German words have a reputation for being exceedingly long. Sometimes they’re also rather descriptive. The German language’s penchant for precision is perhaps best described in Mark Twain’s humorous essay, The Awful German Language, which you can read here.
Twain penned The Awful German Language in an attempt to describe the frustration he felt while learning German. Twain’s essay has been a favorite for German language learners for more than a century. If you’ve struggled with German — as I have — it’s a fun read.
I have a few favorite quirky German words.
The first one is Zahnfleisch, which literally means “tooth meat” or “gums.”
Another of my favorite words? Schneebesen. It literally translates to “snow broom,” but it means “whisk.”
Since we’ve been living in a village with a name of mammoth proportions these past months, it’s no surprise when friends and family — who aren’t German — have a tricky time saying the name Oberammergau. We playfully instruct them to just say “O-gau” instead.
Now, imagine my delight a few weeks ago, when I learned that Oberammergau is famous not only for its woodcarvings and Passion Play, but also its own tongue-twister. (If you’re curious, Germans call tongue-twisters Zungenbrecher, literally “tongue-breakers.”)
When we were at a New Year’s celebration a few weeks ago, we even heard the Oberammergau tongue-twister being worked into a modern song.
First, here’s the English Translation of Oberammergau’s tongue-twister, so you know what you’re saying:
* Unterammergau is a village that is situated lower in the Ammer River Valley than Oberammergau. Unter means “below” and ober means “upper.”
And now, I challenge you to say the German version three times. :-)
Oberammergau – Unterammergau Tongue Twister Video:
Have you studied German? What are some of your favorite words?
Where in the World?
- Oberammergau is located 90 km (55 miles) southwest of Munich. To get there by rail, research the Bayern Ticket (website is in German, but you can use Google Translate). As of 2021, these tickets start at €25 for one passenger, and cost €8 for each additional passenger. You can use the Bayern Ticket for most trains, trams, and city buses, making it a good deal if you’ll be doing a lot of exploring in one day. You can purchase tickets online, via a ticket machine, or in person.
- Are you looking for a guesthouse or hotel in Oberammergau? Here is my round-up of hotels, organized by theme.
- Visit my Germany page for more trip tips. If you’re seeking more ideas about what to do in this part of Bavaria, here are all my posts about Oberammergau.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.