Guten Tag, y’all!
I’ve always loved this exchange between Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail:
Joe Fox: [writing to "Shopgirl"] Do you ever feel you’ve become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora’s box of all the secret, hateful parts – your arrogance, your spite, your condescension – has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and moving on, you zing them. “Hello, it’s Mr Nasty.” I’m sure you have no idea what I’m talking about.
Kathleen Kelly: [writing to "NY152"] No, I know what you mean, and I’m completely jealous! What happens to me when I’m provoked is that I get tongue-tied and my mind goes blank. Then I spend all night tossing and turning trying to figure out what I should have said. What should I have said, for example, to a bottom dweller who recently belittled my existence?
Lately, I’ve been on the receiving end of upsetting behavior from a series of random folks. Now, I’m the first person to check myself when out of line and to apologize when in the wrong, so I can honestly say that I haven’t been going around provoking people. From an unfounded accusation to a train station argument with a little old lady (Y’all–this old lady had it coming. But I’ll save that story for another day.), I keep getting hit with nasty words and attitudes. The last straw came yesterday, when I was walking to the bus stop with a mom-friend from daycare who happens to be Turkish. As we corralled our total of three toddler boys, an old man on a passing bicycle advised us to go back to Africa.
Being cut from the Kathleen Kelly cloth, I was struck mute: I couldn’t think of any zingers in English, much less come up with a proper German zinger for this old idiot (luckily, my friend’s German is much better than mine. Not sure what she said, but at least the racist old dude got an earful). After that, I decided I need to re-up my zinger stash. I learned a few from my husband that, sadly, are not printable here. Lucky for you, though, BBC Languages has a whole section of German phrases specifically used to argue with people (one asterisk being mildly offensive, three being completely vulgar). Among my favorites:
Redest du mit mir? (*) Are you talking to me?
Often accompanied by pointing the index finger to one’s chest. It indicates that someone is annoying you and that you want a challenge. Expect a heated argument.
Verpiss dich! (***) Piss off!
Sometimes you need to put your foot down.
Zieh Leine!(**) Milder version of Verpiss dich as in “go away”. Lit. Withdraw from the line.
A slightly milder version for the more sensitive amongst your acquaintances.
Du gehst mir auf den Keks (**) You’re getting on my nerves. Lit. You’re getting on my cookie.
And, to de-escalate the situation:
Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen (**) Everything’s great. Literally Peace, joy, pancake. Famous loveparade slogan. (More dirty German here.)
So, now that I’m armed with zingers galore, am I gonna walk around with insults on the tip of my tongue, ready to take people down? Nah. Because who wants to be THAT person? I think I’ll save these for special occasions, like when I run into racist cyclers and aggressive old women (again–she had it coming). For now, I’ll continue to be my happy self. Peace, joy and pancakes, y’all.
QUESTION: What do YOU do when someone upsets you? Do you zing them? I’d really like to know!