springs closed.
  • Schnapp dir deine Badehose… wir fahren zum Strand.
  • Grab your swim trunks … we’ll go to the beach.
  • Schnapp ihn dir: so fängst du deinen Traumprinzen. (yes, this is an actual book title)
  • Snag him: how to catch the man of your dreams.

And I bet you already figured out Schnäppchen by now. It used to be just an affectionate form for something you’d grab or snag… and today it’s a bargain. A mint condition Batman comic book for 10 cents. That ugly orange lamp from that Swedish interior design magazine for 150 dollars. That full beam yacht for a million. Or Bear Sterns  for 1.2 billion. It doesn’t matter how big or what it is or whether you use informal or formal language… if it’s super good deal then it’s called Schnäppchen.
Examples.

  • Die Tasche hier war ein echtes Schnäppchen.
  • This bag right here was a real steal.
  • Thomas ist ein echter Schnäppchenjäger.
  • Thomas is a real bargain hunter.
  • Die besten Deals gibt’s bei Schnäpchenfuchs.com.
  • Find the best deals at Bargainfox.com.

So that’s Schnäppchen. Something that is such a good deal you try to  schnappen it. There’s not much more to say but there’s a song that’ll burn schnappen into your head once and for all. It’s a very deep, bitter sweet ballad about being young and coming of age in an ever changing world from the perspective  of – a metaphor, no doubt – a crocodile. There’s this one line toward the end that almost had me in tears.

The song was on number 1 of the German single charts for over 2 months and it was in the top 10 of a bunch of other countries like Denmark, France and  Sweden but also Australia and New Zealand. The single went double Platinum in Germany and has sold 1.7 million copies worldwide by now. The album … yes, I said  album … sold half a million. And if you feel like you need a Schnaps now… well, guess where that word comes from :).
And I think that’s it for today. This was our second Wundertütenspecial. We had trödeln and Schnäppchen but we learned quite a few other words along the way and I hope you found at least some of them useful.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment. I hope you liked it and see you next time.

Vocab (I added some more flea market words)

trudeln – fall toward the earth while tumbling
trödeln – make slow on purpose
trödeln – sell stuff on a flea market
Trödelmarkt – flea market
der Schnabel – the beak, the bill
die Schnauze – the mouth of an animal (mainly used for dogs)
die Schnute – affectionate, yet not the least bit sexy term for mouth, used by mothers a lot
Halt den Schnabel – Shut up!
schnabulieren – joking affectionate term for to eat
schnappen – close very quickly, often inlcudes the idea catching, colloquial for to grab
das Schnäppchen – the bargain
das Schnäppschen – the small Schnaps
feilschen/handlen – to bargain (see if you can get a discount… not so common in Germany though)
der Marktstand – the market stand
die Standgebühr – the fee you have to pay for a stand
der Wochenmarkt – the farmers’ market 

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Tom O'Grady
7 years ago

There is an old English word to troddle. So that makes it easier for me to remember. “The fox troddled past the chicken coop.”

Wes Velkov
Wes Velkov
7 years ago

A Jewish toy and game ie a “dreidel_) a popular game and gift for HANUKAH. SEE WIKIPEDIA

jag041
jag041
7 years ago

Hier ist ein Hipster, der noch Deutsch lernt!
Falls du mal gedacht hast, dass ich schon aufgegeben habe…
Die Wundertütenspecials gefallen mir sehr. Ich freue mich auf den Nächsten!

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
7 years ago

Das Wort “Schnäppchen” gefällt mir irgendwie nicht. Klingt cheesy. Na, Geschmacks-/Gewohnheitssache.

MegaMu
MegaMu
7 years ago

I think it’s flea market. What is the song?

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

Wieso schnappt das Krokodile nach der Gazelle? Kann es sie einfach schnappen? (ohne ‘nach’, also mit dem Akkusativ)
Toller Post!

Theo
Theo
7 years ago

one of the most common English phrasal verbs for “purchase,” when used in the context of a bargain or good deal, is “to snap up.”

“We went to the used-clothing store, and we snapped up some great bargains!”

The verb suggests prices that are so low that you must act immediately or lose the opportunity of buying them:

“Big sale tomorrow at Megastore–get there early, before the bargains are all snapped up!”

So “schnäppchen” makes lots of sense to an English speaker–“things that you will snap up”.

alexviajero
alexviajero
7 years ago

I’ll add “swirl” to that first list. Odd that all three rhyme…

alexviajero
alexviajero
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thank you for following up. Very interesting post, by the way! :)

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

They have different origins, but they most probably influenced each other’s evolution, so in the end it’s not that surprising :)

PS: swirl (n.) Look up swirl at Dictionary.com
early 15c., “whirlpool, eddy,” originally Scottish, of uncertain origin, perhaps related to dialectal Norwegian svirla or Dutch zwirrelen “to whirl.” The meaning “whirling movement” is from 1818.

alexviajero
alexviajero
7 years ago

Trödeln with respect to the image of falling leaves you describe is one of those really beautiful German words that I don’t think is really translatable to English in a single word. The closest I can come is “twirl” or even “whirl”. Regarding the meaning describing the activity at a flea market, “dawdle” doesn’t really do it either — because in English, “dawdle” is sort of a negative thing. “The president is dawdling on his decision on how to confront the situation in the Middle East.” That implies he should be doing something else, whereas at the flea market, it is a desirable way to behave in that environment. Then again, I could be full of it :)

berlingrabers
7 years ago

Korrektur: “flee” heißt “fliehen” – Englischsprachler trödeln auf “flea markets”.

berlingrabers
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Not sure how best to explain this in German, but regarding “beak” vs. “bill”: pretty much only ducks/geese and platypuses (Schnabeltiere) have bills – it’s basically a beak that’s flatter and more or less rounded. It’s also the word for the front part of a baseball cap. It’s also OK to call a duck’s “nouth” a “beak.” Any other bird has a “beak,” which describes something sharply pointed.

As for “pecker”… um, don’t use that. And don’t look for it on Google without SafeSearch on…

alexviajero
alexviajero
7 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

Hahaha. Yeah, best avoid “pecker.” That a common word used by boys aged about 10-13 — and really, no one else anymore :)

Ruth
Ruth
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Jetzt nicht mehr? Ein prächtiger Vogel.

Maria
Maria
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Sheiß die Want an! :O This is even better than “hippopotamus” being a “river horse”… A “shoe beak”… How cruel and how sweet at the same time… (Q.Q) Thanks for the awesome vocab, I loved “etwas schnabulieren”, we have that in Ukrainian/Russian too! (“чего-то поклевать”).
P.S. Suggestion: could you make a post about things exploding in German? I have stumbled upon just so many expressions already: “Mir platzt gleich der Kragen/der Sack/der Arsch/derKopf”, “Ich platze gleich” (as in “I’m so full”), “Ich platze vor Wut” and I am sure more of those which I don’t know about. Is it always about people or do you have some with stuff? Just curious :)

berlingrabers
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Just for the record (@ Maria), “hippopotamus” means “river horse” too – just in Greek. :)

berlingrabers
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

It’s funny how much that’s the case in English, that Latin and Greek terms are really part of the everyday vocabulary. It’s especially true for medical stuff (experiencing my wife’s pregnancy here has made me learn more gynecological German than I ever thought I’d need to…), but then there’s “hippopotamus” and “rhinoceros” (again, exactly the same literal meaning as “Nashorn”) and such.

Ruth
Ruth
7 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

Sorry to be always drawn in to discussion/dispute about English usage, but…. There are birds called “hornbills”, “thornbills”, and “shoebills”, none of which have flat bills/beaks. There’s a cockatoo called the “long-billed corella” and even a “sword-billed hummingbird”! Pigeons “bill and coo” in courtship when they do the bird equivalent of kissing, with body parts that are neither flat nor noticeably rounded. One suggestion is that in common usage birds of prey have beaks, other birds have bills, although there is a bird of prey in the Americas known as the “hook-billed kite.” The platypus is referred to as the “duck-billed platypus”, not the “billed platypus”, which suggests that a duck’s bill is different from (at least some) others. It seems to me that the words “beak” and “bill” for bird mouth parts are generally interchangeable. I’d be interested to know if that has always been so. Maybe there are regional variations as to which is more commonly used.
As for projecting front parts of caps (baseball or any other variety) – in the English I know they are peaks.

alexviajero
alexviajero
7 years ago
Reply to  Ruth

That’s funny, I call that part of a cap or hat the “visor.” A quick search on Wikipedia of “baseball cap” includes, “[t]he peak, also known in certain areas as the ‘bill’ or ‘brim’, was designed to protect a player’s eyes from the sun.” :-)

berlingrabers
7 years ago
Reply to  Ruth

Your basic point is definitely right – there’s not any real, clearly defined difference between the meanings of “beak” and “bill.” But at the same time, I think the counterexamples you list are either the sorts of things only known to bird experts/aficionados or not quite really counterexamples after all. For example, I note that the Wikipedia article on the thornbill states that the bird has a “thin long beak” – so “bill” in the name doesn’t necessarily mean anyone (at least any layperson) would actually describe the bird as having a bill.

I think in everyday, lay usage, my rule of thumb is still right. When in doubt, call it a “beak”; most of us wouldn’t ascribe a “bill” to non-waterfowl. (And as always, that might just be a particularly American perspective – even a regionally conditioned one, whichever region my English actually reflects…)

As for the history, Etymonline.com says “bill” is Old English/Germanic, while “beak” is 13th century via French bec, so evidently it’s just one of those historical redundancies in our language (obviously supporting your point).

berlingrabers
7 years ago
Reply to  Ruth

Oh, also, regarding baseball caps – Alex, “visor” sounds more like the “proper” or technical term for it to me than what I’d default to calling it. I wonder where the “bill/brim/visor/peak” boundaries lie…

Ruth
Ruth
7 years ago
Reply to  Ruth

Berlingrabers, my platypus example is claerly nonsense. The bird names given, however, are all common names. Names used by ordinary people who take enough interest to want to distinguish one variety of bird from another. Experts use scientific nomenclature.
I might venture that generally animals other than birds (e.g. squid & turtles) have beaks not bills, but the platypus is a glaring counter-example to that notion. The only rule is that if there are any rules they have exceptions. ….clearly demonstrated on (American) website budgerigar.com – “Bill and Legs – A budgie’s legs are usually bluish-gray in color, and it has an olive-gray bill,” and a little further on the same page “Beak Grinding – While asleep, budgerigars often nibble or grind their beaks.” Take your pick!

“Schirm” seems much more sensible for that part of a cap. It sounds as though it would apply to the projecting part of any hat, whether front, back or all around…and even to the sort that has no top, which is one of the things I’d call a “visor” in English.

berlingrabers
7 years ago
Reply to  Ruth

I’m not sure anybody writing for a website called “Budgerigar.com” counts as a layperson. :)

All’s I’m sayin’ is that even when I know the name of a bird has “bill” in it, I would strongly tend to call its actual mouth/nose part a “beak” unless it looks kind of ducky (probably the shoebill is the only one of the examples you list where I’d go back and forth on what to call it; I’d certainly say the spoonbill has a “bill” as well). And I’d be pretty surprised if that didn’t turn out to be the case for most people with a not-above-average familiarity with ornithological terminology. It’s a thoroughly unscientific and possibly embarrassingly uninformed opinion, but hey, that’s what the internet is for. :D

Oh, and agreed on that meaning of “visor” as well, though I wouldn’t be confused by saying that a hat has a visor. To me, “brim” would be the most broadly applicable label for the sun-shade part of a hat.

alexviajero
alexviajero
7 years ago
Reply to  Ruth

I’m not quite ready to surrender on “visor” just yet. Maybe, as alluded to above, it is a more “technical” term. I spent over 20 years in the Army, where we’re known to develop and use an annoying unique vernacular of our own (which might fall under “technical speech or usage). But that part of a cap was always called the “visor,” and not the “brim/peak/bill.” When a captain is promoted to major, his primary uniform change is that his dress cap now has embroidered “scrambled eggs” on the visor. It is a common way of congratulating someone on his/her new promotion to that grade. “Those scrambled eggs look really good on your visor.” With the Army’s near “anal” fixation on uniformity, the way a soldier tries to “form” the visor on his fatigue cap (baseball-style cap) is another issue that’s commonly brought up. And the correction is to tell the soldier to “reshape that visor, the curl is too exaggerated!” I do know that “visor” is also a separate type of hat all on its own, the type once pretty much only female tennis players used to use, but that is something different. In my standard, regular English usage, I’d call the part of a hat discussed here variously as the bill, brim, peak, etc., the “visor” as my very first choice to describe that part, even colloquially.

alexviajero
alexviajero
7 years ago
Reply to  Ruth

Too funny! :)

Ruth
Ruth
7 years ago
Reply to  Ruth

Wow. As seen/heard on TV!
All this English usage discussion reminds me of the observation that “we really have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language,” from that master of it, Oscar Wilde.

alexviajero
alexviajero
7 years ago
Reply to  Ruth

. Well said and alas, very true.
Off topic. That clip from “The Wire” is very funny. I read where most of the performers in that HBO series were local actors and even non-actors who also happened to actually be from Baltimore. But I live about 40 miles from Baltimore (in the DC area), and I can tell you the cop in this scene does not speak with that quintessential Baltimore accent. He’s definitely from the East Coast, I’m guessing somewhere between Southern New Jersey and NY City/Long Island. Given the recent upheavals between the police and the residents of West Baltimore, that scene is hilarious, but at the same time, a little chilling.