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LEARNING GERMAN

The everyday Austrian groceries that have a double meaning

The food that you put in your shopping basket at the Austrian supermarket isn’t just the ingredients for a tasty dinner, it can also add some flavour to your spoken German.

The everyday Austrian groceries that have a double meaning
In Austria and Germany, eggs are also found between a men's legs (Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash)

Like in many languages, spoken German is peppered with colloquialisms that don’t seem to make much sense at first glance. For some reasons, Austrians and Germans are particularly fond of spicing up their Umgangssprache by giving groceries new meanings.

Eier (eggs)
Eier are not just the things that you crack into your frying pan in the morning, they are also the two ovals that hang between a man’s legs.
If you want to compliment a man on his bravery you can say that er hat dicke Eier (he’s got fat eggs).

Or, if you a football hits you in the wrong place you can say “Aua, das hat mich direkt in die Eier getroffen!” (that hit my eggs). 

By the way, your Nudel (pasta) completes the trinity of the male genitalia.

READ ALSO: Nine German expressions that perfectly sum up spring in Austria

Birne (pear)
More anatomy here: your head is sometimes referred to in everyday speech as either your Birne or your Rübe (turnip). This is somewhat equivalent to the word ‘noggin’ in English dialect.

Kartoffel (potato)
The German word for a potato in Germany is also used as an insult for people who are ethnically German. It could also be used ironically by Germans to describe typically German behaviour. Er ist eine richtige Kartoffel! is an insult you might reserve for someone who wears socks and sandals outdoors.

READ ALSO: Austria: Six German expressions to entice your Wanderlust

Kartoffel as a description for Germans has become controversial in recent years, with some conservative politicians warning that it is being used in school playgrounds to bully German children.

In Austria, the word for potato is Erdapflel.

Wurst (sausage)
Austrians famously care about their sausages. Most regions have their own local delicacy and will proudly insist that it is the best in the country. But the word Wurst can also be used to mean that you don’t care.

So, if you want to tell someone you don’t give a toss, you can say: Das ist mir völlig Wurst! (That’s complete sausage to me).

Apparently, the phrase comes from the fact that butchers once used leftover meat in their sausages.

Bier (beer)
An expression using the German word for beer is similar. To say Das ist nicht mein Bier is to say that’s not my business (and is usually used just after you’ve poked you nose into someone else’s affairs).

READ ALSO: These eight words show just how different German and Austrian Deutsch can be

The origins of this phrase seem obscure. One theory has it that the word Bier has come to replace Birne (pear), which is used to mean Sache (thing) in some dialects.

Salat (salad)
The word for lettuce or salad can be used in a couple of ways in everyday speech. If someone is talking gibberish then a Wortsalat is coming out of their mouth.

Additionally, if you have the salad (den Salat haben) then you are counting the cost for a misadventure.

Sahne (cream)
You might not be surprised to hear that the word for cream signifies exclusivity in German. Much like the expression crème de la crème, German speakers call something erste Sahne to mean it is top notch.

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

Austrian word of the day: Beisl

This is a spot you might visit at the end of the working day - or Feierabend - particularly in Austria, as Germany has a different word for these establishments. Here's what this Austrian-German word means and how to use it.

Austrian word of the day: Beisl

Why do I need to know Beisl?

Because you may be invited to one or need to find one on the map.

What does it mean?

Das Beisl, which sounds like this, is the name for a pub or inn in Austrian German where people gather to drink beverages. In Germany, it is usually called a Kneipe.

This isn’t a fancy cocktail bar – it’s a neighbourhood watering hole and forms part of the make-up of towns and cities across Austria. It’s usually unpretentious, often small and used to be very smoky before Austria banned smoking indoors.

The term comes from the Czech “pajzl”, which means pub or dive. It’s a diminutive short form of the noun “hampejz” – with meaning such as “dog house” and even “brothel”.

Other possibilities for its origins include the Yiddish bajiss (house) , and the Austrian dialectal diminutive of the word Beiz – which was a low-class pub until the word got a better reputation.

Nowadays, the Beisl are usually friendly and charming and give an insight into life in Austria. So perhaps ask your Austria friends for a tip on a cool Beisl to visit. Just don’t expect the staff to speak English at all – or take credit cards.

If you’re hungry, keep in mind that Beisl usually doesn’t serve food or at least no hot dishes.

How to use it:
Treffen wir uns am Freitag nach Feierabend im Beisl.
Let’s meet in the pub on Friday after work finishes.
Ich gehe mit den Jungs ins Beisl.
I’m going to the pub with the lads.

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