German Insults Which Are Actually Not Insulting
Insults make up an important part of everyday conversation. Familiarizing yourself with German insults is a useful way to help you understand either the seriousness of a situation, or more likely to understand German humour. Better yet, you can use them to try and be funny yourself! It is also useful to understand these insults if you want to date or flirt in German. You wouldn’t want to have a misunderstanding arise from a misjudged attempt at flirting…
In Germany, the common insults might seem a little strange. For example, there is a tendency to call someone a vegetable as an insult. And people say Germans have no sense of humour… In the following list, we will tell you about other common insults, what you should feel offended by and what is actually meant nicely.
This directly translates to a word meaning a whining or a crying rag. A “Jammerlappen” is someone who constantly complains about things that can’t be changed. The weather for example, or someone who instead of tackling their problems prefers to whine and hopes to get attention for it. Also, “Lappen” is one of the German insults that works on its own. A German finds the image of a wet, dirty rag very insulting. Understandable somehow…
If somebody thinks that someone has done something badly, in Germany we would call them a “Lauch”. That is the German word for leek. In the German language this vegetable connotes thinness and fragility, making it one of the crueller but funnier German insults.
“Schlau” is the German word for clever and “Meyer” is a very old vocabulary. Today they actually only use it as a surname. But in the past, Meyer was the land administrator of a count and rather unpopular. The combination of the two words forms a jocular insult for someone who is a bit of a smart-ass, but Germans mostly use it in a nice way. Mostly…
Translating the word Flitzpiepe in the right way is difficult. “Flitzen” means something like running very quickly, and “Piepe” has a phonetic similarity to “Pfeife” (pipe or whistle in English), which is also a very popular German insult. A running whistle could, therefore, be someone who tells a lot of nonsense quickly, but we don’t know for sure.
This funny word would be used to describe someone who takes a warm shower and avoids the cold water and is, of course, a metaphor. The cold water stands for unpleasant duties and a “Warmduscher” is therefore someone who avoids the difficult things in life or cuts corners.
Germans who are particularly German and fulfil clichés are potatoes. Although these originally come from South America, Germans love them with their meatballs or schnitzel. In addition to that, the Kartoffel drinks caraway schnapps and wheat beer, at least according to the stereotype. (Maybe we’re all a few wheat beers away from fulfilling this cliche.)
“Schnarchnase” translates to ‘snoring nose’ and refers to people who need a little longer to process and understand things. They also use it when someone is forgetful and oversleeps or snores their afternoons away instead of attending their appointments.
Older generations describe young people they deem precocious as ‘Drei-Käse-Hoch’. Three-cheese-high conjures the image of three cheese wheels lying on top of each other, tall enough to match a person’s height. In fact, the origin of the joking name has something to do with it. In the 18th century, they measured the size of children by placing them next to cheese wheels, so the word came up.
One of my absolute favorite words. “Sesselfurzer” roughly means armchair farting, and means someone who does a sedentary job all day long and does not do any physical work. It also describes that within this sedentary and mostly administrative work they give no great performance to the company; they just fart in their chairs all day.
A monkey with patent leather shoes is the German equivalent of Flash Harry. Picture a man who pays a little too much attention to his appearance and holds his head high. Are you rethinking those patent leather shoes now?
In Germany, every pupil brings his or her own gym clothes to sport classes in their gym bags. Those who have forgotten them are not allowed to take part in lessons and sit on the bench at the edge of the playground. Pupils to whom this happens more often are called “Turnbeutelvergesser”, literally gym bag forgetters. With the insult comes the accusation that the person actually doesn’t like doing sports and is just lazy. People who act like that in everyday life and not just in sports lessons are called “Turnbeutelvergesser”.
The combination of the words asparagus and Tarzan are particularly funny, as they seem completely arbitrary at first sight and that is probably what makes the joke. Asparagus Tarzan is used to refer to young men who are very thin but act like big apes.
In Germany the insult “Flachzange” became known through Dr. Cox from Scrubs. He uses it at every opportunity for the protagonist JD when he does something stupid, when he does something good or even when he does nothing at all. Translated, it means flat pliers. We don’t know exactly what the offending part is, maybe it’s like the Germans use the word dull for stupid. Anyway, it is a winged word and sounds great.
Landpomeranze is a highly interesting term for someone from the country who is not yet very familiar with the city. The word is an invention of 18th-century students, who gave this fixed term to younger students. Pomeranze is the German word for bitter orange. It refers to the pink cheeks of the naïve newcomers and could perhaps be translated as Freshman in a student context. Nowadays the insult is perhaps a bit outdated, but here and there you can still hear it, especially in Berlin.
Language is a great testimony of culture. If you want to understand a people properly, its views, its way of thinking, you should definitely also deal with its insults and humor.
Germans do not tend to insult each other often or aggressively. When they consider someone with a saying, they usually mean it in a friendly way.
German words can seem funny to the untrained eye because of their length and unusual combinations. But as you’ve seen, these ridiculous German words are impressive for their strange logic, which is what makes them funny.