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German word of the day: Der Besserwisser

A classroom is sure to have one. An office, too. Perhaps you dated one.

German word of the day: Der Besserwisser
Photo: depositphotos

Germans are likely to call him or her our word of the day: “der Besserwisser” or “die Besserwisserin.”

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In English, we’d say he or she is a “know-it-all”. It can also be translated to “smartypants”, “wise guy” or in the U.K. a “smart arse”.

Those who exhibit Besserwisser traits share unwanted advice or trivia to show off how much they know.

Sometimes, though, the unintended consequence is that they magnify how little they do actually know.

The diner who debates with the sommelier over the best late-harvest Riesling for the dessert course pairing is a Besserwisser/-in.

Another Besserwisser/-in is the office colleague who, with white coat-wearing authority but no medical degree, provides a list of remedies when you sneeze or cough when a simple “Gesundheit!” would suffice.

The tourist who visited Berlin one weekend fifteen years earlier but shares with a tour guide what s/he believes the best currywurst stand in the city is is also an example of a Besserwisser/-in.

Examples of Besserwisser are both varied and unending and conversations with a Besserwisser/-in can feel equally varied and unending.

I was first introduced to this slang term as a student in America learning German. My instructor played a song titled “Besserwisser” by Wise Guys. The comical acappella group sang about what they know (“weiß”) and what they’d like to know better (“besser”).

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Here’s a video of the comical group on German TV in 2002:

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Examples:

Solche Besserwisser brauchen wir nicht.

We don't need know-it-alls like that.

Er ist ein solcher Besserwisser, dass nicht einmal die Lehrer mit ihm diskutieren mögen.

He is such a know-it-all that even the teachers don't want to argue with him.

Do you have a favourite word you'd like to see us cover? If so, please email our editor Rachel Stern with your suggestion.

This article was produced independently with support from Lingoda.

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Here's how to take this thoughtful word into consideration.

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Why do I need to know Rücksicht?

Because it’s a commonly used word and knowing what it means – and practising it – will make you a better person.

What does Rücksicht mean?

Rücksicht is a feminine noun which means “consideration” or “regard”. It’s made up of the shortened form of the word zurück meaning “back” and Sicht – which means view. So literally, it means, back view, or looking back.

This literal meaning tells you something about how the word is used in German – if you look back to see what’s happened to your friend, you are taking them into consideration.

How to use Rücksicht

When using Rücksicht, bear in mind that it is usually paired with specific verbs and prepositions.

The most commonly used set phrase is Rücksicht auf etwas/jemand nehmen, which is used to mean “to be considerate of” or “to take care of” someone or something. For example:

Radfahrer müssen auf Fußgänger Rücksicht nehmen.

Cyclists must be considerate of pedestrians.

Er nimmt Rücksicht auf die Bedürfnisse seiner schwangeren Frau.

He takes care of his pregnant wife’s needs.

Rücksicht is usually followed by the preposition auf, but it can be preceded by a number of prepositions to compose different phrases. 

Mit Rücksicht auf for example, means “in view of” and ohne Rücksicht auf means “without consideration for”, while aus Rücksicht auf means “out of consideration for.” 

Here are some examples:

Führungen dürfen aus Rücksicht auf die Teilnehmer nicht aufgenommen werden.
Out of consideration of the participants, tours may not be recorded.
 
Er will tun, was er möchte, ohne Rücksicht auf die Anderen.
He wants to do what he wants, without considering other people.
 
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