Exploiting You: Help with German

Okay, I have a German baker in Rocky Start, and I have her calling her friend, my heroine, “Zucker” because that’s German for “sugar,” as an affection nickname. Except I have a horrible feeling that that might not be right. HELP.

In another place, Coral gives Rose some butterkuchen and Rose says the only German word she knows, which is “Danke” and Coral says, “Bitte.” Is that right?

Then in the last book, somebody tries to kill Coral and she says something in German, but I have no idea what, so maybe she’ll just stay beautifully silent as she breaks his neck.

74 thoughts on “Exploiting You: Help with German

  1. What is the most offensive German swear word?

    Leck mich am Arsch!

    This phrase is considered one of the most offensive things you can say in German. It is used to express extreme anger, frustration, or contempt. It is not used in casual conversation and should only be used with people you know very well.

    I got that from Google.

    1. Now you gave me an idea Cathy for what Coral could say when she breaks his neck:
      “Yippee ki-yay Arschloch”
      Arschloch is a generic term of abuse in German, but it specifically means butthole.

      1. Apart from A-loch you can also call him (if it’s a him) Scheißkerl.

        Somehow, swearing in English is about s*x while in German, it’s more about the endproducts of your digestive system…

        1. -loch, Jenny.
          The same sound as in Loch Ness.

          If Bob and you need a proofreader for Coral eventually, just let me know :-).

    2. “Leck mich am Arsch” means “kiss my ass” — my first husband (a Berliner) had many far more colorful turns of phrase (most NSFW), one of his favorites was to call someone an “Arsch mit Ohren” (“ass with ears”). And here’s a funny anecdote to this: the candy company Haribo made some gummy candies for Karneval a number of years back which looked like a butt with wings on the hips.

      Btw, the name “Haribo” is derived from the first two letters of the founder’s first and last names (Hans RIegel), as well as of the city where the company was founded (BOnn — my home town).

  2. Hooray, finally I can hopefully be of assistance.
    I have never heard Zucker used as an endearment in German.
    Süße (with the German double s) though is an endearment equivalent to sweetheart I would say. Süß=sweet in German

    Bitte=you’re welcome, so that is correct I would say.

    For the last I have no idea but the German (as well as the English) have many hilarious expressions for “idiot”, but I don’t know what she would like to convey?

    1. The only thing I’d add is that many readers may have no idea what the symbol for double “s” would mean. You can use the double “s” instead of the German symbol ß for it, and if you want, use “ue” instead of the ü symbol.

      That said, it’s a good term instead of anything much longer. Although I also like calling the guy an Aschloch. 🙂

      1. The Swiss have got rid of the ß completely. But it usually tells you how long the consonant should be, so better avoid using a word with an -ß- instead of writing it with -ss-. There are plenty of synonyms for whatever you need for Carol to use, I’m sure….

        1. Due to recent spelling reforms (10 years ago or so), the rules on when you use “ß” (which originally was “sz” and used up through the 19th century) and when you use “ss” have eliminated a number of instances where the ß is used, but sadly not all of them. One of the more annoying one was changed “daß” (the conjunctive) to “dass”…

    2. I second Karin here. Zucker would be more a component e.g. in Zuckerschnute, but it’s not common.
      And yes, it’s important to know what Carol would like to convey to provide you with the right term: should it be an insult, an endearment, a-kind-of-insult that doesn’t hit too hard and can even be interpreted as an endearment. All is possible.

      1. Good questions.
        Carol is in her seventies and she has a quasi mother-daughter friendship with Rose. Rose is have a hard time and asking for advice, so it would be a reassuring endearment. I think I went for Sugar because they’re in North Carolina–“Everything’s going to be all right, sugar” kind of thing.

        With the assassin, he just tried to kill her and would have if Rose hadn’t hit him with a chair, and then Coral breaks his neck and says, “Arschloch” over his body. Right?

        And Danke and Bitte are okay, so I’m good on that one.

        Coral doesn’t use a lot of German, she’s been in America for thirty years and she’s laying low give her previous career (assassin), but I thought she’d use endearments and definitely say something sharp to the guy who tried to kill her.

        1. Yep:

          Schatz as endearment for a quasi daughter works as do the other endearments listed.

          Arschloch over the dead assassin works as well, as would Drecksack or Dreckschwein (dirt+ sack/nuts and dirt+pig resp ). All hefty negative terms. It more comes down to wether Coral would use a sound that’s more swishing -sch or more hitting (the -ck, more chopping like).
          But I’ll stop here.

  3. No real answer, but you should listen to the song (and read the history of) “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” in celebration of joyful, quirky, multilingual endearments!

    1. Not quite sure of the relevance here. That’s Yiddish, not German. There are a number of popular songs partly in Yiddish and partly in English. I’m rather fond of “Levine and His Flying Machine,” for one. Multilingual ethnic pride rather than endearment, but still.

      1. There are many Yiddish words that have been sucked into German, some more into colloqual German, some more used in our various dialects (especially the Bavarian and Austrian ones).

        1. Not too surprisingly, considering from where Jewish immigrants to the US largely emigrated from, there are also various Yiddishisms in Russian that parallel ones in English. (I’m not always sure what the original Yiddish was, since I have no background there.) Sentences ending in “already” implying annoyance (let’s start, already!), end in уже (already) in Russian. Wishing an evil upon someone with “should” (which I think is zoll in Yiddish) are slightly recast in Russian and start with чтобы (in order that). A lot of these Yiddishisms show up in the Russian of Boris Akunin’s historical mystery (with fantasy elements) _Pelagia and the Red Rooster_. I don’t know how that was handled in the novel’s English translation, which I haven’t seen.

    1. The interesting thing about “bitte” is that, depending on context, it means either “please” or “you’re welcome” — which would be its meaning in the “danke…bitte” exchange.

      (Another way of saying “you’re welcome” is “gern geschehen”, which is sort of like answering “my pleasure”…)

  4. As an endearment, you could also use “Schatzie,” which gets away from the double S. “Danke/bitte” is correct.

    1. Seconding the endorsement of Schatzie as the endearment. Often conversationally (this from the perspective of my little kid German), you’d hear the alternate meine Schatz. If you were looking for something more bespoke, you often hear a shortened name appended with ‘chen’. Example = my Aunt’s name is Irmgard; my uncle used to call her ‘Irmchen’.

      My mother used to use verrucht Ziegoin when she was exasperated with me. Literally translated it means wicked goat. But, I would council some research on this one, because I’m not truly sure how offensive it is.

        1. Thank you! I was just about to point out that the “e” doesn’t belong…you beat me to it!

    2. Schatz for both man and woman.
      “Mein Schatz” (treasure, in Italian: il mio tresoro), could be exaggerated to “Schatzimaus” (saccharine) or “Goldschatz” (lovely, used in my family quite a bit).

      Also words of endearment and used as synonym to a name: “Maus”, “Spatz” (Spatzerl = regional to the South).

    3. I’d forgotten about Schatzie!
      My family was Swiss and German several generations ago, and that one actually percolated down to me when I was little.

      1. The -ie looks like an American spelling. Dodo seemed to prefer a zero ending, but at a guess, I can imagine an -i, as in Ossi (East German) or Ami (American). Either that or the whole -ie is just an English diminutive tacked on.

          1. We use the diminuitive. But it’s the simple -i:
            Pupsi (says my dd),
            Bärli etc.

        1. Patrick M, the “e” is an anglification, has nothing to do with east or west — the final “I” (stupid autocorrect won’t allow lowercase here in. spite of a 20 attempts) is a diminutive in the dialects, particularly in the southern regions.

          Personally, I would never call an adult “Schatzi”, but would stay with “Schatz”. In fact, I use this with Hubby and with our (now 30-year-old) son.

  5. My grandmother only ever said uncomplimentary things in German. She was not prone to endearments. The only one that still pops out of my mouth and makes people look at me oddly is gestrudle (I have no idea what the proper spelling would be) when she was referring to mess or untidiness. Oh, and she would say that things were on the fritz when they were broken, but that may be a 1940s and 50s thing, not a German thing.

      1. Dodo is right, “fritz” in German is just a name (which, btw, is a diminutive for “Friedrich”). It has nothing to do with “being on the fritz”…

  6. Good luck, and it’s good you asked for help. Unlike English, other languages are full of idioms that are hard for non-speakers to understand. (That was a joke.)

  7. So far I think Karin is the only native German speaker to have contributed. I’d ignore the rest of us, although I hope that other native speakers add suggestions. Dodo? Others?

  8. As the others said Danke-Bitte is correct. If it sounds too short to your ears, you could also say “Gern geschehn” = you’re welcome.

    Here’s also a small variety of swear words without Umlaute (the ä, ö, ü) in case you’d like Carol to use “blumige Ausdrücke” 😉

    – der Vollpfosten: a person that you regard as not very intelligent or that acts not smartly.

    – der Mistkerl (plural: die Mistkerle), m: a man that pisses you off, e.g. by cheating or by taking your parking spot – how dare he?! It’s a composite word consisting of the word for farm animal sh*t with fibre content and Kerl = colloqu. for man.

    – der Angsthase (plural: die Angsthasen): an anxious person, can be used as a derogative but not necessarily a strong one, depending on the tone

    – der Frechdachs (plural: die Frechdachse): cheeky guy, mostly used for kids; not really derogative as mostly used with a grin

    – der Faulpelz (plural: Faulpelze) -e: very, very lazy person who makes others do his work.

    – der Arschkriecher: a slimy person who tries to make you like him

    Usually, all those terms are used for men.

    If Carol wants to swear by using something like “f*ck yourself” she’d say “Leck mich (du Arschloch)” (lick me, you asshole)…

    I can go on…

    1. Oh, this is excellent. Thank you!

      Not to mention useful in my current life. I’m surrounded by a lot of people who don’t approve of swearing, but in German I can get away with it.

      Also, “Lick me, you asshole” is SO Coral.

      1. Lol.
        If needed, I could list a couple of swearwords you could use for situations instead of men. Or some for women 😉.

      2. “Leck mich am Arsch” is not “lick me, you asshole”. but rather “kiss my ass”… (the funny thing with “you asshole” is that it’s usually “du Arschloch” in German, which is a double-whammy if you are using it against a stranger because you are using the familiar “du” instead of the polite “Sie”, which is in itself an insult).

        “Arschkriecher” from Dodo’s list means “someone who crawls up your ass” — what we might call a “brown noser”

        Like in English, people have their favorites, but also a lot of the time, you choose the expression based upon the particular situation.

        One of my hubby’s faves (he comes from the Ruhr Valley) is to call someone a “Knalltüte” which indicates an idiot, but is sort of difficult to translate — but would be roughly equivalent to calling someone a “bag of hot air” (“knallen” means to explode and a “Tüte” is a bag).

        1. But isn’t it great, betty, that by just changing up the aforementioned sentence a bit you get a wider variety of swearing?
          Jenny get’s more swear word variety /choice for Coral than she might have expected 🙂

          “Leck’ mich, Du Arsch/Arschloch” (Lick me. you ass/asshole)
          “Leck’ mich am Arsch” (Lick my ass).

          And btw, all of those nice invitations are in the “Du-“form which as Betty pointed out is usually more aggravating because you would normally use the “Sie” when talking to someone you’re not familiar with – like in Italian”Lei” vs “tu”.

          However, the Sie vs Du is somewhat changing as in the bigger cities with younger folks you more often get the Du also in unfamiliar circumstances, e.g. recently when I bought coffee in a hip coffee shop in Munich’s city centre. Had never been there before, could have been the barista’s mom, hmpf.

          I know better than to regard it as a sign of lacking respect, more the need to come across as hip in this particular shop.

          When it comes to people speaking my dialect, things are easier since you usually get called by your first name without a second thought and no disrespect whatsoever.

          Sorry – I LOVE the intricacies of language and dialects.

          1. My belief is that the formal “Sie” will likely be basically gone in about a generation. All you need to look at is the digital world, as well as in advertising, where “du’ is almost universal.

            “Sie” will likely only be used in situations like legal documents, etc.

            BTW, few people, including the vast majority of native English speakers, know that “you” is actually the “Sie” form. “Thou” is the “du” form — but has basically only remained in the context of religious use (including the wedding ceremony). That’s because each person has a “personal, intimate” relationship to God…

            Languages are indeed fun (my PhD is in applied linguistics 😀 )

    2. I cannot explain why but I am very amused by “der Mistkerl” as I interpret that to be manure man. 🤣

    1. “Süße” (Suesse) with an “e” at the end is indeed “sweetie” but female. If you are referring to a male, it’s “Süßer” (“Suesser”)…

  9. Come to think of it, Coral is not a generally a German first name, is it? I gather she’s a retired secret agent, but she’s clearly making no secret of being German-speaking. Is there a reason and/or explanation for that? (I imagine there are Germans with that for a first name and it may seem odder to American readers than to Germans but could it be a distraction? It brings you up a little short, like learning that a founding father of Chile was named Bernardo O’Higgens.)

    1. Nope, never heard of a Coral, though non-traditional names are to be found more often now. As well as old-fashioned ones.

    2. Alias.
      Bob gave her a German name at one point when an old enemy shows up but I can’t remember what it was.
      No idea why she picked Coral. She just showed up as Coral.

  10. But re-naming oneself is always an option. Like a friend of kid #2 suddenly decidinc to call herself “Iden” (yes, like the Ides of Mars).

    1. I think she has a lot of names; this is just the one she retired with.

      She retired with two former lovers, so that may have been the name she was using when she crossed paths with fifty years ago. That’s how they knew her, so that’s what they called her.

      Hadn’t thought about any of this, but I could see going back to an old code name as she settles in with these two guys she cares about could be very comforting.

      1. Well Coral is beautiful but also very sharp – can completely shred your feet if you walk on exposed coral barefoot.

  11. My German grandmother used to refer to me as Liebchen or Liebling which both mean “little love” or darling (little dear). But she’s a baker so maybe something like “lebkuchen” which is gingerbread but sounds a bit like love-cake. Plus, there’s an endless assortment of ginger treats: cookies, cakes, pastries… crispy, chewy, chocolate covered, glazed, snappy, soft, shaped, nutty, it just goes on and on.

    1. Sorry to be a pain in the butt, and I really don’t want to be annoying, but since we’re on a roll about a specific language, here’s some info on Lebkuchen:
      The leb- in lebkuchen doesn’t derive from lieben (to love) – even if academics are not sure weather the term stems from libum (Middlelatin for a specific form of bread) or Leben (life) or another term for bread.

      1. No. No. I didn’t say it meant love-cake but sounds like love-cake. A play on words.

    2. Completely different origins:

      In “Liebchen” the suffix “-chen” is a northern German diminutive (southern German is the “-ling” suffix).

      In “Lebkuchen”, “Kuchen” is the word for cake, i.e., the “chen” in “Kuchen” has nothing to do with the diminutive formation.

  12. Absolutely nothing to contribute to this – don’t speak German. But have to say I do so love coming to Argh and reading this stuff. I am in awe of you all and grateful for getting an insight into the book I am looking forward to reading. Thank you all.

  13. This got me thinking about what I would say as I killed someone and I’m pretty sure it would be “That takes care of you!”
    But I don’t know how to say it in German.

    It also got me thinking about what my dad called us, since he was a German Jewish refugee. I don’t recall any endearments. He tended to grumble and complain about us so much that at different times his secretary took each of us four aside to say “your dad really does love you you know” to which we all replied slightly indignantly “I know.” Fortunately he didn’t read us the childhood books he was raised on—I think our copy of Der Struwwelpeter was his childhood copy and why they brought that out of Germany in December 1939 I cannot imagine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Struwwelpeter

  14. Interesting —I knew nothing of this book, even though I’ve read some pretty obscure Twain. I’ve read the history of the US and international copyright conventions but memory is fuzzy. I am a little surprised to learn copyright was an issue for Twain in 1891, especially from a work first published in the 1840s. Possibly he had intended it for a British periodical? Later: After research, I see that he was evidently snagged by a just passed law.


  15. No help from me. Growing up, my mother and my aunts and uncles and older cousins all conversed in Canadien French to keep my generation from doing the “little pitchers, big ears” thing. Cousin Joanne fooled them – she learned French the old fashioned way as well as in school. I only learned to recognize a few insults.

    My father’s side, however, immigrated from Germany through Galveston, TX, in 1848. I imagine the family would have spoken German for years, but multi-great grampa lost his wife and seven daughters in some epidemic, and we’re all descended from his second wife, a native Texan. No language skills passed on.

    1. My paternal grandmother, although born in the US, was of French Canadian heritage and still in touch with family in Quebec. There was enough of a community in my father’s home town (in UP Michigan) that my father’s older brother learned (kid-level) French natively, but use of French there declined, and my father got from his mother only various taglines and names of foods. He also took French in HS, but it didn’t stick very well. That grandmother died before I was born. I did learn a few of the taglines and food names that my father would use, but I never took French in school. I eventually (in grad school and later) picked up an elementary reading knowledge between a teach-yourself textbook and knowing Spanish and did actually get through a few books. And I could figure out the signs and notices in my one brief visit to France.

  16. Thanks to this discussion, I looked up driet.(spelling unknown) (An endearment from mom.). Pretty sure it was Norwegian not the German. But both mean shit. Not a lot of sugar in our family.

      1. One of my former colleagues in Berlin used to call his wife “Mausekacke” which basically translates as “mouse poop”‘ but it was actually quite a sweet endearment (probably because of how he said it)…

        1. LOL, yep, it’s very important to also get across HOW the swearwords/endearments are said.

          We could on endlessly, couldn’t we?

          I guess it’s similar in English?

          Although I find it kind of boring that in most contemporary romances, everyone just uses “babe/baby” as endearment.

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