Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Word of the Month: Die Kampfsau, das Kampfschwein

Word of the Month: Index

Just in time for the beginning of the most exciting phase of the soccer year in Europe—The final stages of the Champions League and European League competitions:

Kampf means "fight," a Sau is a sow and a Schwein a pig. Kampfsau and Kampfschwein are terms used in sports, particularly soccer, where they are applied to players who may be technically limited, but more than make up for it by their unflagging fighting spirit, by the abandon with which they risk, not life, but certainly limbs, fighting for the ball and tackling players on the opposing team. And if their jersey is not the dirtiest at the end of the match, they know they haven’t given it their best effort.

Calling someone a Sau or a Schwein in German is an insult, and a relatively bad one. But in combination with Kampf, these words turn into compliments: Kampfsäue and Kampfschweine (those are the the plurals) tend to be fan favorites.

I wonder how speakers of languages that avoid consonant clusters will deal with Kampfschwein, which requires one to enunciate 5 consonants in a row: m • p • f • sch (same as English "sh") • w.

[Source: Wild Things in the German Language: Kindle/paperback version | iBooks version]


Ulrich said...

In a discussion of this on Google+ someone pointed out that there is also the Rampensau, "someone who feels really great performing on a stage, in front of a audience" (Rampe, in this context, refers to the front edge of a stage). I suggested that the reference to Sau in all of these instances implies not so much being dirty (although a Kampfsau definitely gets dirty in a match), but an unquenchable lust for something, be it fighting in sports or 'hogging' (!!!) the limelight.

Heika said...

So who would you say is currently a Kampfsau on the German soccer team? If you could think of one in football, even better because the name might be familiar.

I love all your drawings, but this one is particularly delightful. Poor battered pig.

Thank you for the audio. It's a big help.

Ulrich said...

@Heika: Good question! I cannot think of any Kampfsau on the current German side--they are simply too good right now: They have excellent, sometimes world-class, players for every position--finesse trumps effort.
You find Kampfsäue typically on teams that are somewhat limited in talent and have to make up for it (or at least try) by exhibiting a more-than-normal fighting spirit.

As for American Football, at least half of any team (the defensive and offensive lines) would (should?) fit the definition; i.e. they would not stand out and require a special moniker.