We've gone into detail about the German phrase of "sliding" (rutschen) into the New Year in a lesson last year, so let's instead take a quick peek at two new videos that Yabla is releasing in celebration of Silvester — and I don't mean "Sylvester and Tweetie!"
Was machen wir eigentlich an Silvester?
What are we actually doing on New Year's Eve?
Caption 2, Im Zoo: Der Jahreswechsel für die Tiere
A major part of New Year celebrations in many countries is the shooting off of fireworks and firecrackers. Der Böller is a firecracker, and "to set off a firecracker" is the verb böllern. If we turn this verb into a noun or nominalize it, it becomes das Böllern:
Fester Bestandteil: meist das Anstoßen auf das neue Jahr und das Böllern.
An integral part: usually the toast to the new year and the setting off of firecrackers.
Caption 4, Im Zoo: Der Jahreswechsel für die Tiere
And of course parties are a key part of the celebration:
Der Neujahrsempfang ist aber auch die ideale Plattform, um gute Neuigkeiten bekannt zu machen.
The New Year's reception is indeed also the ideal platform for announcing some good news.
Captions 3-4, Rhein-Main-TV: FSV-Neujahrsempfang
You may also see it described as die Silvesterparty or das Neujahrsfest. Either way, have fun — but not so much that you'll regret it the next day!
Visit Yabla German to find more examples of typical New Year's terms like das Anstoßen and das Feuerwerk.
It's Christmas time again and in the spirit of the season, Yabla has three new videos with a Yuletide theme. Let's take a quick look at some highlights and expand our holiday vocabulary.
The literal translation of the German version of "Christmas Eve" is "Holy Eve": der Heilige Abend or even der Heiligabend.
Gehen Sie da direkt am Heiligen Abend zu Ihrem Sohn?
Are you going to your son's house right on Christmas Eve?
Caption 26, Weihnachtsinterviews: Diane in Karlsruhe
Another holiday eve with which you may be less familiar is Saint Nicholas' Eve: der Nikolausabend. You can read more about the European traditions associated with this holiday on Wikipedia.
Bald ist Nikolausabend da.
Soon Saint Nicholas' Eve will be here.
Caption 11, Weihnachtslieder: Lasst uns froh und munter sein
The phrase "Bitte nehmen Sie Platz" is an invitation to sit down or literally "take a place." And although das Plätzchen is indeed the diminutive of der Platz, in this case we're not talking about sitting down at all — we're talking about baked goods!
Ich will ein Plätzchen nehmen.
I want to take a cookie.
Caption 28, Weihnachtslieder Detlev Jöcker: Heute wird gebacken
Practice your German by singing a Christmas song or two for your family and friends, and find even more videos about Weihnachten on Yabla German.
German language beginners may easily get besonders, besonderes, and Besonderes confused, since they sound nearly the same and have only minor differences in spelling. Once you learn the grammar behind the different spellings, however, you should be able to easily distinguish the reasons for the spelling differences.
The adverb besonders (and remember, adverbs modify adjectives as well as verbs), usually translated as "particularly" or "especially," is spelled in lower case (except at the beginning of a sentence) and without the third "e" before the "s." It will only be used with this spelling as an adverb:
So was zum Beispiel läuft besonders gut.
Something like this, for instance, is going particularly well.
Caption 15, Auftrumpfen: Mit Kitsch und Protz
The adjective besondere (only written with "-s" in its nominative neuter form) is usually translated as "special" or "particular." It is always written in lower case except when it is the first word in a sentence. It will, like all German adjectives, have different endings depending on whether it's in the nominative, dative, accusative, or genitive case, and depending on whether the noun it modifies is feminine, masculine or neuter, and singular or plural.
Here's an example of the adjective besondere in the singular genitive (feminine) case:
Einen Wettlauf der besonderen Art liefern sich der britische Milliardär Richard Branson und Hollywood-Regisseur James Cameron.
A race of a special kind is being carried out by the British billionaire Richard Branson and Hollywood director James Cameron.
Caption 2, Expedition Marianengraben: Zum tiefsten Punkt der Erde
The word Besonderes, always written capitalized and with the extra "e" before the last "s," is a nominalized adjective, which is an adjective that has been turned into a noun. Note that nominalized adjectives in German are not necessarily so in English! In German, it is usually preceded by either etwas or was (meaning "something" in this context) or the word nichts (meaning "nothing").
In vielen Familien ist es an Weihnachten Tradition, dass es etwas Besonderes zum Essen gibt.
In many families, it is a tradition at Christmas that there is something special to eat.
Caption 3, Weihnachtsessen: mit Eva
To review: besonders is an adverb, besondere (with possible declensions ending with -r, -s, -n, -m) is an adjective, and Besonderes is a nominalized adjective. For more in-depth information on how German turns non-nouns into nouns, read this paper. Then visit Yabla German and search for examples of the above words as spoken in a real world context.
Most nouns that are masculine and end in -e in their nominative singular form are called weak nouns, or schwache Substantive. They are often nouns that refer to nationalities, animals, or professions, such as der Schwede, der Löwe or der Psychologe. Since most German nouns ending in -e are feminine, these exceptions are easy to recognize. What sets them apart from other nouns is the fact that in all cases except for nominative, they end in -en. It is obvious that nouns ending in -e will end in -en in plural cases, but this applies to the singular case too!
Here's examples of the weak noun der Junge with the -en ending in different singular cases, starting with dative:
Der Zauberer sah zu dem zitternden Jungen hinab.
The sorcerer looked down at the trembling boy.
Caption 80, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Der Zauberlehrling
And again in the singular accusative case:
Schiffsverkehr... für einen Jungen aus dem Pott klingt das nur bedingt naheliegend.
Ship traffic... for a boy from the Pit that sounds only conditionally obvious.
Caption 9, Herbert Grönemeyer: stellt sein neues Album vor
And finally in the singular genitive case:
Der Fisch wurde von der Mutter des kleinen Jungen gekauft.
The fish was bought by the mother of the little boy.
Caption 65, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Der standhafte Zinnsoldat
There are also some weak nouns that end in letters other than -e, but more about them later!
Go to this page to practice your weak noun endings, and visit Yabla German to find more examples of weak masculine nouns in practice.
You're not likely to mix up the meaning of wurden with würden (or konnten with könnten) when reading or having a conversation in German, as the context makes it pretty obvious what is meant. But I've noticed occasionally when writing in German that it's important to have a clear sense of the difference between the two.
The words wurden and konnten are the Präteritum / Indikativ (preterite / realis) moods of the verbs werden and können, respectively. The words würden and könnten are the Präteritum / Konjunktiv II (preterite / subjunctive) moods of the verbs werden and können, respectively.
But all grammatical complications aside, an easy way to remember the difference is that these verb forms do not use the umlaut letter when talking about the actual past, and both words do use the umlaut letter when talking about the conditional present or future.
Sie flohen aus dem Königreich und wurden nie wieder gesehen.
They fled from the kingdom and were never seen again.
Caption 85, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Das tapfere Schneiderlein
Wir würden gerne auf eine kleine Clubtour gehen.
We would like to go on a small clubs tour.
Caption 17, Deutsche Bands: Die "No Angels"
Die hungrigen Kinder konnten es kaum erwarten, davon zu essen.
The hungry children could barely wait to eat from it.
Caption 61, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Hänsel und Gretel
„Wir könnten unendlich so weiterlaufen“, antwortete Frederick.
"We could continue walking endlessly like this," answered Frederick.
Caption 10, Piggeldy und Frederick: Unendlichkeit
Got it? An easy way to remember with wurden/würden and konnten/könnten is: if an umlaut letter is present, you are talking about the possible present or future!
Visit Yabla German and watch the two Yabla videos conjugating the verbs werden and können and practice writing some of your own sentences using the different tenses of the verbs.
A substantival possessive pronoun is a personal determiner that is used without an accompanying noun, such as "mine," "his" or "hers," "yours," "ours," and "theirs." In English, substantival possessive pronouns sometimes have a different form than standard personal pronouns with a noun: "my" becomes "mine," as in "My wallet is in my bag." "Oh, where is mine?" In German, however, the substantival variant depends upon the inflective ending of the original pronoun that it is replacing.
Ich nehme mal an, Ihre Schulzeit liegt ähnlich weit zurück wie meine.
I take it your time at school dates, likewise, back as far back as mine.
Caption 1, Sprachschulen: Sprachcaffe Frankfurt
Since he is referring to his time at school (feminine noun, singular nominative case: die Schulzeit), the substantival possessive pronoun is inflected accordingly: meine.
Dafür könnt' ich sie bei der Schulbehörde anzeigen, aber dann stünde dein Wort gegen ihres.
I could report her for that to the school authorities, but then it would be your word against hers.
Caption 15, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche
Although the possessive of das Wort would be ihr Wort, the substantival possessive pronoun adds -es to the neuter singular nominative case. If the substantival possessive pronoun were standing in for a masculine noun, it would add -er for the masculine case. You will most often encounter -es endings on pronouns in the genitive case, so best keep a sharp eye out for this exception!
Visit Yabla German and search for examples of nouns that you can practice turning into substantival possessive pronouns. Check out this site to further practice your pronoun skills!
The German word for "dragon" is der Drache, but the word for "kite" is der Drachen, with an -n at the end. Since the plural for both "kites" and "dragons" is die Drachen, if the definite article is not mentioned, the only way you can tell which word is meant is from the context. This week's new installment of the TV series Großstadtrevier has a good example:
Er wollte die Küche streichen und Maries Drachen reparieren.
He wanted to paint the kitchen and repair Marie's kite.
Caption 8, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern
Er fand überall welche, in Schlössern und Palästen, verhext von Hexen und gefangen von Drachen.
He found them everywhere, in castles and palaces, bewitched by witches and captured by dragons.
Captions 28, 29: Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse
It is pretty clear from the contexts above that it probably isn't Marie's dragon that is being repaired, nor that the people found in the castles were being captured by kites!
The singular genitive forms are different, however, with "of the dragon" written des Drachen and "of the kite" written des Drachens, with an -s at the end!
Wir haben einen Garten des friedvollen Drachen.
We have a "Garden of the Peaceful Dragon.”
Caption 18, Das Tollwood-Festival: BAP und Clueso in der Musik-Arena
Visit Yabla German and search for examples of der Drache and der Drachen as used in a real world—or perhaps a purely imaginary—context.
In colloquial German, it is common to hear the word grad, which is slang for the adverb/adjective gerade and could easily be confused with the noun Grad. The adverb gerade can be translated as "just," "especially," "exactly," "just now," or even as "directly." The adjective gerade is usually used to describe "even," as in even and odd numbers, and is translated as "level," "direct," "upright," and "ingenuous" as well.
Wir sind ja grad [gerade] erst gekommen.
We indeed only just arrived.
Caption 4, Oktoberfest München: Auf der Wiesn
However, the neuter noun das Grad is a technical term that refers to measurable "degrees" of temperature or the "degree" of a geometric angle. In non-technical usage, it is a masculine noun (der Grad) and may refer an academic degree.
Es soll bis über zwanzig Grad warm werden.
It should get warm, up to more than twenty degrees.
Caption 16, München: 180. Oktoberfest eröffnet
Go to Yabla German and search for examples of gerade, grad and Grad as spoken in a real world context.
The German language has a colorful variety of idioms for describing when a situation is in decline or when things have gone badly.
If something is "in the bucket" in German, at least it's not as bad as "kicking the bucket" in English!
Wenn Thorsten nicht genommen wird, ist seine Karriere im Eimer.
If Thorsten is not accepted, his career will be in the bucket [idiom, over].
Captions 18-19, Die Pfefferkörner: Eigentor
The less polite version of the above is im Arsch, which for politeness' sake is perhaps best left untranslated.
Whereas something going badly is said to be "going downhill" in English, in German the expression relates to water rather than mountains.
Seit ich wieder angefangen habe, geht unsere Ehe den Bach runter.
Since I started again, our marriage has been going downstream [idiom, falling apart].
Caption 7, Spielfilm: Mama arbeitet wieder
If things get too bad, maybe it's high time you hightail it out of there!
Sie macht sich aus dem Staub.
She makes herself out of the dust [idiom, absconds].
Caption 45, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten
This extensive listing of German idioms is amusing for the fact that the English translations are all literal and intentionally humorous. Pick out a few whose real meaning is unclear to you and look online to discover what the expressions really express, then search for some examples used in real conversations on Yabla German.
Both English and German refer to past events using the simple past tense and the present perfect tense. The perfect past tense is called Perfekt in German, but it is important to understand that although the German Perfekt is considered the closest equivalent of present perfect in English in terms of its structure, in fact there are some notable differences in the ways each language uses this tense.
Both English present perfect and German Perfekt have in common that they are compound tenses, formed with an auxiliary or helping verb together with the past participle. This auxiliary verb is usually "to have" (haben) and sometimes, in German, "to be" (sein):
Wir haben sieben Tafeln Schokolade gegessen.
We have eaten seven chocolate bars.
Caption 15, Konjugation: Das Verb „essen“
Wir sind zusammen in die Stadt gegangen.
We have gone to the city together.
Caption 12, Konjugation: Das Verb „gehen“
The main difference, however, is that the English present perfect refers to an action or state that begins in the past and continues into the present, whereas the German Perfekt is usually used to speak about completed states and actions, and is therefore rather the direct equivalent of the simple past tense. In fact, Perfekt is often called the "conversational past" because it is the primary spoken form of the past tense. In many cases where spoken English would use the simple past tense ("We already ate."), German would almost always use the Perfekt tense (Wir haben schon gegessen).
Alternately, the German Präsenz (present tense) can sometimes be best translated into the English present perfect:
Und Gitarre spielt die Vierunddreißigjährige schon seit ihrem sechsten Lebensjahr.
And the thirty-four year old has played guitar since her sixth year of age.
Caption 12, Ann Doka & Band: New Country aus dem Rhein-Main-Gebiet
Read this article about simple past vs. Perfekt and take this quiz about the German Perfekt tense, then find some examples of the tense used in real conversations on Yabla German.
The verbs sagen, ansagen, and besagen appear similar when written in their infinitive forms, but have quite different meanings. In common English usage, there are a number of examples where all three might be translated with the English verb "to say," although for besagen the English verbs "to state," "to imply," "to mention," or "to mean" are usually more accurate, and for ansagen, "to declare," "to introduce," or "to present" are usually better.
Here is the verb sagen in its present perfect (German Perfekt) tense:
Sie haben mal gesagt, dass sich erfolgreicher Fußball in erster Linie durch Schnelligkeit und Präzision auszeichnet.
You once said that successful soccer is, above all, characterized by velocity and precision.
Captions 22-23, Fußball: Saisonpremiere
The verb ansagen, in its Perfekt tense, is written identically to and should be distinguished from its slang adjectival form angesagt, which means "popular," "hip," or "hot" (the latter two in the English slang sense). Here is the verb ansagen in present perfect tense:
Einige Schüler haben lästigem Kabelsalat den Kampf angesagt.
Some students have declared war on annoying cable clutter.
Caption 8, Erfinder: Erfindermesse in Nürnberg
And lastly, here is an example of besagen in present tense:
Zu wenig Einsatz, wenig überzeugend beim weiblichen Geschlecht, besagt die Studie.
Too little effort, less than convincing for the female sex, says the study.
Caption 25, Balztanz: für Fortgeschrittene
To sum up: the verb sagen is the act of saying; the verb besagen is referring to what is stated, such as in a law, a study, or on a sign; and the verb ansagen is referring to the act of stating, usually in reference to declaration, such as declaring war.
Read these posts about about sagen and besagen, and brush up on the conjugation of sagen with this video on Yabla German. For advanced learners, check out what Friedrich Wilhelm Genthe wrote about sagen, besagen and ansagen in the "Handwörterbuch deutscher Synonyme" way back in 1834!
This basic expression of gratitude can be written in three different ways: 1. Upper case as Dankeschön, one word; 2. Two words upper case Danke and lower case schön; or 3. as two words danke schön in lower case. But which of these are correct?
The uppercase single word Dankeschön is a neuter noun, and should actually only be written thus when clearly used as a noun in a sentence:
Das Lied ist ein Dankeschön an Menschen, die die Sporties inspiriert haben.
The song is a thank-you to people who have inspired the "Sporties."
Captions 26-27, Sportfreunde Stiller: Neues Album
Und ganz herzliches Dankeschön auf jeden Fall.
And very heartfelt thanks in any case.
Caption 20, Tierfreund Mario Barth: Der Tätowierer der Stars
The more common greeting of Danke schön / danke schön is written as two words, and in most cases is written lower case (except when starting a sentence, of course):
Das bestelle ich später, danke schön.
I'll order that later, thank you.
Caption 17, Abendessen: mit Marko
The upper case exception Danke schön, which is recommended (but not required) by Duden, can be used when expressions of gratitude are referred to with the verb sagen in a sentence, in which case the expression is handled grammatically as a noun phrase:
Nächste Woche geht es wieder weiter und ich sage Danke schön und Auf Wiedersehen.
We'll continue next week, and I'd like to say thank you and goodbye.
Captions 28-29, Ball des Weines: Tombola
Note that even the Auf in Auf Wiedersehen is upper case, but this rather complicated rule is not of great concern, since lower case is also an acceptable form. Remember too that danke can also be the first person singular form of the verb danken, "to thank," and is therefore always written in lower case. Ich danke euch herzlich!
Find some more ways to express thanks in German and look for these expressions on Yabla German to see them used in a real world context.
Capitalizing words in German is, for the most part, easier than English. In German, all nouns are capitalized, and most pronouns (except for the formal and "royal we" cases) are written in lower case. Unlike English, most German adjectives (including nationality) are written lower case.
Der Unterschied zwischen deutschen Texten und englischen Texten...
The difference between German lyrics and English lyrics...
Caption 34, Frida Gold: Interview
Nor are adjectives capitalized, unlike the English title case in headlines or names of films, songs, etc. For book and film titles, only the first word and nouns (or nominative cases) are in upper case.
Deswegen gucken wir jetzt einfach mal rein in „Das heimliche Geräusch“.
Therefore we'll now simply take a look at "The Secret Noise."
Caption 10, Kurzfilm-Festival: Shorts at Moonlight
The only exceptions are if the adjective is part of a proper name, such as of a species, a legal or historical term, or a place name, or titles of books, films, etc.
Nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg wurde Berlin in vier Sektoren unterteilt.
After the Second World War, Berlin was divided into four sectors.
Caption 1, Berlin: der alte amerikanische Sektor
Nominalized adjectives are adjectives that are used as nouns, and in German these too are written in upper case. Generally, an adjective that has the definite article before it (der, die oder das) is a nominalized adjective:
Das ist das Beste, was es gibt auf der Welt.
That's the best thing that there is in the world.
Caption 36, Monsters of Liedermaching: Ein Pferd
A possibly confusing exception are superlative adjectives, usually preceded by am and written in lower case:
Was hat dir am besten gefallen?
What did you like best?
Caption 33, Umweltlernen: Propellerpflanzen am Kräutertag
Sometimes too, adjectives are written apart from the noun they are modifying and may at first appear to be nominalized. As you see in the following, schönsten actually modifies the preceding noun Auswärtssiege:
Am Samstag, da wir eh alle nach Kaiserslautern fahren und Auswärtssiege die schönsten sind, müssen auf jeden Fall drei Punkte her.
On Saturday, since we are all already driving to Kaiserslautern and away wins are the most beautiful, three points are definitely a must.
Captions 54-56, Fußball: Eintracht-Fan gewinnt Wimpel
Find some nominalized adjectives from this list, then search for them on Yabla German to see them used in a real world context. If you want to go really deep into German nominalization rules, see the rules themselves as specified by Duden.
Understanding which words to capitalize in German is, for the most part, easier than English. In German, all nouns are capitalized. There are, however, a few cases where words that at first appear to be nouns are not capitalized. When used with the verbs sein, bleiben, or werden, the words angst, leid, pleite, recht, and schuld become predicate adjectives and are written lower case:
Sie hat geantwortet. „Lieber Unbekannter, Sie haben völlig recht.“
She replied. "Dear stranger, you are absolutely right."
Caption 43, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche
As a noun, the word das Recht is written starting with upper case, but in this case the word recht is in fact a predicate adjective, not a noun. If you deconstruct the sentence and replace recht with a noun, it is immediately clear that the sentence makes no sense with anything but an adjective.
Aber hey, ich bin nicht schuld dran, ganz bestimmt nicht.
But hey, I am not to blame for it, definitely not.
Caption 55, Rapucation: Guten Appetit
Here again, in some expressions with the verb "to be" (sein), what may appear to be a noun is actually a predicate adjective. So other than these few exceptions, capitalizing nouns in German is easy. If only noun genders were so simple!
Read more here about the rules of German upper and lower case. Search on Yabla German for forms of the words listed above in a real world context.
In this week's new video Mama arbeitet wieder, a construction company boss tells his foreman:
Aber bevor wir hier abziehen, lassen wir's noch mal richtig krachen, was?
But before we pull out here, we'll make a really big noise [celebrate], right?
Caption 4, Spielfilm: Mama arbeitet wieder
The verb krachen is defined by the Duden dictionary as primarily "einen Krach verursachen, auslösen" or "causing a loud noise." Its slang meanings are "to have a fight with somebody" (Krach haben) or "to suffer a bankruptcy" (Krach erleiden), the latter similar to the "crash" of the stock market in English. The verb combination krachen lassen, however, usually means "to celebrate."
Da wünsche ich euch viel Spaß! Lasst es krachen!
Then I hope you have a lot of fun! Make some noise [celebrate]!
Caption 70, Silvester und Vorsätze für das Neue Jahr
A variation to the translation "to celebrate" is made in the case where a car really "makes some noise":
Und die lassen es in der brandneuen, über zweihundert PS starken A-Klasse so richtig krachen.
And they'll really, in the brand new over two hundred horsepower strong A-Class, make some noise [idiom: "cut loose"].
Captions 16-17, Mercedes Benz: Michael Schumacher und Nico Rosberg bei der Nationalmannschaft
So the slang term "krachen lassen" is usually used in connection with some kind of celebration, such as a birthday party or New Year's celebration. 2016 is still some months away, but that gives you a chance to get some practice celebrations going in the meantime. Lass es krachen!
Search for more videos on German Yabla that use the verb krachen and watch the entire video to improve your party vocabulary!
Around 45% of English words have French origins and most of them, such as art, competition, force, machine, money, police, publicity, role, routine, and table are everyday English words spoken with English pronunciation. There are, however, a number of French words that are commonly used in English that have retained their French character and are unmistakably "French sounding" to the English listener. These foreign words that have been incorporated into the native language are called Loanwords (or Lehnwörter in German).
German too has its share of French loanwords, or Gallicisms, although German vocabulary has fewer words of French origin than English does.
Was Avantgardistisches? -Genau, genau, so kann man das sehen.
Something avant-garde? -Exactly, exactly, you can look at it like this.
Caption 16, Rat für nachhaltige Entwicklung: Mode gegen Armut
Some terms come from cultural milieus such as art. In avantgardistisch, the German version of "avant-garde," the hyphen has been dropped, forming single word.
Der Mohn kommt in die Vinaigrette, ein wenig Honig dazu.
The poppy seeds go into the vinaigrette, a little honey's added to it.
Caption 56, Kochhaus Berlin: Rucola-Salat-Rezept
As with English, many French loanwords come from the culinary world. The German Vinaigrette is capitalized as a noun, but otherwise identical to the English and the French.
Du hast für PeTA eine ziemlich coole neue Kampagne geschossen.
You shot a pretty cool new campaign for PeTA.
Caption 30, Tierfreund Mario Barth: Der Tätowierer der Stars
Many other French loanwords in German come from politics and military jargon. In this last example, the spelling of the original French word campagne is Germanized as die Kampagne, and the English spelling "campaign" is different as well! In most cases, however, loanwords retain the original spellings and diacritical marks.
Go to the German Wikipedia listing of Gallicisms, and when you find a familiar word, do a video search on Yabla German and see how the French loanword is used in German.
In a video launched last week, German comedian Bastian Pastewka — yes, the same actor who narrates the animated Märchen series — plays himself in an eponymous TV series. In one scene, another actor says:
Das ist Bastian Pastewka, einer der beleibtesten Komiker Deutschlands.
On a first reading, you might think the actor saying that Pastewka is one of the "most beloved comedians in Germany," but if you look closer, you see that word is not beliebtesten but rather beleibtesten:
That is Bastian Pastewka, one of the most obese comedians of Germany.
Caption 12, Pastewka: Neue Serie für Kessler
So simply switching the letters "ie" with "ei" results in the word changing from beliebt (beloved) to beleibt (obese). Rearranging the letters in a word to form a word with a different meaning is called an anagram. Such subtleties are often the basis for humorous wordplays or Wortspiele in many languages.
Other kinds of wordplays focus on associating two words in unexpected ways. In the following example from the animated Piggeldy und Frederick series, the young Piggeldy notices a sheep bleating "baa", which in German is transcribed as mäh. He then says:
Es hat eben gesagt, was es den ganzen Tag tut. Es mäht das Gras.
It just said what it does the whole day. It’s mowing the grass.
Captions 33-34, Piggeldy und Frederick: Das Schaf
So in German, the word for a sheep's "baa" (mäh) is similar to the German verb for mowing (mähen). Using an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound is called a malapropism.
In a video celebrating World Pi Day, (yes, the mathematical constant "pi" has its own holiday), someone asks the riddle, "Which tower has a downward lean of 3.1415 percent?" The answer is:
Der Schiefe Turm von „Pi-Tag”!
The Leaning Tower of "Pi Day!"
Caption 59, Welt-Pi-Tag: Unser Leben mit der Kreiszahl
The invented word Pi-Tag or "Pi Day" is a pun on the word "Pisa" from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Puns are, of course, the source of a lot of very corny jokes and wordplays. The 1996 French film Ridicule even goes so far as to call puns "the death of wit!"
Learn more about English types of wordplay on English Wikipedia and German wordplays on German Wikipedia and find some of your new German vocabulary words in a real world context in videos on German Yabla.
When was the last time you had a swine? Do you only understand "train station?" Is your life like a pony ranch? Is your nose full of it? Is it really about the wurst? Are you pressing your thumbs for me? If any of these phrases seem odd to you, now is the time catch up on some of the most common German idioms!
„Wir haben ganz schön Schwein gehabt", sagte Frederick,
"We pretty much had a swine [idiom: were lucky]," said Frederick.
Caption 33: Piggeldy und Frederick: Reise nach Schweinebrück
Maybe villages used to award pigs at farmer bingo games, but whatever the reason, "having a swine" means you're in luck in German!
Also, ich versteh' nur Bahnhof.
Well, I only understand "train station" [idiom: I don't understand anything].
Caption 27, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche
"Bahnhof" might be one of the first words a new arrival to Germany learns, so if you only understand "Bahnhof," then you don't understand very much at all.
Ist das Leben für Sie ein Ponyhof?
Is life a pony ranch [idiom: easy, fun] for you?
Caption 1, Oktoberfest München: Auf der Wiesn
Apparently a pony ranch is the German idea of a "bowl of cherries"...
Aber seit dem gestrigen Halbfinale hab' ich die Nase voll!
But since yesterday's semi-finals, I have the nose full [idiom: am very disenchanted]!
Caption 23, Konjugation: Das Verb „mögen
One can only surmise that having your nose stuffed up could get pretty uncomfortable.
OK, jetzt geht's wirklich um die Wurst.
OK, now it's really about the wurst [idiom: getting serious].
Caption 35, Rhein-Main Szene: Miss Interkontinental
Germans traditionally take their sausages very seriously, so if it's "about the wurst", everybody is paying serious attention!
Deswegen müsst ihr mir ganz doll die Daumen drücken.
For that reason you have to press the thumbs [idiom, “cross your fingers”] for me very much.
Caption 25: Summer Cheergirl: Vorstellung der Kandidatinnen
Much in the same way that (as shown in the well-known scene in the film Inglourious Basterds) that a European will indicate "three" with the thumb and first two fingers, and an American with only the first three fingers, so too in Germany the thumbs are pressed rather than fingers crossed for luck.
Look up some common English idioms and see if you can find the German equivalents in a real world context in videos on German Yabla.