This Article Was NOT a Schnapsidee!

September 18, 2019

English is a living, breathing, constantly evolving language. It’s a Germanic language, which means that German also has its fair share of made-up words (specifically, “compound nouns”) to describe very specific experiences in life.

Der Treppenwitz

This translates to “the staircase joke,” and it refers to when you think up the perfect comeback or witty retort to a conversation or comment that occurred much, much earlier — as if you thought of it on the stairs after you left the party.

Die Fremdscham

Do you ever feel empathetic shame for another person who embarrassed themselves — like some poor sap in an internet “fail” video, or a guy you saw slip and fall on the street? Then you’ve experienced die fremdscham, or “the foreign shame.”


When people get drunk, they often get wild and crazy ideas that sound amazing…until they sober up and realize that those ideas are terrible ideas. German speakers call this a schnapsidee, which translates to “schnapps idea.”

Das Backpfeifengesicht

Ever get so annoyed or aggravated by another person that you just want to slap them across the face? That person has one of these things, or “the slap face.”


This means “explanation poverty,” which is the situation in which one attempts to come up with a good excuse for why they failed to perform a task…but can’t think of anything good.


It translates into English as “dragon fodder,” like an offering made to an irate dragon. It’s also an idiomatic German phrase that refers to an apology gift given to a spouse or partner after a big fight.

Der kummer speck

Mmm, “sorrow bacon”! That’s what this means in English; it’s a German phrase that refers to the weight a person puts on after too much stress eating.

Vorne kurz, hinten lang

The Germans have a word for the “mullet,” that short in the front, long in the back hairstyle sported by Billy Ray Cyrus and Daryl Hall. It’s this phrase, which translates to “short front, long back.”


If someone calls you this, they’re comparing your height to that of “three cheeses.” That means you’re short, or as tall as a tower of three wheels of cheese (which is to say, not very tall at all.)


This German insult for a man calls his masculinity into question — it translates to “a man who urinates while sitting down.”