groundhog dog


Funny and bizarre German animal names

The German language is famous for some really long nouns (Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän comes to mind). This is because German nouns, verbs, prepositions and adjectives are like lego bricks; you can stick them together in almost any way to create new words that encapsulate new concepts. This gives the language a special ability to name just about anything. You could call it the German language’s lego brick-like quality, or Legosteineigenschaft (see what I just did there?).

But why does German rely on such an elaborate process to name things as simple as squirrels? When broken down into their separate components, the names of familiar animals mutate into bizarre new creatures.

The Uncanny X-Tiere

Comics are full of heroes with names like super, wonder, iron, ultra, bat or cat followed by -man, -woman, -girl or -boy. A lot of German animal names work the same way, where Tier – the word for animal – is preceded by a word describing that animal’s “super power”.

  • Stinktier – stink animal (skunk)

  • Faultier – lazy animal (sloth)

  • Gürteltier – belt animal (armadillo)

  • Murmeltier – mumbling animal (groundhog)

  • Schnabeltier – beak animal (platypus)

  • Maultier – mouth animal (mule)

  • Trampeltier – trampling animal (bactrian camel). The verb trampeln means to trample or tread upon, whereas the noun Trampel is a clumsy oaf.

Sometimes suffixes get more specific than -tier, but still tend to describe the wrong animal:

  • Schildkröte – shield toad (tortoise)

  • Waschbär – wash bear (raccoon)

  • Nacktschnecke – naked snail (slug)

  • Fledermaus – flutter mouse (bat)

  • Seehund – sea dog (seal)

  • Tintenfisch – ink fish (squid)

  • Truthahn – threatening chicken (turkey). Trut is onomatopoeic for the trut-trut-trut cluck of a turkey, but it’s also been hypothesized that the name comes from the Middle German droten which means “to threaten”.

No, I’m Pretty Sure That’s A Pig

Swine seem to be a popular yardstick in German animal taxonomy.

  • Schweinswal – pig whale (porpoise)

  • Seeschwein – sea pig (dugong). Not to be confused with the Seekuh, or sea cow, known in English as a manatee.

  • Stachelschwein – spike pig (porcupine). The English word is actually just as literal; porcupine sounds a lot like “pork spine”.

  • Wasserschwein – water pig (capybara)

  • Meerschweinchen – ocean piglet (guinea pig). The ending -chen denotes something small. Add it to the end of Schwein and you get a little pig, or piglet. Since the stems Meer and Wasser are often interchangeable, it’s most likely that Meerschweinchen actually means little capybara.

Just Plain Weird

I’d like to end this list by giving one animal a category all to itself: the humble squirrel.


  • little oak horn: Eiche (oak tree) + Horn (horn) + -chen (little)
  • oak croissant: Eiche (oak tree) + Hörnchen (croissant)

alternate names:

  • Eichkätzchen (regional name) and Eichkatzerl (Austria) – oak kitten

Calling a squirrel a “tree kitten” is reasonably literal, but where does “little oak horn” come from? It seems that the answer comes down to a misplaced h: Eichhörnchen comes from the Old and Middle German eichorn, which has nothing to do with oak trees or horns. In this case, the eich comes from the ancient Indo-Germanic word aig, which means agitated movement, combined with the now obsolete suffix -orn. Somewhere in history a superfluous h was added (along with the diminutive -chen ending) but the original meaning remained. Today, Hörnchen is a category of rodents that includes all squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs, prairie dogs and flying squirrels.

Keep an eye on this spot for an upcoming post where we’ll delve deeper into the animal kingdom: branching out to birds, insects, reptiles, fishes and any other mammals we find crawling around.

buttonmybutton  asked:

Hello, I am just wondering what films you would include in your essential-to-watch list for someone who is being introduced to the world of film? Thanks

I think I answered something like this before, but I don’t remember what I put on that list. I’m gonna try to suggest a broad spectrum of films to get you started:

  • The General
  • Sunrise
  • Metropolis
  • Man With A Movie Camera
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • City Lights
  • The Public Enemy
  • Red Dust
  • L’Atalante
  • Freaks
  • The Thin Man
  • It Happened One Night
  • The Grand Illusion
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Gone With The Wind
  • Stagecoach
  • The Rules of the Game
  • Citizen Kane
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • Casablanca
  • Rome, Open City
  • Double Indemnity
  • It’s A Wonderful Life
  • Bicycle Thieves
  • The Red Shoes
  • The Third Man
  • All About Eve
  • Sunset Blvd.
  • Rashomon
  • Singin’ In The Rain
  • Tokyo Story
  • On The Waterfront
  • Seven Samurai
  • Pather Panchali
  • The Searchers
  • The Seventh Seal
  • Paths of Glory
  • The 400 Blows
  • Vertigo
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Imitation of Life
  • The Apartment
  • Breathless
  • Psycho
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • 8 1/2
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • Band of Outsiders
  • The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • The Graduate
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Harold and Maude
  • The Godfather 1 & 2
  • Chinatown
  • A Woman Under the Influence
  • Nashville
  • Barry Lyndon
  • Dog Day Afternoon
  • Jaws
  • Harlan County, USA
  • Network
  • Taxi Driver
  • Star Wars
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Annie Hall
  • Eraserhead
  • Apocalypse Now
  • The Elephant Man
  • Raging Bull
  • The Shining
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Tootsie
  • Blade Runner
  • Amadeus
  • Paris, Texas
  • Hannah and Her Sisters
  • Au Revoir, Les Enfants
  • Wings of Desire
  • Cinema Paradiso
  • Die Hard
  • GoodFellas
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Groundhog Day
  • Schindler’s List
  • The Professional
  • Pulp Fiction
  • The Piano
  • Before Sunrise
  • Fargo
  • The English Patient
  • L.A. Confidential
  • Life is Beautiful
  • The Big Lebowski
  • The Thin Red Line
  • In The Mood For Love
  • Mulholland Dr.
  • Traffic
  • Amelie
  • City of God
  • Far From Heaven
  • Talk To Her
  • Lost in Translation
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • There Will Be Blood
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • Bright Star

I didn’t add anything from this current decade because everything needs some breathing room. Also this list wound up giant.

Also, also remember these tips:

  • “best” and “canon” lists are good because they give you guidance, but they aren’t the end all and be all
  • go outside of your comfort zone
  • watch everything, not just “essential” films or “important” films; if you think you might like it, give it a shot!

I left off a lot of personal favorites (like Valley Girl) and stuck mostly with universally acclaimed films.

I’ve also got a lot of “film canon” holes, so there’s no Tarkovsky or some other big acclaimed directors on this list. That’s not because I don’t like them, but probably because although I’ve seen about 5,000 movies, I haven’t seen everything and a lot of times I like to watch crap.