If you can’t speak German, there’s a chance you might think of it as an aggressive language. You may think it sounds aggressive because you make links to certain people from the past, but, funnily enough, no, it’s not an aggressive language. You could easily make English sound aggressive, for example – it just depends on how you say things.
On that note, and going completely against what I just said, there are some phrases in German that are pretty damn aggressive. I use the word “aggressive” quite freely – sometimes phrases are genuinely aggressive in that they suggest a physical action, but sometimes they’re just a bit over the top and quite, well, direct and over-exaggerated (at least in my opinion).
Anyway, I’d like to enlighten you with a few of these phrases in this post. Be prepared.
1. Kinderkrankheit (literally “children illness“)
This word does indeed mean what the literal translation is – a disease a child has. However, the Germans decided to take this quite serious word and also make it the word for “teething problems”. I saw this in an article about Windows 10 when it was first released, and it said they were having “children illnesses” with it. I got quite worried about that, as any normal person might, until I then found out it just meant that they were having a few troubles at its early stage. Phew!
2. den inneren Schweinehund überwinden (literally “to overcome the inner swine“)
Definitely one of the less “aggressive” on this list, but you have to admit this is a pretty powerful phrase to mean “to stop being lazy”. Someone may say this if they, for example, had some important work to do – “I need to overcome the inner swine before I can do my tax return”. That pesky swine!
3. Ich könnte kotzen! (literally “I could throw up!“)
When English people get angry, they might say “I could smack him” or “I could scream” (or, perhaps, something a little bit more aggressive). Well, to make up for their aggressive phrases, the Germans decided to keep their anger to themselves with this one. When they get angry, a lot of them could apparently throw up. No, I don’t see the link either, but at least they don’t want to inflict violence on anyone (though I have heard of aggressive phrases when Germans got angry, such as “ich will ihn um die Ohren hauen” which means “I want to bash him round the ears”…).
4. Purzelbäume schlagen (literally “to hit cute little trees“)
As a non-native German, I’m not sure that’s the definite literal translation. The dictionary I use says that “Purzel” means “cute little fellow” so I apologise if that’s not exactly the literal translation.
Anyway – quite an aggressive phrase. Those pure little trees! The actual English translation? To do cartwheels. We do cartwheels and they hit trees, of the cute and little variety, no less. Aggressive bunch!
5. wie die Faust aufs Auge (literally “like the fist on the eye“)
I was quite shocked when I heard this one. It means when something just fits perfectly. My dictionary’s telling me “like chalk and cheese”, so let’s just roll with that. This phrase can be used in normal situations, too, hence why it had shocked me at the time.
Apparently the phrase can also mean that two things literally don’t fit together at all – you just use it how you wish. You know, because German isn’t hard enough as it is with its 16 ways of saying “the”…