Kaput, Kitsch and Wanderlust: We Have Ways of Making You Talk

Who else is watching Deutschland 83 at the moment? It’s Channel 4’s German language TV series about the Cold War. Set in 1983 (obvs) it has a great soundtrack that includes New Order’s Blue Monday, Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics and Modern Love by David Bowle (RIP).

So far, I’ve learnt about four words of German. But it got me wondering how many German or German origin words we use in everyday English.

Here are a few.

Abseil: descend by rope

Angst: fear, depression, anger

Delicatessen: speciality food retailer (German spelling Delikatessen)

Doppelgänger: someone’s double

Fest: a feast, celebration, a party

Foosball: table football

Gestalt: overall shape, pattern, appearance of something

Hinterland: backwoods, back of beyond, remote from urban areas

Kaput: not working, broken, useless, out of order

Kitsch: fake art, inauthentic, tacky, cheap

Leitmotif: a theme, constantly recurring melody

Prattle: chatter, babble, gabble

Rucksack: backpack

Schadenfreude: getting pleasure from another’s misfortune

Schmaltz: sickly sentimentality

Spiel: well rehearses patter

Spritz: squirt or spray liquid

Stollen: a sweet, yeast bread

Uber: better, superior, above, the best, saviour of a Saturday night

Verboten: forbidden, prohibited

Vorsprung durch Technik: advancement through technology

Wanderlust: desire to travel, to wander

Wunderkind: a child prodigy

Zeitgeist: the defining spirit or mood of a period in history, as demonstrated by ideas and beliefs


Check out these posts on Indian words, French words and Latin words.

  • SophieKBuchanan
    Posted at 19:29h, 11 January Reply

    Kaput, Kitsch and Wanderlust: German Words in English – https://t.co/H6tQ3A59Ea via @turnerink https://t.co/vnJMvqPJ7G

  • Christian
    Posted at 11:28h, 23 February Reply

    Good list! Add Kindergarten?

    Sometimes, meaning and/or spelling in German is different:
    Foosball – German Fußball is simply football. Table football is Tischfußball/Tippkick (players moved with fingers) or Kickern/Krökeln (pitch in crate with players on rods)
    Kaput, Schmaltz, Uber – in German: kaputt, Schmalz, Über…
    Prattle – not a standard German word
    Spiel – in German both rehearsed and free play

  • Tobias Pettigrew
    Posted at 17:37h, 18 March Reply

    Language is fascinating.

    English is such a compound of so many different languages. French. German. Dutch. Latin. Old Norse. Gallic. Probably more!

    I think – somehow – that’s what makes it such a successful, global language. It evolved through adaptation. Just like the Roman Empire thrived by ‘borrowing’ ideas from other cultures, the English language has evolved by ‘borrowing’ words from other languages. It’s what makes it so flexible and adaptable.

    Thanks for the interesting post, Sarah 🙂 I’ll need to check out Deutschland. Have you seen The Lives of Others? A fantastic film set in Germany around the same period. Check it out.

    – Tobie.

    • Sarah Turner
      Posted at 08:48h, 21 March Reply

      Thanks Tobie. I highly recommend Deutschland 83. Forgot how much everybody smoked in the 80s! Will check out The Lives of Others.

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