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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: Verwursten

This funny-sounding word can refer to much more than just a sausage

German word of the day: Verwursten

Why do I need to know verwursten?

The funny sounding word verb verwursten (which sounds like this) is a term referencing a very typical product (the Wurst) but with a myriad of uses beyond just sausages.

What does it mean?

Verwursten can literally mean to mix together ingredients to make a Wurst (sausage) – or anything resembling it. Manufacturers of fake meat products can also “verwursten” tofu, tempeh and the likes to make a more palatable substitute for vegetarians.

Yet it’s also slang for slapping together a bunch of ingredients – or elements of something – to make a final product. It is similar to the word verarbeiten, or to process. 

READ ALSO: Seven common myths about Austrian food you need to stop believing

A songwriter might take aspects of a story and verwursten it into their lyrics, as could a film writer with their movie.

Where does it come from?

Not surprisingly, the word stems from the world-famous Wurst, with which Austrians profess a love-hate relationship. The sausage is a staple cuisine in many parts of the country, whether Blutwurst or the Frankfurter. 

READ ALSO: Only in Austria: Graz gets its first sausage vending machine

But despite its ubiquity, it’s not considered to be the highest quality meat around. Like its American equivalent, the hotdog, the Wurst is a processed food made up of several ingredients. Give or take, it’s mostly composed of muscle meat, salt, various spices and perhaps some intestines or other (not so) savoury parts.

Sausages are one of the staple foods in Austria (Photo by Krzysztof Kowalik on Unsplash)

The sausage was recently caught up in a nationwide controversy when an investigation revealed that some Wurst products were being ‘verwurstet’ from ingredients that don’t usually belong in the recipe.

READ ALSO: Martinigansl and more: 11 delicious Austrian dishes you need to try

Here is how it’s useful

Ein veganer Aufschnitt wird von Soya und Zwiebeln verwurstet.

Vegan cold cuts are being made out of soy and onions.

Sie haben diese gespannte Geschichte in einem Film verwurstet. 

They made a film out of this suspenseful story. 

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