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Monday, May 2, 2011

Word of the month: Schluckspecht

SchluckspechtOur Schnapsdrossel (WoM for March) needs a drinking companion, and here he is. A Schluck is a gulp or swig (from schlucken - "to swallow"), and a Specht is a woodpecker. Put the two together and you have another moniker for a boozer or drunk. Again, I do not know how the word originated—perhaps the alliteration of the two components (the S in Specht is pronounced like English "sh") played a role.

Addendum (4/9/2012): According to this theory, the term goes back to certain woodpecker species that hammer holes into tree trunks in order to get to the sap.

Anyway, we have a word that may look daunting to foreigners: 11 consonants and only 2 vowels! Things appear easier when you realize that the "sch", "ck", and "ch" indicate but one phoneme each, which reduces the number of effective consonants in the word to 7. Still, for speakers of languages that avoid consonant clusters (like Japanese) the word is a challenge.

[Source: Wild Things in the German Language: Kindle version | iBook version]

5 comments:

Heika said...

Hi Ulrich, Many's the time I myself have felt like the Schluckspecht. He is great. I haven't been to your blog in a while so I'm getting to see all these wonderful books and drawings at once. What a treasure!

Is Schluckspecht a common expression? If someone sees you and you look hung over, are they likely to say "You old Schluckspecht,you!"

Ulrich said...

Yes, absolutely: "Du alter Schluckspecht!"

fikink said...

"Schluckspecht", when pronounced, also has the advantage of sounding like you are "sloshed".

Ulrich said...

@fikink: Compliments to one who is obviously able to pronounce it!

Ulrich said...

I see increasingly Schluckspecht being applied to cars, in which case it designates a gas-guzzler.