In this column, author Adam Jacot de Boinod explores the weird and wonderful world of German and Italian vocabulary and discovers some rather interesting terms. Let us take a look at what he has found.

The German vocabulary is rich in depicting the different characters that inhabit our world:

Pomadenhengst:: a dandy (literally, a hair cream stallion)
Pistenschreck:: a skier you have to watch out for (literally, ski lane terror)
Spruchkasper:: a fool full of wise sayings
die Fregatte:: a heavily made-up old woman (literally, a frigate)
Seelenklempner:: a psychiatrist (literally, a soul plumber)
ABC-Schütze: a pupil in first year of school (literally, ABC shooter)
Zaungast: a guest who looks over the fence to get at least the music of the party (literally, a fence guest)
Kiebitz: an onlooker at a card game who interferes with unwanted advice
Trennungsagentur: a man hired by women to break the news to their men that they are dumped (literally, a separation agent)
Kerzlschlucker: (Austrian German) an insufferably pious person who never misses a mass (literally, a candle cormorant)
Tantenverführer: a young man of suspiciously good manners you suspect of devious motives (literally, an aunt seducer)

Pure as the driven snow

Italian idioms are full of colour and have a strong symbolic force. The colour white has an impressive range of connotations:

settimana bianca: a skiing vacation (literally, a white week)
mosca bianca: a rare thing which stands out (literally, a white fly)
piu bianco non si puo: blameless, innocent (literally, more white you cannot)
mangiare in bianco: to eat lightly (literally, to eat in white)
pesce/carne in bianco: boiled fish or meat (literally, fish or meat in white)
passare una notte in bianco: to have a sleepless night (literally, to pass a night in white)
avere carta bianc: to have full authorisation to do what you want (literally, to have white card)
rendere l’occasione bianco: to spoil it (literally, to make the occasion white)
pretendere bianco por nero: to mislead (literally, to claim white for black)
andare in bianco: to go into the white (literally, to have no success with someone romantically)

Adam Jacot de Boinod worked on the first series of the BBC panel game QI for Stephen Fry. He is a British author having written three books about unusual words with Penguin Press.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Discover Germany Magazine.’

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