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Dwight Schrute’s Terrific German – Part 2: German Words Posted by on May 16, 2019 in Culture, Film, Language, People, Television, vocabulary

You may remember Dwight Schrute, the quirky top paper salesman from NBC’s “The Office” (by the way, there is a German spin-off, called Stromberg). While the sitcom celebrated its finale back in May 2013, it is still one of the most watched shows today. And Mr Schrute is one of the audience’s favorite characters. Not only his dorky, freaky personality makes him uniquely popular, but also the emphasis on German stereotypes. From his strict sense of law and order to his upkeep of old Schrute family traditions, he proudly lives his German (Pennsylvania Dutch) heritage. Let’s take a deeper dive into all of Dwight’s Germanness throughout ALL 9 seasons of The Office. From his word use to nods to German culture and traditions. Today, we check out Dwight’s “German” words and phrases he dropped throughout all seasons!

Image by author, picture of Dwight’s bobblehead by Justiny8s at Flickr.com under license CC BY 2.0.

The “German” or “Pennsylvania Dutch” words Dwight uses are pretty much all completely made up. While most words are definitely not German, they could be Pennsylvania Dutch – which is quite a different dialect originating from immigrants speaking a 18/19th century version of early Palatine German (also check this out if you want to read some Pennsylvania Dutch!). After all, Dwight claimed his German is “pre-industrial and mostly religious” (S5E19). But let’s see what of Dwight’s German words make sense (if any) and how!

If you want any idea of what Dwight’s ancestry sounds like, listen to the gentleman above.

Let’s begin!

Grandmutter

S2E18 “Take Your Daughter To Work Day”

Dwight: [plays the recorder] That was Greensleeves. A traditional English Ballad about the beheaded Anne Boleyn. And now, a very special treat… a book my Grandmutter used to read me when I was a kid.

On the Bring Your Daughter To Work Day, Dwight decides to tell all the kids scary stories, something he went through during his own childhood. He uses the word Grandmutter. But is that actual German?

Grandmutter is a combination of the English “grandmother” and the German Großmutter, with the same meaning. Groossmudder is the Pennsylvania Dutch word for “grandmother”.

So Grandmutter is not an official German or Pennsylvania Dutch word. However, just like many non-Dwight Americans, people give their grandparents all kinds of names. And grandmutter is one of them.

Guten Tag. Auf Wiedersehen.

S4E4 “Money”

Dwight: [picks up phone] Dunder Mifflin, Dwight Schrute. Please hold. [opens book, then picks up phone] Schrute Farms, guten Tag. How can I help you? Yes, we have availability on those nights. How many in your party? Oh no, I’m sorry, no king beds. No queen either. Well, we make our own mattresses that don’t conform to the traditional sizes. Closest would be twin. Thank you so much for calling. Call back again. Auf Wiedersehen!

In order to sell his Bed & Breakfast Schrute Farms, Dwight uses German to get across that authentic Pennsylvania Dutch flair. To say hello, he uses Guten Tag (“Good day”). And to say bye, he uses Auf Wiedersehen (“Good bye! or “See you again!”). Yes. This is perfect German!

Apparently no Pennsylvania Dutch, by the way.

Konrad, fangen Sie an

S5E9 “Frame Toby”

Dwight: Although born just minutes from here, he speaks only German. Closed society. So, now, after the readings by all of your sisters, we will arrive at the vows. So, Konrad, fangen Sie an… [minister begins speaking in German] And away we go. This is a little taste of the ceremony, if you will. He’s explaining why we’re here, what we’re doing here, making introductions, blah blah blah… Then he’s gonna have Andy repeat a bunch of stuff. He’s gonna ask Andy to produce a ring. I have uh, now just uh… just some twine for our purposes, and you will put the ring on her finger. Yadda yadda, then he’s going to ask Andy, uh, if he would like to marry Angela. And you will reply, “I do.” [Andy mouths, “I do” silently] And then he’s going to ask Angela if she would like to marry Andy, to which you will reply…
Angela: I do.
Dwight: And there we go. Okay, and that’s just about it. Man and wife.

When Dwight shows Andy and Angela what their wedding on his farm would be like, he also shows the Pfarrer (minister) that would conduct the Hochzeit (wedding). To signal the only German-speaking Pfarrer, named Konrad (a very German name!), to begin, Dwight says: Konrad, fangen Sie an (Konrad, begin).

It is pretty much impossible to understand what exactly the Pfarrer says, because Dwight loudly talks over him. To hide that he was actually marrying himself to Angela!

Fangen Sie an is the formal way of giving the imperative “begin”. Fang an is the informal one. Using Fangen Sie an, depending on how close they are, would be appropriate. So good German here!

Umlauts

S6E16 “The Delivery”

Dwight wants a child with Angela for business reasons, as it would increase his sales, so he claims. So he is making a contract with Angela for her to carry his child, and he has all kinds of rules. Then this phone interaction happens:

Dwight: [on the phone] Hey, what’s up, kid?
Angela: Have you had a chance to look over the revisions on the contract I’ve prepared for you?
Dwight: Nothing left to do except dot the I’s, the J’s, and the umlauts. Why don’t you meet me here at exactly mid-late afternoon?
Angela: I look forward to it.
Dwight: Very well.
Angela: Goodbye.

Adding the dots on the Is, Js and umlauts? Umlauts? What are those?

To read all about them, definitely read our post about Umlauts.

They are the dots on German special characters: ü, ö and ä. They change the sound of the letters u, o and a. However, they are not used in English, and the contract is written up in English. So it makes no sense, unless Dwight threw in some German words. Nice nod to German language here!

Guten Tag, Herr Michael

S6E21 “Body Language”

Michael: Buenos dias, Jaime.
Jim: Buenos dias, Miguel. Como estas? Bien? Claro que si! Yo estoy fantastico. Que pasa?
Michael: Ha ha! Buenos dias, Dwight!
Dwight: Guten Tag, Herr Michael.
Dwight: I don’t understand why Michael is wasting his time with Spanish. I have it on very good authority that within 20 years, everyone will be speaking German. Or a Chinese-German hybrid.
Michael tries to learn Spanish. But Dwight won’t have any of it. He believes German is the future. So he responds with Guten Tag, Herr Michael (Good day, mister Michael). Which is perfect German! However, you would not use Herr with a first name. It is like the English “Mister”, so really, he should have said Guten Tag, Herr Scott. But not the same comedic effect, so not a big deal.
Also, yes, Michael sounds very different in German! 😉

Nein! Sitz! Gut.

S8E03 “Lotto”

In the cold open of this episode, the Scranton-based DM employees try to get a dog out of the car, as it is trapped inside. Oscar figures out a way to remove the window, but now the dog wants to jump out! With his magical German, Dwight saves the day and calms the dog down. But what does he say?

Jim: What if he jumps out the window and runs away?
Oscar: Jim, he’s not gonna star- [Dog lunges for open window and barks]
Meredith: Whoa!
Oscar: Shh! Shh! Stay there, stay.
Dwight: Nein! Sitz! [snaps as dog calms] Gut. 
Jim: Oscar, what do you wanna do, this is kinda your deal. You wanna dog?
Oscar: [Oscar pokes holes in cardboard now taped over window] There we go. That should do it.

Nein! Sitz! Gut. Simply means “No! Sit! Good.”

This is true to actual German, and the exact way Germans speak to their Hund (dog)!

Perfektenschlag

S8E14 “Special Project”

Dwight: The Schrutes have a word for when everything comes together in a man’s life perfectly: Perfektenschlag. Hmm. Right now, I am in it. I finally get a chance to prove myself to corporate, I am assembling a competent team, I am likely a father, I am so deep inside of perfektenschlag right now. And just to be clear, there is a second definition, “perfect pork anus” which I don’t mean.

[…]

Dwight: I have been given the responsibility to manage Stanley, a solid player, Ryan, who is capable of surprises, Erin, an excellent follower and Kathy, a probably not totally useless enigma. And, well, Jim. Under the right manager, that’s not a bad team. Perfektenschlag.

Perfektenschlag. Ah. You probably remember that one! But I am going to have to disappoint you. It does not mean what Dwight claims it means. It is a completely made up word, but perfekt (perfect) and Schlag (blow, punch, hit) separately are words!

So, with some imagination, combining those two words would mean things get perfect all at once. And that fits Dwight’s definition nicely!

Do you really want to make one word out of that? Perfektschlag would be more correct. Perfekten Schlag could also work, with the space, if used as an object in the sentence. As subject in the sentence, it becomes der perfekte Schlag, or perfekter Schlag.

The second meaning, “perfect pork anus”, is nonsense. However, Schlag also refers to a sub-species in animal species, including Schweine (pigs). So a “perfect species” could also be a definition of perfekter Schlag.

Great “word” regardless.

Bildenkinder

S9E4 “Work Bus”

Jim: Did you ever think that because you own the building, everyone in it, we’re all kinda like your children?
Dwight: You know there’s a phrase about that in German. Bildenkinder. It is used almost exclusively by childless landlords to console themselves. But now? I really understand it.
Jim: Well, now you have a bus full of real..bilden..kin..
Dwight: Bildenkinder.
Jim: OK. And they’re all dangerously close to not getting pie. And there’s only one guy who can save them. It’s not me.

No. Bildenkinder is not a German word, either. Though bilden (to form, shape, build) and Kinder (children) are separate words, Bildenkinder does not make sense. Again, it is not how you would put the two together, as you would use two nouns to put together, not a verb and a full noun, as used here.

With these two words, putting them together would become Bildungskinder (“formation children”). Which does not make much sense.

I personally think it is put together from the English “building” and the German Kinder – which also comes back in English in, for example, KindergartenBuildingkinder would mean “building children”. That would work!

If you wanted to use the German word for building, you couldn’t get that close – it is Gebäude, turning this into Gebäudekinder.

Kinder

S9E9 “Dwight Christmas”

Dwight: Oscar Martinez, cheer or fear? Belsnickel is here! I judge your year [looks over at Angela, then back to Oscar]…as impish! [Smacks Oscar with a stick]
[Angela smiles smugly]
Oscar: Ow! You hit people with that thing?
Dwight: No, I’m carrying around the stick in order to look cool. For the Kinder [puts a mouse trap in Pam’s bowl]
Jim: Ooh.
Pam: [Holds the mouse trap up] Mouse trap.
In this episode, Dwight finally gets his way and holds Christmas the way he wants to. In two weeks, we will take a deep dive into Dwight’s Christmas, as there are many references. Here, he uses the German word Kinder. Simple to explain:
“For the Kinder” just means “for the children”.

Bestisch Mensch and Guten Pranken

S9E23 “Finale”

Jim: Dwight has made me his bestisch Mensch. Which is Schrute for best man. He’s putting himself entirely in my hands tonight. And I know for over 12 years I’ve done nothing but trick and prank him but tonight…only good surprises. “Guten Pranken”. [chuckles]

Jim acknowledges here that bestisch Mensch is not German or Pennsylvania Dutch, but “Schrute” – Dwight’s family language. Regardless, this one is fun to look at!

Mensch means “person, human, man”, and bestisch does not exist. Bester exists, meaning “the best”. Though interestingly, in Pennsylvania Dutch, it is bescht! Closer to the Schrute version too. So in a broken way, yes, you get to the literal “best man”!

What is the actual word? Trauzeuge (“wedding witness”). Not as fun.

Then, Jim makes a joke of the Schrute way of talking, too, with Guten Pranken. Obviously, just using the German word gut and the English word “prank”, and conjugating them in German. Funny enough, if you remove the n, you actually get to something correct in German. Gute Pranken are “good paws” or “good large hands”.

If you want to say “good prank”, you would say guter Streich. However, the verb pranken is becoming more common in German everyday language, too.

This episode also had one of the best moments of the entire show:

Next week, we will look at German traditions Dwight smuggled into Dunder Mifflin! Subscribe to our blog to never miss a post!

Thanks to The Office for uploading many of the fragments that include the content of this post, and a huge thanks to officequotes.net, where volunteers wrote up transcripts of every single episode. It made this task much easier!

What is your favorite word Dwight used, and why? Did I miss any words? Please let me know in the comments below!

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, and I am half Dutch and half German. I was on exchange in the United States, and I really enjoyed that year! So in that sense, I kind of have three nationalities... I love all of them!


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