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Pandemiebedingte Neologismen

We humans are linguistically inventive creatures. Whenever new circumstances arise, we create new phrases and expressions that describe and refer to the new reality around us. These newly coined words are called neologisms 1, they are inherit to every language, and one language in particular has been extremely productive lately.

According to the Leibniz-Institut für deutsche Sprache (IDS), Germans have come up with more than a thousand neologisms since the pandemic started. I find German compounds fascinating, so today I’m bringing you my favorite five pandemiebedingte Neologismen! 2

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What happens to your social life when bars, clubs and restaurants have been closed for ages? You can meet a friend for an Abstandsbier and enjoy each other’s company from a safe distance. Too bad it’s too cold to actually enjoy being outside!

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The Corona-Frisur is the stork nest that builds up on your head after months of not being able visit a hair professional. Your corona hairdo is an uncanny forest of tangled knots, split ends and uneven sides due to DIY-haircuts. You may even find some tumbleweed and mice up there.

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We all know the type: blatantly refuses to wear a mask or wears it below the nose 3, relentlessly complains about the corona measures and basically is in dire need of revisiting 5th grade biology. If you bump into this guy, Maskentrottel is your word to go!

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A Geisterspiel is a match in which the players perform the game without an audience in the stadium, and the game is broadcast for viewers at home. I’m not a fan of football, but imagining ghosts chasing a ball certainly makes me chuckle.

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Hamsters are known for collecting and storing food in their large cheek pouches. This habit might be adorable in animals, but not so appreciated in humans. Hamsteritis (Hamster + itis 4) refers to the unhealthy tendency to panic-buy and stockpile unnecessary amounts of food and supplies in your household. A good example of Hamsteritis is the worldwide toilet paper shortage of March 2020.

Das war’s! Do you have a favorite neologism? If you liked this article, let me know and I might draw a second batch of pandemiebedingte Neologismen.

Stay safe, folks!

Spanish Animal Idioms

Let’s delve into the fascinating realm of idiomatic expressions once again with a collection of Spanish animal idioms. ¡Vamos allá!

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If someone behaves in a peculiar or crazy manner, it’s safe to say that he or she “está como una cabra”. This idiom literally means “to be like a goat” and originated among farmers. If you have ever observed goats derping around, it’s easy to see how aloof they are.

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The expression “estar como pez en el agua” literally means “to be like fish in the water” and is used to indicate that people are in their element. Think about it: fish feel best in their natural watery habitats.

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“Estar como un pulpo en un garaje”, literally “to be like an octopus in a garage”, means being lost or feeling out of place. It’s the counterpart of “estar como pez en el agua”. Think about it, an octopus in a garage: must be pretty confusing to be surrounded by all kinds of weirdly shaped tools and discarded junk.

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The idiom “tener pájaros en la cabeza”, literally “to have birds in your head”, doesn’t mean that these flying creatures built a nest inside your skull. It refers to someone who is a bit naive and has rather unrealistic ideas, expectations or goals. Although this expression has mildly negative connotations, daydreamers are happy to embrace their birds in the head, and coined the saying “Prefiero tener pájaros en la cabeza que vivir en las jaulas de vuestra mente” 5.

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“Ser un pez gordo”, literally “to be one fat fish”, means being the boss or the person in charge who makes the decisions and holds the power. Other interlinguistic equivalents of “the fat fish” are “das hohe Tier” (the big animal) in German or “Важная птица” (the important bird) in Russian. You don’t want to mess around with the idiomatic fauna!

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The idiom “trabajar como un burro”, literally “to work like a donkey”, means to work extremely hard. The hardworking relative in English would be the horse or the dog.

Eso es todo, amigos. If you enjoyed this post, check out these funny Spanish food idioms.

Understanding Locals

If you have had trouble understanding locals lately, fear not. Your language skills have not vanished overnight. Rather, the communication challenge switched to a whole different level of difficulty.Expat Gone Foreign, Language comics, linguistics, non-verbal communication, proxemics, kineticsDeciphering messages in any (foreign) language is a complex task on its own. Not only do you need to hear the message loud and clear, but also share the linguistic code of the speaker. Furthermore, the visual cues convey as much meaning as the audible information. In fact, words only account for 35% of the meaning in a conversation 2.

If you prefer face-to-face communication over phone calls, there’s a perfectly good reason: non-verbal cues are absent over the phone. You might hear the words, but the absence of gestures, facial expressions and eye contact might leave you at a loss.

In the current situation, most of these non-verbal cues are gone. In addition, speakers are often too far away to be heard, and face masks act like a barrier that muffles sound. Remember those times at the dentist when you can’t understand a word they are saying? As if speaking a foreign language weren’t difficult enough under normal circumstances.

Long story short: if you are a bit rattled, don’t doubt your skills. They are still there, you are just playing this round of the game in pandemic mode.

Spanish Food Idioms

In case you didn’t know already, I’m a huge contrastive phraseology nerd 2. So today I’m bringing you a collection of 10 Spanish food idioms. ¡Que aproveche! 2

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A problem or task “es pan comido” when it can be easily solved. Whereas in English something can be “a piece of cake”, Spanish speakers describe it as “eaten bread”. Why? Because bread is one of the most basic food items worldwide. It’s easy to make and even easier to consume, since you don’t even need cutlery or special abilities – as opposed to other goods that might require some skills and patience, such as seafood.

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When you “give someone pumpkins”, you are not offering them a squash snack but turning them down. Legend has it that pumpkins were considered an anti-aphrodisiac in Ancient Greece, and they were administered to folks in order to reduce their libido. Likewise, pumpkin seeds were recommended in the Middle Ages to ward off lascivious thoughts during prayer. The idiom “dar calabazas a alguien” made its way into Spanish in the context of courtship, and nowadays it’s used to reject someone’s amorous advances.

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The idiom “ser un chorizo” literally translates as “to be a spicy pork sausage”, and it describes people who steal from others. Contrary to popular belief, the etymological origin of this expression is not food related. In caló 3, the verb “chorar” (to steal) gave way to the noun “chori” (thief), and so did the idiom that Spanish speakers currently use – mostly to refer to their politicians.

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Yummy as it may be, this caramel custard dessert is shaky and wobbly as hell. If someone is trembling, shivering or extremely nervous, you can fairly say they “are like a flan”.

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The idiom “to be the (lemony) pear” emphasizes someone’s or something’s extreme coolness. But are pears inherently awesome? Not really! In order to unravel the origin of this expression, we shall travel back to 17th century Constantinople, specifically to Péra 4. Back in the day, this bustling district enchanted European merchants and visitors with its marketplace: spices, silks, perfumes, exotic products and handmade goods. Péra was definitely the pinnacle of awesomeness!

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Are you an attractive, good-looking person? Then it’s safe to say that “you are like a cheese”. Yummy and nice to relish in. Need I say more? Fun fact: what do cheese (English), Käse (German), kaas (Dutch) and fromage (French), formaggio (Italian), formatge (Catalan) have in common? The answer is caseus formaticum, which is Latin for “shaped cheese”. Mind-blown!

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“Having bad milk” doesn’t exactly mean that your dairy went bad, but rather, that you are a sour, grumpy person. It originated in the Middle Ages when wealthy ladies resorted to wet nurses who would feed their newborns. Wet nurses were picked meticulously, for it was thought that any psychological imbalance or poor cognitive skills could be passed on to the newborn through their “bad” milk. Ah, what a time to be alive!

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Whereas some people are dumb as rocks, Spanish speakers get “to be a melon”. The origin of this idiom is unclear. One theory suggests that it was brewed in a context of political disputes in Puerto Rico, when the Popular Democratic Party started referring to their rivals as “melons”, due to the emblematic color of the Puerto Rican Independence Party. If someone calls you “melón”, I suggest you look for new friends!

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What was first, the coconut or the head? The idioms “comerse el coco” (lit. to eat your coconut) and “comerse la cabeza” (lit. to eat your head 5) mean to overthink. Besides the fruit name, coco is colloquial for head, and both items are understood as containers where thoughts roam wild.

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Blushing is part of our fight or flight response. When we are embarrassed, adrenaline speeds up our heart rate and dilates our blood vessels. So we turn visibly red, or if you speak Spanish, you “become (like) a tomato”. Because come on, is there anything redder than this fruit?

Eso es todo, amigos. If you enjoyed this post, check out these hilarious German idioms.

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