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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Word of the Month: Der Stallgeruch

Word of the Month: Index

A Stall is a stable or a coop, a building for sheltering and feeding domestic animals, be they tall (like horses, as in Pferdestall) or small (like chickens, as in Hühnerstall). Geruch means "odor" or "smell". Stallgeruch, then, refers to the odor emanating from a Stall. But it's used today mainly in a figurative sense: When we say that someone has a certain Stallgeruch, we indicate that this person shares the background, values, or attitudes of a specific group or belongs to a certain milieu.

The term is used frequently to explain why someone was or was not hired to fill a certain position—he or she had or did not have "the proper Stallgeruch". I like the term very much because it is so evocative: I always picture a bunch of dogs subjecting a newcomer to the smell test.


Al Rodbell said...

We need this word in English, as it illustrates that there are qualities, especially of interpersonal identification, that transcend specific "traitst- which is the psychological terms.

Now I'll share this knowing your audience must be share your Stallgeruch, insightful sensitivity will do. Among my tribe, we talk about a "Yidisha Kupf" or Jewish Mind/brain. Quite honestly, in spite of what my DNA shows, I doubt that I have one myself.

It's often used for shrewdness, seeking a profession, not a steady job, so the term may be among a certain social economic class. Perhaps there are an infinite number of terms for belongs, a brother, wearing a cross, or an Ame Stallgeruchrican Flag Pin, or how we dress.

In English we can state the name of the stall, the tribe/party/religion but not the generality. Thanks for posting this. The personal tragedy is with my memory problem I will have forgotten the word immediately after I hit "enter."

Ulrich said...

Thanks, Al, for your comment! And rest assured, you're not the only one with memory problems.

One comment on Stallgeruch: It's never used in a truly positive sense, like your yidisha kupf may be. At best, it's neutral--just a statement of fact--but it may also have negative connotations, like in a hiring case when more qualified applicants get rejected because they do not have the desired Stallgeruch.