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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Word of the Month: Die Extrawurst

Word of the Month: Index

Extra is a prefix that has in German the same meaning it has in English: It indicates a quality exceeding or a position outside some established range or norm. Wurst probably needs no explanation—boiled or grilled, it's the ur-German comfort food. For readers who have yet to hear of it: It means "sausage".

An Extrawurst, in the narrow sense, is an additional sausage, like the one a mother may put on her son's plate because "the boy is still growing". In the figurative sense, and that's how the term is mainly used, it stands for the special treatment someone is demanding or given, and when it's used in this way, there is at least a whiff of disapproval in the air.

The term pops up regularly in German media in discussions of the role Britain has played in the European Union, and it's typically said with some exasperation. The claim is that the Brits always demanded an Extrawurst in the resolution of an issue, and this may be the explanation why expressions of regret about the Brexit vote are remarkably muted in Berlin—or Brussels, where some officials seem only too eager to get the exit negotiations started.

1 comment:

Al Rodbell said...

This explains the value of your endeavor in this site. The example of the mixture of affection (the growing child needs more) and criticism as in the Brits always demand more than their share, conveys the tone. I can't think of a single English word that has that mixture of affect. It could be conveyed in a longer sentence about a person, or personage, but not with a single world.

Much is tone of voice, as calling someone a "putz" maybe because of it's Yiddish origin one of the many terms for penis, with a smile could be a term of endearment. The New York Times just had an interesting editorial, "Smothering Speech at Middlebury" Where it emphatically criticized those who would not let someone give a guest lecture but referred to him as the "notorious" writer. He certainly is "controversial" yet "notorious" changed around the 17th century from famous to infamous. Yet, I've seen it sometimes used, mostly in UK sources in the neutral sense.

In these days when almost all media is under attack equating "biased" for "fake," these connotations certainly have potential consequences