Why Germans Find Dropping Crumbs Annoying: Korinthenkacker! Posted by Sten on Sep 23, 2021 in Culture, Language, Slang
Have you met those people that really care about what’s technically correct, even if it isn’t all that relevant? You know, whether to use a colon or a dash. Or that it’s technically incorrect to write prepositions at the end of sentences. People you generally don’t want to mess with. Oh sorry, people with whom you generally do not want to mess! 🙂 They find “faults, however small or unimportant, everywhere they look”. Hey, I am guilty of that myself sometimes! Anyway, it seems that each language has its own word to describe this behavior. Nitpicker is the English variant, which is curious enough. But the German one? Korinthenkacker. Yes. Currant pooper. What’s up with that?
Where does Korinthenkacker come from?
First of all, the use of der Krümelkacker/die Krümelkackerin is the same as in English. The Duden defines such a person as a kleinlicher, pedantischer Mensch (petty, pedantic person). In fact, that’s the definition of the synonym Korinthenkacker (currant pooper), which the Duden refers you to from the page for Krümelkacker. So yeah, the meaning is the same, too.
Krümelkacker, Korinthenkacker… What odd words to describe such behavior. Where do these words come from?
The word Korinthenkacker is from the 19th century. Korinthen (currants) are small, raisin-like dried fruits. Back then, one imagined that such petty people would have perfectly equally sized droppings when going to the bathroom, too. After all, if they would have different sizes, you can imagine, that would be quite the problem for such a person! Funny, but not very nice. I believe Krümelkacker has the same origin and connotation of this word, but Korinthenkacker is the original.
Often times when you hear it, it is used in combination with the adjective unverbesserlich (incurable). Like this: Du bist ein unverbesserlicher Korinthenkacker! (You are an incurable currant pooper!). And as the word suggests, it is quite informal and not really nice to say to somebody. I mean, it’s not that bad, I would put it on the same level as calling somebody a Spießer or Alman. If you want a less informal alternative to nitpicker, you can use der Erbsenzähler (pea counter). The meaning there is quite clear: You’re counting single peas, when you have hundreds. But even then, it’s still not a nice thing to say, so in a formal context, I wouldn’t use any of these!
Oh, by the way, there are other versions of this word, too. In Switzerland, the word Tüpflischisser (m, dot pooper) is more common and in Austria, you use I-Tüpfelreiter (m, “icing-on-the-cake rider”. My very loose translation). But also the Germans have more variations, like Beckmesser (a character from Wagner’s opera “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg“) and Nietenzähler (rivet counter).
And what about the origin of nitpicker? From the 1950s, a nitpicker refers to a person who literally picks nits, or lice eggs, from somebody’s hair. Tiny, little things. Finding every single nit is being meticulous of finding any and all faults. I feel like there’s some praise in being precise with that word, too. So I feel like nitpicker isn’t as bad as Korinthenkacker or any of the German alternatives.
So what if you want to use the verb “to nitpick”? The German word is herummäkeln. Or, the adjective and description of this behavior: Spitzfindig and die Spitzfindigkeit.
Have you heard of this word before? Do you know other similar terms? Let me know in the comments below!
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