30 Hilarious German Insults You Should Start Using Immediately

Someone engaged in a pointless task or without direction in life can be called a bananenbieger, or “banana bender.”
Someone engaged in a pointless task or without direction in life can be called a bananenbieger, or “banana bender.”
iStock.com/gpointstudio

If you’ve had your fill of German terms of endearment and want to learn how to insult someone instead, look no further. Some of these insults are amusingly innocent-sounding, while others are pretty devastating—so let’s hope you don’t wind up on the receiving end of one of those. Here are 30 of the best German insults we could find.

1. Arschgeige

Someone who doesn’t perform a particular task very well can be called a “butt violin,” or arschgeige.

2. Bananenbieger

Someone who’s engaged in a pointless task, who can't concentrate, or has no direction in life can be called a bananenbieger, or “banana bender.”

3. Erbsenzähler

A “pea counter” is a nitpicker who obsesses over the little details. Similarly, you can call an overly pedantic person who always plays by the rules an ameisentätowierer, or “ant tattooist.”

4. Lustmolch

This word literally translates to “pleasure newt,” which is what you’d call someone who is sex-crazed.

5. Arsch mit ohren

A "butt with ears"—or, put simply, a complete idiot.

6. Evolutionsbremse

An “evolutionary brake” is an unintelligent person whose very existence on Earth hinders the advancement of the human species, so to speak.

7. Einzeller

In a similar vein, this word means a “single-cell organism.”

8. Hosenscheißer

These “trouser-poopers” are cowards.

9. Dünnbrettbohrer

A “driller of thin planks” is someone who takes the easy way out and does the bare minimum.

10. Spargeltarzan

This imaginative insult translates to “asparagus Tarzan,” and describes someone who is thin and gangly.

11. Kotzbrocken

A "lump of puke."

12. Heißluftgebläse

A “hot air gun” is someone who talks too much, but about nothing. You can also call someone a labertasche, or “babble bag.”

13. Gehirnverweigerer

A “brain denier” is someone who doesn’t use their noggin often.

14. Teletubbyzurückwinker

This word, which means “someone who waves back at Teletubbies,” describes someone who isn’t too bright.

15. Schluckspecht

A boozer who hits the bottle too much can be called a “guzzling woodpecker.”

16. Stinkstiefel

A “smelly boot” is an especially grouchy person.

17. Tratschtante

A “gossip aunt” is someone who loves to spread rumors and talk about other people.

18. Rotzlöffel

A brat—literally, “snot spoon.”

19. Speichellecker

A “saliva licker,” or brown-noser.

20. Lackaffe

A “varnish monkey” is an overly flashy man who dresses garishly.

21. Schweinehund

In English, someone who behaves crassly (typically a man) can be called a “pig” or a “dog.” German combines both into schweinehund, meaning “pig dog.”

22. Trantüte

Here’s one for your morning commute: You can call the slowpoke in front of you a trantüte, or a “bag of whale blubber.”

23. Backpfeifengesicht

Backpfeife is a slap across the cheek, and gesicht is face. Put them together and you get “a face that invites a slap.”

24. Blockflötengesicht

Remember the recorder from your childhood music class? It has seven holes and blows hot air, just like a “recorder face,” or blockflötengesicht. (It refers to a person’s two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and mouth.) Basically, it means an idiot, or someone given to meaningless talk.

25. Socken-in-sandalen-träger

There are a few sock-oriented taunts in German. A socken-in-sandalen-träger, or “socks-in-sandals wearer,” is kind of a wimp. So is a sockenschläfer (someone who sleeps in socks) and a sockenfalter (a man who folds his socks).

26. Weichei

Likewise, “soft eggs” are weak or wimpy. This word (and the rest of the insults listed below) are part of a whole list of German synonyms for wimp called weicheiwörter, or "soft egg words."

27. Warmduscher

A warmduscher is a wuss who takes warm showers.

28. Jeansbügler

Someone who irons their jeans.

29. Tee-trinker

Someone who drinks tea—most likely when everyone else is drinking beer.

30. Schattenparker

Someone who parks in the shade.

30 Words and Phrases From Victorian Theatrical Slang

An 1884 illustration of spectators in the theater
An 1884 illustration of spectators in the theater
suteishi/iStock via Getty Images

In 1909, the English writer James Redding Ware published a dictionary of 19th-century slang and colloquial language called Passing English of the Victorian Era. Relatively little is known about Ware’s life—not helped by the fact that much of his work was published under the pseudonym Andrew Forrester—but among the other works attributed to him are around a dozen stage plays, many of which were first performed in the theaters of London in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

It was this firsthand experience that undoubtedly helped Ware to flesh out his dictionary with a host of slang words and expressions used by Victorian actors, actresses, theatrical producers, and backstage workers. From nicknames for incoherent actors to mooching companions and noisy babies, although many of the entries in Ware’s Passing English have sadly long since dropped out of use, they’re no less useful or applicable today.

1. Agony Piler

An actor who always seems to perform in weighty or sensationalist parts.

2. Back-Row Hopper

An audience member who visits bars frequented by actors and flatters them into buying him a drink.

3. Blue Fire

“Blue fire” was originally the name of a special effect used in Victorian theaters in which a mixture containing sulfur would be ignited to create an eerie blue glow on stage. The effect astonished audiences at the time, who had never seen anything like it before, hence "blue fire" came to be used to describe anything equally amazing or sensational, or that astounded an audience.

4. Bum-Boozer

A heavy drinker.

5. Burst

The sudden swell of people out onto a street when a play ended.

6. Button-Buster

A terrible comedian.

7. Celestials

Also known as “roof-scrapers,” the celestials were the audience members in the “gods” or the gallery, the highest tier of seats in the theater.

8. Charles His Friend

A nickname for any uninspiring part in a play whose only purpose is to give the main protagonist someone to talk to. The term apparently derives from a genuine list of the characters in a now long-forgotten drama, in which the lead’s companion was listed simply as “Charles: his friend.”

9. Deadheads

Audience members who haven’t paid to get in (as opposed to those who have, who were the livestock). Consequently, a nickname for journalists and first-night critics.

10. Decencies

A term referring to an actor’s strategically padded costume, defined by Ware as “pads used by actors, as distinct from actresses, to ameliorate outline.”

11. FLABBERDEGAZ

A fluffed line, a stumbled word, or a mistimed joke. Also called a Major Macfluffer.

12. The Ghost Walks

A reference to the famous opening scene of Hamlet, saying that “the ghost walks” (or, more often than not, that “the ghost doesn’t walk”) meant that there was (or that there wasn’t) enough money to be paid that week.

13. Gin And Fog

Hoarseness caused by heavy drinking the night before.

14. Greedy Scene

A scene in a play in which the lead actor has the stage all to him or herself.

15. Joey

To mug to the audience, or to lark about to attract someone’s attention.

16. Logie

A fake gemstone, or fake jewelry in general. Supposedly named after David Logie, an inventor who manufactured fake jewels out of zinc.

17. Matinée Dog

A nickname for the audience of a matinee performance. To "try it on the matinee dog" meant to test a new act or a new reading of a scene during a daytime performance, as the afternoon audiences were considered less discerning than the more seasoned and more demanding evening audiences.

18. Mumble-Mumper

An old, inarticulate performer whose lines cannot be easily heard or interpreted by the audience.

19. On The Pross

If you’re on the pross then you’re looking for someone to buy you a drink or a meal—pross is a shortening of “prosperous,” in the sense of searching for someone wealthy enough to buy you dinner.

20. Palatic

Very, very drunk. Probably derived from a deliberate mispronunciation of “paralytic."

21. To Play to The Gas

To make just enough money to get by—literally just enough to pay your gas bill.

22. Scorpions

An actor’s nickname for babies, whose constant noise could ruin a performance.

23. Star-Queller

An inferior actor whose terrible performance ruins the excellent performances given by everyone else.

24. Swan-Slinger

The playwright Ben Jonson famously called Shakespeare “The sweet swan of Avon” in a memorial poem published in 1623. A swan-slinger, consequently, is a Shakespearean actor.

25. To Take a Dagger And Drown Yourself

To say one thing but then do another. To stab yourself and pass the bottle, meanwhile, meant to take a swig of a drink and then pass the bottle onto the next person.

26. Thinking Part

A role in which an actor is required to say little or nothing at all. Likewise, a feeder was any role in which an actor was only required to “feed” lines to the more important character.

27. Toga-Play

Also called BC-plays, toga-plays were either classical period dramas, like Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, or plays by classical-era playwrights.

28. Twelve-Pound Actor

A child born into an acting family.

29. Village Blacksmith

“The Village Blacksmith” is the title of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the third verse of which begins, “Week in, week out, from morn till night, / You can hear his bellows blow.” It was the “week in, week out” line that inspired this expression referring to a performer or worker who isn’t a complete failure, but whose contracts rarely last longer than a single week.

30. Whooperup

A terrible singer.

[This list first ran in 2015 and was republished in 2019]

What's the Difference Between a College and a University?

Chinnapong/iStock via Getty Images
Chinnapong/iStock via Getty Images

Going off to college is a milestone in any young adult’s life. The phrase itself conjures up images of newfound independence, exposure to new perspectives, knowledge, and possibly even one or more sips of alcohol.

In America, however, few people use the phrase “going off to university,” or “headed to university,” even if they are indeed about to set off for, say, Harvard University. Why did college become the predominant term for postsecondary education? And is there any difference between the two institutions?

While university appears to be the older of the two terms, dating as far back as the 13th century, schools and students in North America have embraced college to describe most places of higher learning. There is no rigid definition of the words, but there are some general attributes for each. A college is typically a four-year school that offers undergraduate degrees like an associate or a bachelor’s. (Community colleges are often two-year schools.) They don’t typically offer master’s or doctorates, and the size of their student body is typically the smaller of the two.

Universities, on the other hand, tend to offer both undergraduate and graduate programs leading to advanced degrees for a larger group of students. They can also be comprised of several schools—referred to as colleges—under their umbrella. A university could offer both a school of arts and sciences and a school of business. The University of Michigan has a College of Engineering, for example.

While many of these traits are common, they’re not guaranteed. Some colleges can be bigger than universities, some might offer master’s degrees, and so on. To complicate matters further, an institution that fits the criteria of a university might choose to call itself a college. Both Dartmouth College and Boston College qualify as universities but use the college label owing to tradition. Schools may begin as colleges, grow into universities, but retain the original name.

People tend to think of a university as being more prestigious or harder to get into, but there are too many variables to make that determination at a glance. Some colleges might ask more of applicants than universities. Some universities might be smaller than certain colleges. Either one can be public or private.

Things get a little more convoluted abroad. In the UK, students go off to university (or uni) instead of college. The British version of college is typically a two-year program where students either focus on learning one particular skill set (much like a vocational school) or use the time to prepare for exams so that they can advance to university. Language matters, too; in Spanish, colegio usually refers to high school.

While the terms aren’t strictly interchangeable, there is enough of a difference between the two to try and make the distinction. Keep in mind that some states, like New Jersey, have rules about how institutions label themselves. There, a university has to have at least three fields of graduate study leading to advanced degrees.

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