NewsAbout rubber time and embarrassing breaks

About rubber time and embarrassing breaks

The German language contains around 500,000 words – but for some phenomena there is still no suitable expression. By Christian Satorius.

From the rich vocabulary of the German language, a number of poets and thinkers have created the most beautiful structures of words and ideas. For “International Mother Language Day”, eight words from other languages are presented here, each of which tells a story in itself.

“Utepils” : The Norwegian word translates best into German as “outside beer,” but somehow the Scandinavian original sounds much nicer. Originally, this meant the first beer of the year that you can drink outdoors without freezing to death. After Easter, when the days get longer again and the temperatures gradually rise, it’s still bitterly cold in the far north, but where there’s a will, there’s also “Utepils”. Today the word describes any beer that is drunk outside. Well, then: Scal!

“Tartle” : Embarrassing, embarrassing when you’ve forgotten someone’s name – and faltered on the greeting. That awkward moment of hesitation that occurs when trying to remember a name is called “tartle” in Scots. The advantage of this charming word is that you can also use it to apologize: “Sorry for my tartle!”, something like “Please excuse my hesitation in speaking”. That way you feel better straight away and you don’t feel so embarrassed anymore. Until we have the practical “Tartle” with us, we have to bridge the break with a cough – even if that makes things even more embarrassing.

“Iktsuarpok” : Anyone who sits alone in an igloo for months can get bored. So it’s no wonder if you go out every now and then to see if there might be visitors. There is a word for this in the Inuit language, the Inuktitut: “Iktsuarpok”. Simply waiting for visitors to come is not possible, because after all, classic igloos have no windows. So you have to pull yourself together and get out into the freezing cold. Inuit no longer live in igloos these days, but the beautiful “Iktsuarpok” has survived to this day.

“Tsundoku” : In Japan, many people work around the clock. It’s not for nothing that Japanese has its own word for “death from overwork”: “Kuroshi”. If they do have free time, the Japanese also like to buy a good book. It’s just reading that’s a thing, because free time is scarce. So the newly bought book is put on the shelf at home unread – with all the other unread books. In Japan, there is a special word for this phenomenon: “Tsundoku”.

“Sejengkal” : How often does it happen that you want to measure something but don’t have a folding rule with you? One meter can be roughly guessed at. But what to do if significantly smaller dimensions are required? Then the guessing begins. Unless you live in Malaysia. There they know the measure “Sejengkal”, which designates the span between the tips of the thumb and the little finger when they are spread as far as possible. Since not all people have the same size hands, this distance shows a certain spread. But if you put “Sejengkal” at about 20 centimeters, that’s better than guessing.

“Jam Karet” : If you don’t come to us on time, you can actually stay at home. In Indonesia you see it more loosely. There is finally the “Jam Karet”, the “rubber time”. It has it all – in the truest sense of the word. It can be just a few minutes off or it can be a few hours. In the Indonesian business world, the so-called German punctuality is also known, but: The “Jam Karet” is a great thing. Maybe we should do away with our summer time and introduce the Indonesian “rubber time” instead?

“Murr-ma”: Aboriginal people with the beautiful name Wagiman live in the Northern Territory of Australia. Conveniently, their language is also called Wagiman. The Wagiman know the great word “Murr-ma”, which means something like “search for something in the water with your feet”. We could use this word especially on vacation, when the car key fell into the lake or the lighter got lost while hiking on the mudflats.

“Morgenfrisk” : That’s what people in Denmark say when they mean the opposite of the headache. “Fresh as the young morning,” one could also say. But “Morgenfrisk” sounds a little bit fresher: Somehow crisp, well rested and full of energy.

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