Da kiekste wa? – The Berlin dialect

The inhabitants of Berlin are not particularly famous for their friendliness. This impression is reinforced by their cheeky, very outspoken and sometimes crude vernacular. Even Germans often encounter communication problems when speaking to a true Berliner. The fact that the dialect is referred to as “Berliner Schnauze” says a lot about it; ‘Schnauze’ is a colloquial word for ‘mouth’, with the literal translation being ‘snout’.

However, if you don’t let this scare you off, you will discern the humour and creativity underneath this vernacular. Here is a collection of a few terms displaying this aspect of the Berliner Schnauze:

Term Literal translation Meaning
Besuchsbesen visiting broom the bouquet of flowers you bring a female host
Deckel lid used to mean tophat, today it can refer to any kind of hat
Fannkuchen mit Beene pancake with legs small, fat person
Fußhupe foot-horn little dog (because it squeals when you step on it)
Glatzenschneider bald head-cutter hairdresser
Hackenporsche heel-Porsche shopping trolley
Järtnerwurst gardener’s sausage Cucumber
Rotzbremse snot-brake moustache
Sargnagel coffin nail cigarette
Stullnbrett breadboard Smartphone/Tablet (‘breadboards’ are little wooden boards that were traditionally used to prepare and eat sandwiches in many parts of Germany)

The Berlin vernacular can be traced back to the 15th century and has been changing constantly due to alternating political circumstances as well as to the immigration of many different groups. It has been influenced by both German dialects (such as Low German and Upper Saxon) and by other languages (like French and Yiddish).

Nowadays, hearing the original Berliner Schnauze has become a rare pleasure, much like many other dialects. The diminution of regional vernaculars is considered to be one of the outcomes of globalization. This should be reason enough to apply your newly learned words as soon as possible!


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