Waltersobchakeit: A German Word That Isn’t German Posted by Constanze on Dec 9, 2021 in Language
Guten Tag! Today we’re going to look at a German word that isn’t actually a German word at all: Waltersobchakeit. Confused? Read on to find out more!
Firstly, you may have heard of loanwords in the German language, where the word is borrowed from another language. A few examples of loanwords from the French language in German, for instance, are:
Das Abonnement – subscription
Der Champignon – mushroom
Der Friseur – hairdresser
Die Dusche – shower
German is also peppered with English loanwords – so much so that even the Jugendwort des Jahres (German Youth Word Of The Year) candidates are often not even German words, but English ones! This year’s winner is the word ‘Cringe’, and in 2020 the word ‘Lost’ came out on top. Click on either of these words to read more about them and the Jugendwort des Jahres.
However! Today’s word is not German… but it’s not been loaned from any other language, either. Today’s word is:
The unique thing about this word is that, while it looks very German, it doesn’t exist. It comes from the movie The Big Lebowski – specifically, it is named after a character in the film called Walter Sobchak.
Waltersobchakeit’s imaginary meaning is, ‘You’re not wrong; you’re just an asshole’. It’s also used when people make up a German-sounding word that doesn’t actually exist…
So why, when you look at this word, does it look so German?
Firstly, the name Walter is a very common German name. Secondly, it’s because of the German suffix -keit. Other, real German words ending in -keit include: die Einsamkeit (loneliness); die Müdigkeit (tiredness); and die Möglichkeit (possibility). Words with the –keit suffix take the feminine noun gender ‘die’, so although Waltersobchakeit is an imaginary word, its imaginary gender would be ‘die’ (die Waltersobchakeit)!
This is not the only word out there that sounds German, but is totally made up!
Another word that falls into this category is Stardenburdenhardenbart. This word became famous when a TikTok video showing a man calling cats in different languages went viral. The video shows the cats ignoring the man until he says, ‘Stardenburdenhardenbart!’, after which they sit up and pay attention. The man ends the video by saying ‘German always works’. Of course, Stardenburdenhardenbart is not a real German word, but a mixture of sounds that could pass as German!
The third German word that doesn’t officially exist is Altschmerz. This word comes from John Koenig’s project, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. This ‘dictionary’ fills gaps in the English language for feelings that were never given a name. Altschmerz is made up of the words alt (old) and der Schmerz (pain), and its definition is, ‘Weariness with the same old issues that you’ve always had—the same boring flaws and anxieties you’ve been gnawing on for years’. This word does make sense, and it definitely could be a German word (it’s actually a play on the word Weltschmerz – ‘world pain’), but it’s not; it only exists in John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.
Are there any words you have come across that sound German, but aren’t? Are there any you have made up yourself? My husband always says ‘Schnichen schnochen!’ because that’s how German sounds to him. This doesn’t make any sense, but it does have a German ring to it!
Bis bald (see you soon)
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