I beg your pardon?: German words that sound a little bit rude in English

When I started learning German back in 2003, I came across some words that, as the 11-year-old that I was, I couldn’t help laugh at.

Sometimes, 13 years later, those words still get me.

  • Let’s start with a nice, calm one. The word for ‘shower’ is Dusche. Pronounced just like the word ‘douche’, but with an ‘-eh’ at the end. Great stuff. That was easy enough, right?
  • Exhibit number 2: In German, the word ‘to be able to/can’ is können. Pop that in the ihr form (2nd person plural, informal) and you get the word könnt, which is pronounced like… uh… you might be able to guess (the ö s0unds like the sound you make when making a decision: “uhh”). But, that word is used so often, I think I’ve been numbed by it and don’t hear the naughty word anymore.
  • Word number 3 is a good one and one you may know: Fahrt. Pronounced exactly like the f-word for ‘trump’ in English, Fahrt is a wonderful word and one of the ones I still laugh at every now and then. The best bit is that it is used to make so many other words: Ausfahrt (exit), Einfahrt (entrance), Schifffahrt (journey on a ship – yes, with three f’s)… the fun is endless!
  • Calling somebody fat may well be seen as an insult. There’s the German word fett which is used in the same way, but did you know that another way to say ‘fat’ is by saying the word dick? Yes, it’s spelt that way. And yes, it’s pronounced that way. Harsh!
  • When we learnt food words at school, all was going well. Apfel is apple, Ei is egg, Brot is bread. I then learnt the word for ‘garlic’ – Knoblauch. Thankfully, the first half isn’t pronounced as an English person may read it (the Germans like saying all the letters, so it’s more of a “K-noh-b-…” but reading it still makes me laugh, even today.
  • And last but not least, in true football-style with the football on at the moment, the Germans can say the word Team for ‘team’. That’s one of the many anglicisms that the Germans have taken from us. But then, what’s the proper German way of saying it, you may ask? Well, the German word for ‘team’, dear readers, is Mannschaft.

Ladies and gentlemen, the German language.


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