Word of the Week: Papperlapapp
Over the course of the year, Germany.info and The Week in Germany will highlight a different "Word of the Week" in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native English speakers.
Enlarge image Could Bert be thinking that Ernie is talking a lot of "Papperlapapp" (nonsense) ?!? in this vintage (1976) scene from the hit US children's TV series "Sesame Street". (© dpa - Fotoreport)
Just to clarify it from the outset: Papperlapapp does not solely prove German efficiency in how to squeeze a maximum amount of p's into a word. What appears to be an original word born out of a creativity contest is, in fact, a word you do not really want to hear. Papperlapapp is a colloquial term that expresses disagreement – it is, indeed, synonymous to "nonsense" or "rubbish". If you are bored stiff by somebody's idle talk, just mention the "P-word" and you will immediatlely end your counterpart's rant. Use it to dismiss somebody's foolish opinion or to brush off gibberish concerns – but don't use it if you value having friends.
If you get pulled over by the police and the officer explains to you that you were exceeding the speed limit, replying with Papperlapapp would most likely result in a juicy fine.
So where does the droll word originate from? According to one theory the term is linked to the verb bappeln or the English "babble". By saying Papperlapapp one highlights that the other person is only prating – there are more charming comments to make. Another explanation is that Papperlapapp might also be an echoism with no meaning at all. By using it, you are strongly stating that your conversational opponents' words are literally meaningless.
Although Papperlapp is clearly used to dismiss somebody else's comments, the sound of it might make you smile for a split second - before realizing that you have just been muzzled.